Sanesh De Mel spoke to what it means to him to have scored a magnificent 110 in the all-important ‘Battle of the Blues’ in 2014.

Playing cricket at a cricket crazy ‘School by the Sea’, De Mel spoke on how important a big match is to a young Thomian cricketer’s career, “It’s a growing up thing, from under 11 to under 19 as you grow up, you prepare yourself for this day. It’s like a dream”

In his first big match, Sandesh tasted bitter defeat to arch rivals Royal but it was the stepping stone for great things that lay ahead. “I played in the first XI from 2012, but my first big match came in 2013. At S. Thomas’ we prepare for the big three days, from the first term. As a player, you cultivate yourself towards the big match. In 2013 we lost that year, it was a bitter pill to swallow, that year Royal played very well. They deserved to win”

This was also his first experience playing at Sinhalese Sports Club amidst the noisy crowd, “Batting wise this was my first time batting at SSC for S. Thomas’. For any Thomian batsman, I can say that SSC seems like our second home even though you don not play there often, it is such a lovely batting strip and you just want to stay out there all day.”

“Not just inside the ground but the spectators, both Royal and Thora, different tents and the ambiance, it all makes things that much more special at the SSC”

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-07 at 10.08.39 PMFollowing the demoralizing defeat, the lads from Mount Lavinia went back to the drawing board and worked hard to ensure that they did not give things away as easily as they did before, “We worked extremely hard in 2014, the match ended up in a draw, we managed only to get the first innings win but we did really well, we tried our best and so did Royal.”

Playing in 2013, De Mel was a youngster who was finding his feet in the first XI stage, “when you are playing your first big match, the day before you think of a lot of things. Even though you have grown up watching the big match, you have never played and you wonder how it will be. You think of different scenarios, you think about all of this. As a fresher you are walking into something new that you have not been exposed to before and as a youngster every second is a learning curve.

“You learn things from the ground conditions to the crowd, the weather. Traditionally teams are used to playing at their home venues but when you play away, in a neutral ground, you get used to it. The noise, hype and with so many people watching, as a fresher you get used to it over the three days, you grow into it. It’s a good feeling of nervousness and not a bad one”

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-08 at 6.15.34 AMGoing into his second year in the Thomian colors at the big match, the experience is clearly different, “as a senior, there are more things you should know, you have to take responsibility, you have to guide the freshers to grow into the game. A senior needs to know the game plan. What you learnt throughout the season, you have to implement it there”

Talking us through his dream innings in his last ‘Battle of the Blues’ encounter Sanesh said, “It was always a dream to score a century at a big match. I remember when I walked out to bat that day, just after tea, I did not go into the centre with a mind set to make a century. I just went out there to enjoy”

“The situation I walked out into was Royal all out for 158 and we were around 30 for the loss of 1 wicket. Chasing after Royal’s first innings score, I thought to myself, this is the last time I will be walking out there to bat under school colors and I just wanted to enjoy my innings and play well for my school. My mind set was ‘yes I need to do well for my school, but enjoy myself too”

“It was a long day at SSC, I was carrying a bit of an injury, shoulder issue. When I went in to bat, I was with a fresher, Yohan Mendis. Our plan was to see out the day without losing any more wickets. We left the ball where necessary, put away the loose deliveries and kept the scoreboard ticking. But with Royal been persistent, they managed to break through. Still we ended the day in a good position.”

WhatsApp Image 2017-03-07 at 10.03.44 PM“The next day when we walked out, I realized even though we did well the previous day, Royal will come out all guns blazing, and they did, getting a breakthrough in the very first over. The pitch at SSC gives the bowlers a decent amount of help in the first hour and they exploited that brilliantly, keeping us on lock.”

“After lunch they continued to peg us back with regular wickets and kept it tight. Chenutha Wickramasinghe joined me at the crease and together we put on 116 for the 8th wicket. I continued with singles and putting away the odd loose ball and at SSC you tend to lose track of the scoreboard because you get engrossed in batting on a lovely track and so i managed to get to 96 at tea”

“When i went into the shed for the tea break, there was so much said to me, I didn’t have too much time to think but when the break ended I mainly thought about our declaration. I wanted to get on with it after the break. I still remember the first ball I faced after the break, I stepped out and played a slog sweep and moved on to a hundred”

“The joy you feel at that moment is a quick flashback off all the memories that brought you to that point. All the hard work and all the encouragement I got, all of that came to mind. The feeling was incredible, when you see the flags flying high, I tell you, there is no better feeling”