It is quite surprising if there is anyone who doesn’t know about this splendid island of Sri Lanka. Even being a small dot on the world map, it has now become a well-known land across every corner of the world. Besides, there is nothing wrong with mentioning that Cricket in Sri Lanka is a major reason for many to know about this splendid island. Hence, we thought of focusing this read to enlighten you about this wonderful sport in Sri Lanka.
However, there are several things that you need to know about this most loved sport on this island. So, why not? Let’s begin getting to know about them, by exploring the popularity of cricket in Sri Lanka!
Is Cricket Popular in Sri Lanka?
Of course, yes! Cricket is the most popular sport in Sri Lanka, and it is even more popular than the country’s national sport, volleyball. In fact, when there is a Cricket match, TVs are turned on in every household! Hence, divided by race, religion, and political views, cricket brought Sri Lankans together as one nation. Cricket was, is, and will always be a moment of happiness for the people in this beautiful country. Besides, the Sri Lankan cricket players have served right and duly for the love they receive. In fact, Sri Lanka is one of the 12 nations playing Test Cricket and one of the 6 nations that have won a World Cup.
Who Brought Cricket to Sri Lanka?
In brief, it is the British who brought cricket to Sri Lanka. Thus, out of the things that Sri Lankans embraced by colonization with all their heart, Cricket, and tea remain significant.
In fact, the British, who ruled the island’s maritime provinces from 1796 and acquired the whole island in 1815 had a special love for cricket. Thus, as they continued the rule here for a considerable period, they took steps to initiate this sport on this island too.
Later, they established the Colombo Cricket Club in 1832. As a result, they held the first match against the 97th British regiment. Sri Lanka had been a retreat for England and Australia teams when they were en route to each other’s country. The England team led by Ivo Bligh played several matches in Sri Lanka when they were on the way to Australia to “recover the ashes”.
Later, Dr. John Rockwood founded Ceylon Cricket Association (CCA) in 1922. The Ceylon Cricket Association is a predecessor of the present Sri Lankan Cricket team. For many years, Ceylon Cricket was limited to matches played against visiting teams. Occasionally, the Ceylon team participated in foreign tours in India.
Similarly, in 1953, CCA organized a series of first-class matches against the Madras team (Present Thamil Nadu) known as the “Gopalan Trophy ”. Moreover, in 1964-65 the Ceylon team recorded their first international victory against India. So, even though the British established Cricket in Sri Lanka, Sri Lankans later got the chance to participate in competitions in many other countries and to be an integral part of international cricket as well. The following sections will further prove this fact to you!
Significant Milestones in the History of Sri Lanka Cricket
Sri Lankan Cricket team made their first appearance in top-level international Cricket in the 1975 World Cup. However, Sri Lanka was defeated by the West Indies in the first match itself. Then, Sri Lanka went on to win the ICC trophy in 1979. The note-worthy competition the Sri Lankan team put forward made the International Cricket Council (ICC) consider granting Sri Lanka test status.
Thus, Sri Lanka became the 8th test playing country. As a result, the ICC awarded Sri Lanka full membership in it in 1985. Accordingly, the first test match Sri Lanka played was against England, in which England won by 7 wickets. Moreover, the Sri Lankan team recorded their first international test Cricket victory in 1985 against India. Sri Lanka defeated India by 149 runs and later won the series.
The Sri Lankan Cricket team came to the spotlight when they won the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996. Sri Lankan team led by Arjuna Ranatunga, won the final match against Australia by 7 wickets. In 2002, Sri Lanka became the co-champions of the ICC Trophy tournament. In addition, Sri Lanka won the Asian Championship five times in 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008, and 2014. It was not until 2007, Sri Lanka made it to the finals of an ICC Cricket world cup again. Yet, Sri Lanka became the runners up in it after being beaten by Australia.
Similarly, the Sri Lankan team made it to the finals of the second ICC Twenty20 world cup held in 2009 and became the runner-up of the tournament. In the 2011 ICC World Cup, Sri Lanka had yet again to be runners-up after a heart-breaking defeat against India. But, in 2014, Sri Lanka became the champions of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup beating Pakistan in the finals.
Governing Body of Cricket in Sri Lanka
The Board of Control for Cricket (BCCSL) was the first official governing body for Cricket in Sri Lanka. It was registered in the Ministry of Sports in 1975. BCCSL was the predecessor of the Ceylon Cricket Association formed by Sir John Rockwood. Later, BCCSL renamed itself to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) in 2003. Hence, it now acts as the official governing body of Sri Lankan cricket, and it manages the Sri Lanka National Cricket team, Sri Lanka women’s Cricket team, Under-19 team, and first-class Cricket.
Apart from that, SLC is a full member of the ICC and Asian Cricket Council. Accordingly, it undertakes the responsibility of organizing and hosting tours of other nations in Sri Lanka. The organization is also responsible for inspecting and hosting domestic competitions.
Once every four years, SLC holds an election to elect the President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer of the organization. However, the minister of sports has the authority to remove, change or dissolve the committee. The current president of Sri Lanka Cricket is Shammi Silva.
Domestic Cricket Competitions in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Cricket is in charge of organizing and overseeing the progress of domestic competitions in Sri Lanka as well. They also organize interprovincial tournaments intending to select and train talented individuals for the national team. Sri Lanka Cricket Tier A and B Premier Trophy, Premier Limited Overs Tournament, and Twenty20 Tournament are the main domestic Cricket competitions held in Sri Lanka. The following Cricket clubs in Sri Lanka participate in these tournaments.
- Colombo Cricket Club
- Nondescripts Cricket Club
- Sinhalese Sports Club
- Moors Sports Club
- Kandy Customs Cricket Club
- Sri Lanka Army Sports Club
- Galle Cricket Club
- Burger Recreation Cricket Club
The youth of these Cricket clubs make those domestic competitions an opportunity to showcase their talents and to pave their way ahead in cricket.
Lanka Premier League
The Lanka Premier League is a professional Cricket tournament held in Sri Lanka with the participation of local and foreign cricketers. The inaugural season was held in 2020, amidst the pandemic. The following five teams competed in the tournament.
- Kandy Tuskers
- Jaffna Stallions
- Dambulla Vikings
- Colombo Kings
- Galle Gladiators
Jaffna Stallions won the title, marking a significant milestone in the legacy of Sri Lankan cricket. In Addition, over 70 overseas players participated in the inaugural season held from 26th November 2020. The second season of the LPL was expected to be held from July to August 2021. But, Sri Lanka Cricket had to reschedule the tournament to November due to the unavailability of overseas players.
The National Team of Cricket in Sri Lanka
The National Cricket team represents Sri Lanka in international matches. Since Sri Lanka is a full member of the ICC they are eligible to play all three formats of Cricket, Test, ODI, and T20.
The Sri Lankan team won the ICC World Cup in 1996, its biggest triumph so far. Several times they made it to the finals but became runners-up. Besides, the Sri Lanka team currently holds the record for highest team total in test matches. They scored 957 against India with a run rate of 3.51 in 1997. Unfortunately, the Sri Lanka team owns some not-so-good records as well. The record for the maximum defeats in both T20 and ODI is also under the name of the Sri Lankan team.
When considering the costumes of Sri Lankan cricketers, the team wears white in test matches occasionally with a blue jersey. Further, in ODI’s and T20’s they wear different shades of blue with a little touch of yellow on shoulders and waist. Ceylon Tea, Dilmah, Dialog Axiata, and Mobitel are some of the sponsors for the national team. However, Dialog Axiata and MAS Holdings are the main sponsors at present.
The current captain of the test team is Dimuth Karunarathne while Kusal Janith Perara leads both ODI and T20 teams. In addition, Mickey Arthur acts as the head coach of the team and Pramodya Wickramasinghe is the chairman of the National Selection Committee.
Sri Lanka Women’s Cricket
Sri Lanka Women’s Cricket made its debut in 1997 against the Netherlands. Further, it is one of the eight teams participating in the ICC Women’s Championship.
In the 1997 Women’s World Cup, the team made it to the quarter-finals, its highest achievement so far. Moreover, Sri Lanka Women’s team has participated in every world cup but did not go beyond the first round.
The women’s team played their first and only test match in 1998 against Pakistan and won. Besides, their victory against England in 2013, brought them to the limelight. However, the Sri Lanka women’s team is still keeping its baby steps.
Chamari Atapattu is the captain of the Sri Lankan women’s cricket team at the present. Similarly, a former skipper and batsman, Hashan Thilakaratne is the coach of the team. Accordingly, Sri Lanka is in 9th place in ICC women’s Cricket rankings.
The Best Cricketers in Sri Lanka
Over the years, Sri Lanka has produced many cricketers who brought fame to their motherland. In fact, Duleep Mendis and Bandula Warnapura attracted the Cricket world with their performances even before Sri Lanka reached the limelight. However, there are many more Sri Lankan cricketers who were able to draw the attention of the whole world towards them, even during the recent past. Some of them are as follows.
- Kumar Sangakkara
- Mahela Jayawardene
- Muttiah Muralitharan
- Sanath Jayasuriya
- Lasith Malinga
- Thilakaratne Dilshan
- Marven Atapattu
- Aravinda de Silva
- Arjuna Ranatunga
- Chaminda Vaas
Of course, the contribution of these men to the sport and the country was indeed massive. Hence, the next section is dedicated to these cricketing legends produced by Sri Lanka.
1. Kumar Sangakkara
Widely popular with the nickname “Sanga”, Kumar Sangakkara was a former skipper and a wicket-keeping batsman. He played for Sri Lanka from 2000 to 2015. He captained the team from 2009 to 2011 and immediately resigned from captaincy after the agonizing defeat in the 2011 World Cup final. By the time he retired he had gathered more than 28000 runs in all formats of the game and had the second-highest runs accumulated in ODI’s next to Sachin Tendulkar.
Similarly, he made history during his international Cricket career of almost 15 years. Indeed, Kumar Sangakkara has the record for the fastest 8000, the fastest 9000, a joint-record for the fastest 10000, the fastest 11000, and the fastest 12000 in test Cricket. In addition, his 11 double centuries is the highest number of double centuries, after Don Bradman. In June 2021, Sangakkara was inducted into the ICC hall of fame, as the second Sri Lankan player to achieve the feat.
2. Mahela Jayawardene
Another successful batsman and a captain produced by Sri Lanka, Mahela Jayawardene has splendid continuous numbers, with not many drawbacks. He and teammate Sangakkara’s partnership was one of the most feared partnerships of that time.
Similarly, Mahela is popular among Cricket lovers for his excellent fielding skills. Statistics show that c.Jayawardene b. Muralitharan was the most frequent bowler-fielder combination on a scoreboard in Test Cricket. In addition, the duo, Mahela and Sanga, showed fireworks with the bat against South Africa when they set out for a partnership of 624 runs. Thus, it was written in gold in history as the highest partnership for any wicket, to date.
Furthermore, during his international Cricket career spanning almost 18 years, he gathered 34 Test centuries and 19 ODI centuries. He led the Sri Lankan team for the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, becoming runners-up in the tournament.
3. Muttiah Muralitharan
The first wrist-spinning off-spinner in cricket history, Muttiah Muralitharan is more popular by his nickname “Murali”. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most successful bowlers in the history of the game. Thus, he has been awarded the “Player of the Series” title 11 times, the highest in Test Cricket.
Murali’s 1347 wickets picked up throughout his career include 800 test wickets, 534 ODI wickets, and 13 T20 wickets. In Wisden’s analysis of the all-time Test Cricket, Murali became the greatest Test bowler of all time. Similarly, Muttiah Muralitharan was talented enough to dismiss all the eleven batsmen in a test match. Thus, in honor of his contribution to the game, Murali became the first Sri Lankan player to be inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2016.
Indeed, throughout his Cricket career of 19 years, he was an asset to the team, when the team had to field on hard, overseas grounds.
4. Sanath Jayasuriya
Being considered as one of the most aggressive batsmen in his era, Sanath Jayasooriya started his Cricket journey as a bowler and a middle-order batsman. He worked his way up to becoming the opening batsman and had a prolific career of 22 years. In addition, he was a talented allrounder and took 440 international wickets in the formats of the game.
Sanath Jayasooriya became the captain of the Sri Lankan Cricket team after Hashan Thilakaratne and led the team from 1999 to 2003. Together with Roshan Mahanama, he gathered 576 runs, the highest partnership runs for the second wicket. This record remains the second-highest partnership for any wicket, after the Sanga–Mahela partnership of 624 runs.
Furthermore, during his career, he amassed 6973 test runs and 13430 ODI runs. He is the only cricketer in history to achieve 10000 runs and 300 wickets in a single format. After his retirement in 2011, he was appointed the chairman of the selection committee.
5. Lasith Malinga
It won’t be in vain to say that Lasith Malinga is the most successful fast bowler in limited-over matches. His records are second to none and remain untouched. He is the only cricketer in history to pick up four wickets in four balls and he achieved the same feat not just once, but twice.
Malinga’s test career was not long owing to a chronic knee injury, nevertheless, he managed to become the third Sri Lankan bowler to pass 100 wickets. His Twenty20 and ODI career was festive, and for years after Murali’s retirement, he played a key role when the Sri Lanka team was fielding. He has 3 ODI hat-tricks, 338 ODI wickets, 107 T20 wickets, and 101 test wickets under his cap. Later, he became the vice-captain of the Sri Lanka team in 2012 and was the captain of the triumphant Sri Lankan team who won the ICC T20 World Cup in 2014.
Indeed, his unique bowling style was feared and talked about in the Cricket world and was known as “Slinga”.
6. Thilakaratne Dilshan
If somebody asks for a combination of a remarkable batsman, a bowler who knew his techniques, and a successful fieldsman, Thilakaratne Dilshan would be the ideal example. During his international career of 17 years, he faced all three aspects in all three formats of the game. And why not? Dilshan’s exceptional batting style “Dilscoop” never missed hitting a boundary!
Dilshan was the captain of the team after Kumar Sangakkara resigned in 2011. Moreover, he became the first cricketer to score centuries in all three formats of the game as a captain. He has gathered 16 Test centuries, 22 ODI centuries, and one T20 century during his career. His unbeaten 161 in the 2015 ICC world cup is the highest individual score by a Sri Lankan in world cup history. Thilakaratne Dilshan was included in the ICC ODI XI four times in 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015.
7. Marvan Atapattu
Marvan Atapattu succeeded Sanath Jayasooriya as the captain and was Jayasuriya’s perfect partner as the opener. He debuted for Sri Lanka in 1990 but couldn’t establish himself in the team until 1997. He amassed his highest 249 runs against Zimbabwe in 2004, in a victorious partnership with Kumar Sangakkara. As a skilled fielder and a potent thrower, he caused the second-highest number of run-outs in ODIs.
In addition, he collected six double centuries, the highest by a Sri Lankan after Sangakkara and Mahela. His 16 Test centuries include at least one century against all test-playing nations. His skills didn’t go down the drain after he retired since he became a batting coach for the Sri Lankan Cricket team. Later, in 2014, Marvan Atapattu was appointed the head coach of the team.
8. Aravinda de Silva
A cricketer who is prolific with the bat and bowling and fielding, Aravinda de Silva played for the national team from 1984 to 2003. His contribution in the final match of the 1996 World Cup was impressive, and thus, he was awarded the player of the match award during the event in which Sri Lanka won the first-ever world cup trophy. In the final match, he scored an unbeaten century and picked 3 wickets. In the same way, he has 20 test centuries and 11 ODI centuries under his name.
9. Arjuna Ranatunga
Arjuna Ranatunga was the 5th captain of the Sri Lankan team. He played for Sri Lanka from 1982 to 2000. He became the captain of the team in 1988. During his captaincy of 11 years, a huge transformation took place, from a team that falls short of the victim to a team recognized by the world. Besides, the Sri Lankan team stole the show when they won the 1996 World Cup beating Australia. Arjuna Ranatunga guided the team to victory as the captain of the team.
During the tournament, he displayed his skill with the bat and averaged an outstanding 120.5 strike. Indeed, his 120.5 was the highest average in the world cup tournament. Critics consider him one of the most successful captains in Sri Lankan Cricket history. In the same way, he was the only player who played for the 1st and the 100th test match for Sri Lanka.
10. Chaminda Vaas
The most successful pace bowler produced by Sri Lanka, Chaminda Vaas played for the national team from 1994 to 2009. He and Murali were saviors of the team when bowlers of the other side limited the scorecard for the batsmen. Similarly, he was the second Sri Lankan bowler to achieve 400 ODI wickets. Vaas picked up 335 test wickets during his career. Later, he was appointed the captain of the team but his captaincy was limited to only one match.
Vaas mentored the Newzealand team as the coach in 2012. In 2017, he became the bowling coach of the Sri Lankan national team. In 2015, he received lifetime membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
What are the Leading Inter-school Cricket Big-matches in Sri Lanka?
Big matches are annual Cricket encounters of leading schools of Sri Lanka. They are immensely popular, and some have their names and have a long history. These schools have produced many players for the national team. Let us have a glimpse at a few of them.
1. Battle of the Blues
The oldest big match held in Sri Lanka is the Royal-Thomian match. This historical battle takes place between Royal College, Colombo, and St. Thomas College, Mt. Lavinia. The onset of the match dates back to 1879, and it happened continuously during World War II as well as during the long gruesome Eelam war. The name for this encounter “Battle of the Blues” came after the school colors of both schools. The Hindu quoted this match as “one of the longest surviving cricketing series in the world”.
2. Hill Country Battle of the Maroons
Dating back to 1893, this annual encounter takes place between Dharmaraja College and Kingswood College, two prominent boy’s schools in Kandy. This battle still continues and creates a perfect platform for the students in those two schools to showcase their impressive talents.
3. Battle of the North
This match took place between Jaffna Central College and St. John’s College, Jaffna, the two leading schools in Jaffna since 1904. However, the Battle of North is a 3-day match.
4. Richmond – Mahinda Lovers’ Quarrel
Richmond – Mahinda Lovers’ Quarrel occurs between Richmond College and Mahinda College, two leading schools in Galle. This battle has taken place annually at the Galle International Cricket Stadium since 1905.
5. Hill Country Battle of the Blues
The match is between Trinity College and St. Anthony’s College, two leading schools in Kandy. This encounter has taken place annually since 1914.
6. Battle of the Maroons
This match takes place between Ananda College, Colombo, and Nalanda College, Colombo. The first match between the schools took place in 1924. Since then, the encounter happens annually in Colombo and happens to be one of the most famous big matches in Sri Lankan school history.
7. Battle of the Rocks
Started in 1943. Battle of the Rocks is between Maliyadeva College and St Anne’s College, two leading schools in Kurunegala in North-Western province.
Future of Sri Lanka Cricket
Cricket in Sri Lanka used to be the glue that holds up the divided nation. But, it seems Cricket in Sri Lanka is long past its golden days. Recent events and continuous failure performance-wise have disheartened many fans who had faith in Sri Lankan cricket.
However, the former cricketers blame the corruption within Sri Lanka Cricket for these failures. Since 1996, after the world cup win, many had realized the big piles of foreign exchange Cricket brings to the country. Thus, many critics believe that the people who don’t have the best interests of the game have filled the governing body, and corrupted the system of Sri Lankan cricket.
Besides, cricket is in the hearts of Sri Lankans, from North to South. Even kids start playing softball at a young age. Still, the majority of the cricketers during the past were from the capital city of Sri Lanka, Colombo. Apart from that, players joined the national team from Kandy, Galle, Matara, and Kurunegala. So, the lack of players from other areas of the island is a highlighting issue.
However, the major cause for the absence of players from other areas in Sri Lanka is not the lack of talent, but the uneven distribution of resources. Hence, SLC ought to create a stage for the island-wide youth in order to come up with a team, which represents the real Sri Lankan talents.
The problem doesn’t just stop there, Sri Lanka Women’s team hasn’t played a single match since March 2020. Likewise, for many years, Cricket in Sri Lanka has failed to give the nation and the Cricket fanbase what they deserved. However, we should hope the situation improves, because the love of people for Cricket in Sri Lanka remains the same!
The Bottom Line
Even though Sri Lankans inherited cricket from the British, it is now a part of Sri Lankan blood. Of course, that is the simple reason behind the immense love that Sri Lankans have for cricket. However, the story of Sri Lankan cricket won’t end here. It is sure to evolve for the better and place Sri Lanka boldly in the world of International Cricket. So, we conclude this read with the hope that this wonderful legacy of cricket in Sri Lanka would continue for a long time more!