by Reemus Fernando
Royal College and S. Thomas’ College squads for the 142nd Battle of the Blues entered bio secure bubbles yesterday, a week ahead of the Big Match as organizers plan to conduct the historic series behind closed doors due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
Royal captained by former Sri Lanka Under 19 player Ahan Wickramsinghe and S. Thomas’ captained by Shalin de Mel underwent tests for the virus before entering the bubble and according to team sources all tests conducted so far have returned negative results.
The annual battle which was twice postponed due to the pandemic this year will now be played from October 28 to 30 at the SSC ground.
The Battle of the Blues, which is generally played during the second weekend of March was scheduled for May due to the Covid 19 pandemic this year. But organizers had to postpone it after four Thomian cricketers were found to be positive for Covid-19 days before the match. Later it was rescheduled for September 9-11 to be played behind closed doors at Sooriyawewa but the outbreak of the pandemic again forced them to postpone the match.
The two teams will be joined by their Sri Lanka Under-19 players who are currently on national duty just two days before the start of the match. Sri Lanka Under 19 team officials said that the players in the current Under-19 team will be released for them to engage in the club tournament a day after the series against Bangladesh concludes. That will allow S. Thomas’ deputy skipper Ryan Fernando and Yasiru Rodrigo and Royalist Sadisha Rajapaksha to rejoin their school teams for the Big Match.
There are some Royal-Thomian fans who have witnessed the historic Battle of the Blues uninterrupted for more than fifty years. But with the match being played behind closed doors they will now have to choose other options. A member of the organizing committee said that the fans will be able to witness the match via other means as the sponsors have made arrangements to telecast the match live.
Royal College cricket statistician M.L. Fernando has witnessed every encounter of the historic Battle of the Blues series uninterrupted since 1964. But there will be an exception this year as only the players, match officials and the ground staff will be allowed inside the ground.
According to Fernando it is the first time the match will be played in October after the historic first match was played way back in 1880. “According to the statistics I have the first match of the series had been played on October 29 and 30 at Galle Face in 1880. After that this is the first match to be played in October,” Fernando said.