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Epic feat of Malcolm de Costa

Cricket is a reflective game; a game which above all things lends itself to writing in the lovely flexible English which we have inherited from our ancestors; conquerors and the colonial rulers. Considering values and the traditions this game has inherited; it is deservingly denoted as the “GAME OF GENTLEMEN”.

It is once again the Big Match time. The heat, passion, frills and the thrills are being experienced and every body would love to reserve their prestigious seat in order to whisper their halcyon days and cheer the twenty two warriors who are battling for supremacy. It May be Royal-Thomian (Battle of the Blues) or the Joe -Pete (Battle of the Saints); The two most prestigious traditional encounters in the Island (This is no disparagement to any other Big Match); the Old boys, well wishers of all walks of life from here and abroad determined to be at picturesque Sinhalese Sports Club grounds or P. Saravanamuttu Stadium with a sense of tremendous enthusiasm where the friendly rivalry being engaged and at the very same time the game will be played to the best of it's traditions.

St. Joseph's College team - 1944 (First row from left) M. Dalpethado, A. de Costa, M. Kodikara (Seated from left) A. Hazari, I Matthysz, M. de Costa (captain), Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai (Rector), S. Fernando (Coach), C. de Mel, E. Chanmugam (Standing from left) H. Bagot, D. Fonseka, J de Mel, Brian de Silva, N. Weerasinghe, N. Pereira, A. Kanaganayagam, T. Wickramasinghe

As I Turn page by page of the Golden Jubillee souvenir of Joe-Pete battle of the Saints Cricket Encounter; what really struck my mind was the matches played in 1944 and in the subsequent year 1945 where the editor; late Harold De Andrado; commonly known to Josephians as the password of Josephian Cricket has given much prominence to the leadership qualities of Malcolm De Costa who led the Darley Road lads in recording back to back victories against the Bambalapitiya School in such a glorious fashion.

In 1944; The Battle of the saints encounter has taken place after a lapse of two years since the match had been interrupted in 1942 and 1943 due to the world war II. In these two years the Josephians were under that dynamic allrounder Fairlie Dalpethado has fielded two invincible teams and in year 1943 they were undisputed inter-schools cricket champions. The big match played in 1944; had been the 10th encounter of the series and the Peterites were led by Anton Perera (Elder brother of famous cricket commentator Maurice Perera).

The venue for this match was the University grounds, Thurstan Road, and played on March 15 and 16, 1944. St Peter's after winning the toss and have batted first were bowled out for 115. St Joseph's in their essay had compiled a massive 288. Skipper Malcolm De Costa had led from the front by scoring a brilliant century. The most successful bowler for the Petes had been Dion Walles who had taken 6 for 105. In the second essay, Petes were folded up for a mere 118 thus conceding a huge an innings and 55 run victory for their counterparts. Only the Pete's captain Anton Perera had shown some resistance by scoring a stubborn 75. The chief wreckers were Joe De Mel (Match bag of 6 for 49) and Malcolm De Costa himself chipped in with 3 for 24.

The following year too, Malcolm De Costa was bestowed upon the captaincy and Petes too were under Anton Perera. The match was played on 17th and 18th of March 1945 and the venue had been Victoria Park SSC grounds. After winning the toss St Joseph's have batted first and had posted a formidable 240. Opener Timmothy Wickremasinghe (58) and Wicket keeper/Batsman Hubert Bagot (64) had reached half centuries. Peterites in their essay were bundled out for just 165 where only E.L. De Souza (83) and Maurice Perera (50) had scored pugnacious half centuries. St Joseph's; batting second have declared at 176 for the loss of six wickets where the show piece of the innings had been the elegant batamanship of Asgar Hazari; who had been dismissed for 92 and was unfortunate to miss a well deserved century. Peterites were chasing a target of 251 for victory; could muster only 102 runs and Joes were the worthy winners by humiliating Petes by a huge 149 runs. Norton Pereira was the most successful bowler for St Joseph's by having a match bag of 7 for 56 and Skipper himself Malcolm De Costa had a match haul of 5 for 41.

St. Joseph's College team - 1945 (First row from left) O Perera, S Sarathchandra, M kodikara (Seated from left) C de Mel, m de Costa (captain), Fr. j. Nanayakkara O.M.I (Prefect of Games), Rev. Fr. Peter A. Pillai (Rector), S. Fernando (Coach), F. Matthysz, A. Hazari (Standing from left) N Perera, J de Mel, H Bagot, J Bagot, V Sinnetamby, T Wickramasinghe

Andrado in his own inimitable version hails the brilliant captaincy of Malcolm De Costa. “Malcolm played to win but he played chivalrously; and was later honoured in leading the Ceylon School's against the Indian test team led by great Vijay Merchant. The Value of this level headed and genially ruthless commander could not be over estimated”.Both 1944 and 1945 St Joseph's were crowned as the “Kings” of School cricket.

Being the Volunteer forces Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy; Capt. Malcolm De Costa had the extremely colourful personality of a great sportsman, Officer and a gentleman par excellence. Of course he had been goal oriented, commanded the troops with a mission to achieve success. His coaching stint at St Joseph's from 1960 to 1966 too was a Giant leap forward where he produced cricketers in the calibre of Priya Perera, Raja De Silva (Schoolboy cricketer of the year in 1961), Rufus Buultejens, Polycarp Wijesekera, Hilary Marcelline and Brian Perumal to a name few. Acccording to some of these players those who have come under the watchful eyes of Malcolm De Costa expresses that the method he had used to mould a bunch of schoolboys and make them a match winning outfit. His witty and professional attitude could only be expected from a person of his stature.

The successive victories of the Joe-Pete encounters in 1944 and 1945 were overwhelming evidence of dynamic leadership qualities,will to achieve victory, unwavering the courage and character of the man himself. Importantly these two traditional encounters epitomizes the respect, command, image and the reputation he earned from his fellow team mates and the admiration from his college authorities and those who were in the opposition. The manner in which he had led the teams in these two years symbolizes his character, personality and the professionalism.

It is a pity that we do not see such great men with sterling track record like Capt. Malcolm De Costa (St Joseph's) or Col.F.C.De Saram (Royal). Indeed; they were celebrities of this noble game and equally in the public service alike when men of character led by sheer example, determination and with true professionalism!

 

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