Big Match!  :  A  colonial project of producing brown Sahibs and masculine Christians  
Posted on March 4th, 2018

Punsara  Amarasinghe PhD Candidate in International Law Higher School of Economics Moscow

Every year month of March brings a tantalizing spirit to the lads in Sri Lankan schools located in major cities like Colombo, Galle and Kandy to raise their cheer for their alma maters waving their respective school flag while putting their maximum effort to be gallant before the fairer sex around every girl’s school in the town. This is called the Madness of March or Big Match culture in Sri Lanka that has been prevailed for decades. Now most of the schools in Sri Lanka have their own annual big match or Cricket Encounter  , but the history of school cricketing rivalries in the island shows us the initial Cricket encounters in colonial Ceylon was mainly confined to a set of elite schools scoured by either Colonial administration or Christian Missionaries.  Royal-Thomian or commonly known Battle of the Blues is the oldest inter school cricket encounter of Sri Lanka with the history of 139 years as it was not even interrupted during both First and Second World Wars. The annual cricket encounter between Royal College, Colombo and S.Thomas’ College, Mount Lavenia has firmly established its aura among the political and social elites in the island for many decades. Following Royal Thomian many other schools in Sri Lanka began their own big match smitten by the glamour of former and surprisingly those big matches became iconic features in school calendar and many old boys who departed from their schools take the opportunity of attending the event with sense of pride and nostalgia of the jolly good days they spent. Ambience of Royal Thomian big match is a better testimony that is showing the ardor of loyal old boys from every nook and corner of the social class.

If we look at the roots of the big match evolution in Sri Lanka we can realize the inception of school cricket rivalries was finally attributed to a one objective of colonial project that had psychologically and culturally brainwashed the nation. In the first few decades of the British rule in Ceylon the presence of Missionaries was a vitally important factor as a constant agent of the social reform that British anticipated to carry out. The role of a missionary in education was significant in many ways as it was oriented towards changing the psychology of the colonized.  The task of civilizing mission of the colony was bestowed upon the Missionaries and the grim colonial attitude towards the subject has been aptly depicted in Joseph Conrad’s famous fiction Heart of Darkness”.  Conrad states The colonists are described as shiny, altruistic pioneers sallying forth into the dark uncivilized world to bring salvation and civilization to the ignorant races. Oh, but also terror, rape, enslavement, and forced conversion. Awesome!”  The Sport was one of innovative approaches used by Christian Missionaries in inculcating their Christian virtues among the natives and presumed savageness of natives was expected to be tamed by uplifting highest morals through Cricket. In fact the spread of Cricket in Victorian England among the public schools was mainly based on maintaining a certain English hierarchical values. Unlike football, Cricket was given a special place of reverence in the British school sports.  Furthermore the propagating cricket was mainly focused on one particular goal from the outset albeit it was predominantly limited to elite public schools like Eton, Harrow and Winchester. In truth Anglican clergymen in England and school authorities identified the importance of cricket in creating the loyalty to the crown among the boys. In the lines of Vtiae Lapmada a Great War poetry written by Sir Henry Newbolt, cricket has been depicted as a tool to strengthen the allegiance to British Empire. In the poem Vitae Lampada an allegory of Cricket match was used to show how one should keep fighting for the country regardless the deprivation he faces.

The introduction of Cricket in Ceylon and other colonies was accredited with British missionaries who took it up as a civilizing tool.  The sense of Christian evangelism was always imbued with spread of Cricket, especially the Missionaries who went to the colonies in preaching the gospel realized the importance of increasing physical fitness and moral obedience together. In tracing the historiography of School Cricket that we can understand how Cricketing rivalries among the schools began to appear under the patronage of Anglican clergymen.  S.Thomas’ happened to be the first school to play Cricket in Ceylon and initially they had to play cricket with European dominating local Cricket clubs as none other school played the game at that time.  S.Thomas College was a private Anglican institute moulded on the popular mantra of British Empire called Classics, Cricket and Christianity.  When the education was mainly oriented towards the Greek-Roman classical literature, Cricket played a decisive role by marinating the team loyalty and this so called loyalty was expected to be shown to the empire as well. Eventually Christianity was the bottom line of the education, Missionaries like Bishop Chapman of S.Thomas’ or Rev. Frazer in Trinity believed the sports such as Cricket would be idealized the healthy Masculine Christians in the colony. As Arjun Appaduari pointed out the upholding a healthy standard in the empire was a British Imperial policy and the Christian missionaries made it possible by assimilating sports into the evangelical education they provided.  British sports historian J.A Mangan provides gracious statement about the moral mission of Christian Missionaries through Cricket. He states These men had the most profound of purposes: manliness achieved on the games field in order to create a universal Tom Brown: loyal, brave, truthful, a gentleman, and if possible a Christian. In all seriousness the, main means of their attempted moral manliness was cricket, the game of empire”. In fact the establishment laid down by Missionaries had reaped its fruit by the early 20th Century as those big matches or cricketing rivalries became a limelight in the social life of Colonial Ceylon. In tracing the history of Royal Thomian encounter we can see most of the post independent leaders of Ceylon had played for either Royal or STC. But the reality behind propagating Cricket in the Sub Continent was based on British dubious tradition of forming a loyal and healthy class for the Empire and the equal status was not given for those native boys who played cricket despite the fact that they had fulfilled every potential to be typical Victorian gentlemen. As an example the Indian Cricketing legend RanjitSingh was a celebrity in England with his outstanding performance and played for England team, but when his performance began to get weaker in 1902 England’s test serious against Australia, the response from English audience was rather racial and hostile towards him.

Missionary attempt of inculcating the discipline and Christian moral conduct saw its success with the emergence of many other big matches in the island and following the tradition of Royal Thomian many other schools including the non-Christian schools opted for Cricket and Big Matches. Today the Big Match season in Sri Lanka stands as a fiesta and no one would bother about the genesis of Cricket rivalries as a part of evasive colonial project, because Lankans have grasped it for centuries and indeed mastered that Sport far better than the British. But the forgotten truth which cannot be disdained at any cost is the making a healthy class of boys was a mere pretext used by Missionary educationalists in the colonies and the real motive was necessarily to produce a set of Brown Sahibs for the Empire and devoted Christians for the service God. It is not an exaggeration to say that this ideal was accomplished in many British colonies during the heyday of Empire.

7 Responses to “Big Match!  :  A  colonial project of producing brown Sahibs and masculine Christians  ”

  1. Christie Says:

    What Sacred Bull Shit is this. One of the British -Indian Colonies that Missionaries were successful was Fiji. It is not Criket there it is Rugby.

    Indian parasites promote these ideas and we follow them.

  2. Ratanapala Says:

    Olcott Buddhists

    I have met many a Anandian, Nalandian and many more from the Buddhist Schools that came into being during Col Olcott / Anagraika Dharmapala times.

    I found it strange that I could ‘meet’ only a few, who had an affinity for the values that Col Olcott and Anagarka Dharmapala would have loved to see from those schooled from these educational institutions. The most disappointing trait of the majority was their readiness to let go Sinhala Buddhist values and follow anything and everything that modernity threw at them without much hesitation. They seem to be in awe of everything that is Royal / Thomain / Trinity – literally all western values – a kind of dog-like devotion to their ways and manners.

    Beginning with ‘big matches’, old boy organizations, get-togethers and famously dinner-dances, where they blindly followed the ethos of Royal / Thomas / Trinity and St Bridgets et al. They hardly have any pride for their country, history, culture or even Buddhism and are at times openly skeptical. This is not to say there aren’t any exceptions!

    Imitating Royalists, Thomians and Bridgetians, they became Anandian and Nalandians and with difficulty Dharmapalians, Dharmasokians and Dharmarajians and Visakians!

    They have made a mockery of the personalities of Maha Arahath Ananda, Anagarika Dharmapala – later Ven Devamitta, Great Provider Visakha or Great Emperor Dharmasoka, with hardly any reverence with these appellations.

    Most of these would love to enter, even uninvited or from the back doors if possible a Royal / Thomian get together or dinner /dance just to hob nob and be seen with the ‘right crowd’ or just to sit and speak ‘English’! The situation was much worse from those who came through the Central Colleges. Their dog like devotion to anything that is Royal, Thomian and the like was downright demeaning. Their inability to relate to ordinary people is astounding!

    Marrying into a non Buddhist family – Christian or Muslim makes them proud and a feeling of having come up in life and to acceptability as liberal cosmopolitans. Thus a feeling of having ‘arrived’ at their final destination!

    Karl Marx said – Petit Bourgeoisie or the Lower Middle Class are the most reactionary – meaning reluctant to identify with common values and readiness to fight tooth and nail for the values of the ‘upper classes’ and on their behalf. Having transited from the lower strata they will throw all at their disposal to keep their newly acquired social status while aspiring to climb up the ladder to Upper Middle Class, hook or by crook! Thus they become foot soldiers of the upper classes. Some are successful in this unholy venture and now can be seen hobnobbing among Champaign Circles as nouveau riche having conveniently forgotten their roots!

    In learned circles, those who have followed sciences would venture to explain Buddhism through Science and not vice versa. Others are more comfortable discussing cricket, golf and other sports scores and statistics rather than any matter that is to do with our beleaguered Motherland or Buddhism. Even if they do, their loyalties are with those who aspire for bogus democracy and human rights ventures of these classes and the Liberal Christian ideologies. They are ready for the dissolution of Sri Lanka as a means to end minority demands so that they can maintain their social standing! For those who have come up in life, they have no sympathy for those they have left behind!

    Their goals in life are to send their children to Royal, St Thomas or Catholic / Christian schools or convents or the so-called International Schools, live in a walled concrete ‘castle’ immune and blind to the vicissitudes of those who are less ‘fortunate’!

    Very good examples are Vickramabahu and Rajitha Senaratne to name only a few – both products of Ananda Vidyalaya!

  3. Dilrook Says:

    Despite the beginnings and how and why they were introduced, cricket (and other competitive sports) and “Big Matches” have become part of the Lankan society. Even the concept of “Sport Meet” and competitive athletics were introduced by the British. They serve a purpose for the society and must be continued.

    If Buddhist schools stop playing British introduced sports or scale them down (like scrapping “Big Matches”), the others will take over. No one can stop the world playing cricket and Sri Lanka fielding a team. Buddhists must not exclude themselves from this sport, industry and passtime.

  4. Dilrook Says:


    Same goes for Sri Lankan rugby. It must be nurtured and promoted. No matter who, how and why it was introduced, Sri Lankans have embraced it and doing very well internationally and nationally.

    Tens of thousands of people (mostly Buddhists) make a livelihood in association with these sports. If Buddhists exclude themselves or scale down their involvement, they lose it and others will grab it.

    Better things to dismantle from what the British empire left us with are the highly destructive tea industry, tobacco, narcotics, immoral industries and provincial demarcations.

  5. L Perera Says:

    Can Punsara confirm what he wears when traveling to and from Moscow and when attending Uni. Shirt and slacks or the SL national costume.?

  6. NeelaMahaYoda Says:

    Mr.L Perera

    My dear Perera!! Slacks or trousers do not belong to colonials.

    During the French Revolution of 1789 and following, male citizens of France adopted a working-class costume including ankle-length trousers, or pantaloons (named from a Commedia dell’Arte character named Pantalone)[33] in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches (culottes)

    So Slacks and trousers belong to the working people of the world whether they are from Europe, Asia or Africa. National costumes are ceremonial costumes and like National costumes of Russians, of Chinese and of Japanese you do not wear them for day to day work.

    I can very well remember as a teenager, about 50 years ago In Sri Lanka , perhaps due to the internalized attitude of ethnic or cultural inferiority felt by a people as a result of colonization, there was a common convention at that time that Slacks or trousers should be worn by those who can speak fluent English. I am glad that today Slacks or trousers are common to all in Sri Lanka.

    Internalized attitude is a concept in social justice which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor. Internalized oppression occurs when one group of people recognizes a distinct inequality of value compared to another group of people and, as a result, desires to be like the more highly valued group.[1]

    For example, sometimes members of marginalized groups hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or they start to affirm negative stereotypes of themselves. Internalized oppression may manifest on a group level as well as an individual one. Internalized oppression may result in conflict within the group, and discrimination among the group.[2] (in this particular case the commentator thinks that only the supporters of the colonial power are eligible to wear Slacks or trousers)

    The oldest known trousers are found at the Yanghai cemetery in Turpan, Xinjiang, western China, dated to the period between the 13th and the 10th centuries BC. Made of wool, the trousers had straight legs and wide crotches, and were likely made for horseback riding.[2][3]

    In most of Europe, trousers have been worn since ancient times and throughout the Medieval period, becoming the most common form of lower-body clothing for adult males in the modern world, although shorts are also widely worn,
    There is some evidence, from figurative art, of trousers being worn in the Upper Paleolithic, as seen on the figurines found at the Siberian sites of Mal’ta and Buret’.[5] The oldest known trousers are found at the Yanghai cemetery, extracted from mummies in Turpan, Xinjiang, western China, belonging to the Eastern Iranian people of the Tarim Basin; dated to the period between the 13th and the 10th century BC and made of wool, the trousers had straight legs and wide crotches, and were likely made for horseback riding

    The Korean word for trousers, baji (originally pajibaji) first appears in recorded history around the turn of the 15th century, but pants may have been in use by Korean society for some time. From at least this time pants were worn by both sexes in Korea. Men wore trousers either as outer garments or beneath skirts, while it was unusual for adult women to wear their pants (termed sokgot) without a covering skirt. As in Europe, a wide variety of styles came to define regions, time periods and age and gender groups, from the unlined gouei to the padded sombaji.[38]
    Trousers enter recorded history in the 6th century BC, on the rock carvings and artworks of Persepolis,[6] and with the appearance of horse-riding Eurasian nomads in Greek ethnography. At this time, the Iranian People such as Scythians, Sarmatians, Sogdians and Bactrians among others, along with Armenians and Eastern and Central Asian peoples such as the Xiongnu and Hunnu, are known to have worn trousers.[7][8] Trousers are believed to have been worn by both sexes among these early users.[9]
    The ancient Greeks used the term “ἀναξυρίδες” (anaxyrides) for the trousers worn by Eastern nations[10] and “σαράβαρα” (sarabara) for the loose trousers worn by the Scythians.[11] However, they did not wear trousers since they thought them ridiculous,[12][13] using the word “θύλακοι” (thulakoi), pl. of “θύλακος” (thulakos), “sack”, as a slang term for the loose trousers of Persiansand other Middle Easterners.[14]
    Republican Rome viewed the draped clothing of Greek and Minoan (Cretan) culture as an emblem of civilisation and disdained trousers as the mark of barbarians.[15] As the Empire expanded beyond the Mediterranean basin, however, the greater warmth provided by trousers led to their adoption.[16] Two types of trousers eventually saw widespread use in Rome: the Feminalia, which fit snugly and usually fell to knee or mid-calf length,[17] and the Braccae, a loose-fitting trouser that was closed at the ankles.[18] Both garments were adopted originally from the Celts of Europe, although later familiarity with the Persian Near East and the Teutons increased acceptance. Feminalia and Braccae both began use as military garments, spreading to civilian dress later, and were eventually made in a variety of materials including leather, wool, cotton and silk.[19]
    As a modernisation measure, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia issued a decree in 1701 commanding every Russian man, other than clergy and peasant farmers, to wear trousers.
    During the French Revolution of 1789 and following, male citizens of France adopted a working-class costume including ankle-length trousers, or pantaloons (named from a Commedia dell’Arte character named Pantalone)[33] in place of the aristocratic knee-breeches (culottes)
    Sailors may[original research?] have played a role in the worldwide dissemination of trousers as a fashion. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sailors wore baggy trousers known as galligaskins. Sailors also pioneered the wearing of jeans – trousers made of denim.[citation needed] These became more popular in the late 19th century in the American West because of their ruggedness and durability.

  7. Nimal Says:

    This photo represent the best part of our history. I am happy to be a kalu sudda and a brown sahib, but not a primitive ambudaya.Country in a real mess, just drive on our roads to observe the madness and stupidity of our people that goes all the way to the top. Just come back from there.

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