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
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
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
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!