Geeshath Panditharatne at Helm
After 11 years, Geeshath Pandithratne became the first Royalist to achieve the 1000-run milestone as a captain. Moreover, along with his deputy Thiran Dhanapala, the duo became the first captain-vice captain duo in Royal history to score 1000 runs in the same season.
Having amassed 1026 runs in 28 innings (avg. 42.71) with 3 centuries, Geeshath’s top scores came against St. Sebastian’s and Prince of Wales where he remained on 150 not out in both innings. Geeshath’s timely ascent saw his century against the Cambrians being followed by another against Wesley and a 94 against St. Aloysius, narrowly missing his third consecutive ton in his last home game at Reid Avenue. Not to forget that his nifty right arm leg spin had also come handy in numerous game situations this season.
Deputy duties with Glovemanship
Vice-captain Thiran Dhanapala has been the top scorer for Royal this season. The sturdy middle order batsman has stockpiled a staggering 1115 runs in 27 innings at an average of 48.13. An anchor role, assorted with his destructive approach has been a critical component for the team. His highest score of 143* came against St. Aloysius while three more centuries were recorded against St. Sebastian’s (115), St. Anthony’s (112) and Maris Stella (120*). He has also scored five half centuries this season. Thiran’s most memorable knock came against Maris Stella when he smashed a scintillating 120 in just 78 balls.
A talisman behind the stumps, his nippy gloves have claimed 48 dismissals this season including 34 catches and 14 stumpings.
Naveen to spearhead the Batting Department
Royal’s aggressive batting approach has seen them sustain high scoring rates throughout the season. Opener and last season’s top run scorer Naveen Withanapathirana will take the responsibility of spearheading the batting department with eyes to carve early inroads for an impregnable essay. As an opener, Naveen has scored 883 runs including one century and six half tons for the season. He and opening partner Ronuka Jayawardane is followed by Pasindu Sooriyabandara, Geeshath Panditharatne and Malith Kariyawasam, forming a daunting top order with the reliable Thiran Dhanapala to fortify rest of the innings lower down.
This season, Royal have crossed the 300-run border 6 times while their highest team total came against St. Aloysius when they made 398/8 to secure a first innings win. In the entire season, the Royal batsmen have piled up 6244 runs at the fall of 228 wickets, nearing almost 28 runs per wicket. Blessed with two 1000-run getters and 3 more passing the 600-run barrier, Royal has seen a flourishing season with the willow.
The icing on the cake has been the likes of freshers such as Pasindu Sooriyabandara, Ronuka Jayawardane and Malith Kariyawasam performing at decisive moments with valiant endeavours.
Embuldeniya & co. to spin results
Playing as a second year coloursman, Lasith Embuldeniya has already written his name in the history books as one of the most successful bowlers the school has ever produced. With an emphatic 118 scalps at an impressive average of 17.72, he has been the highest wicket taker in this school season. On his way, he broke the record for most wickets by a Royalist in a season, previously held by Maneesha Tantrigoda (105) during 2009/10 and is now nearing the all-time record for most 1st XI career wickets for Royal, 11 short of A.R. Jayaweera’s 237. Embuldeniya’s spin has been detrimental, steamrolling opponents and leaving them in shambles. His outstanding efforts include 13 for 148 against Richmond, 11 for 102 against St. Joseph’s and 10 for 102 against St. Sebastian’s. His deceptive deliveries have furthermore earned him a resounding nine 5-wicket hauls.
Eclipsed by Embuldeniya’s dominance is right arm off spinner Ganith Sandeepa whose supportive role has been an unsung loop. The fresher has played a crucial second fiddle, taking 43 wickets for the season. Shan Tennakoon and Charuka Hatharasinghe have also contributed with their left arm spin, capturing 25 and 23 wickets respectively. Stints by Malith Kariyawasam and Gayan Dissanayake equally carry the potential of spinning off batting line ups.
Ramanayake to lead the pace attack
Right arm paceman Himesh Ramanayake leads the fast bowling attack with Helitha Withanage and Duvindu Hettiarachchi. With early breakthroughs, they will be hoping to build a solid platform for the spinners to inflict later damage. Ramanayake’s lightning pace has yielded 32 wickets (avg. 24.84) this season while the vicious trio has shared 66 wickets between them. Followed by them stands fresher Abishek Perera with his right arm medium pace.
Young faces and new hopes
Oozing with credence, right handed top order batsman Pasindu Sooriyabandara has cut the mustard in drastic times. The sixteen year old fresher’s stylish stroke play has been a delight to watch the entire season. With two centuries and two half centuries under his belt, the most noteworthy performance came against St. Peter’s when his unbeaten 125 saved the Royalists in a grueling follow on. At an average of 34.1, Pasindu has reached 648 runs in 22 innings this season.
Opener Ronuka Jayawardane is capable of providing a firm foundation and assisting Naveen Withanapathirana to give the team a head start. In 28 innings, he has scored 694 runs. At silly point, Ronuka has taken 21 catches this season, being only second to Naveen, whose safe hands at slip have claimed 31 victims.
Behind the scenes
With the departure of Avishka Gunawardene, last season’s Assistant Coach Suranga Wijenayake was appointed on the laborious task of moulding the team as the Head Coach. The former Cambrian is assisted by Kelum Fernando while former Royal cricketer Kanishka Boteju will render his expertise as the fielding coach.
When it comes to administration, the relevant work is handled by MIC Mr. Shantha Kumara and two Senior Games Masters, Mr. Upul Nishantha and Mr. Sudath Liyanagunawardene.
The Royalists comprise of an evenly poised side with staunch figures in all three departments. From their brutal bowling armoury to vivacious batting, this immensely talented, record-breaking outfit can blitzkrieg any opponent on its day. Their Achilles’ heel has been their composure that has resulted in a few sudden slumps during the season, something they will focus on ahead of the big event. It is no doubt that Geeshath Panditharatne and Thiran Dhanapala have already taken up this vital challenge in maintaining the mindset of a team mixed with youth and experience in order to produce a fluent reply in their conquest to preserve the ultimate prize at the Royal-Thomian.