Big matches have collected thousands of fans and become a mainstay of Sri Lankan culture. Fans of the match aren’t simply schoolboys and old boys, though, because The Big Match is in actuality a celebration of school culture masquerading as a cricket match. Far from being a stuffy affair, it’s usually a stadium-wide revelry raging in the sunshine; the bowlers begrudgingly allowing batsmen to score in the middle of the oval are essentially one gigantic MacGuffin, an excuse for fellowship, good old-fashioned rivalry and a whole lot of fun.
One set of fans that are often overlooked, however, are the girls! Why exactly are girls drawn to a cricket match featuring boy’s schools in the country? I cannot presume to speak for all girls, but after talking to a few I discovered some basic reasons.
Like father like daughter
For a number of girls, their dads are loyal old boys and this love for the big match just catches like some sort of hereditary disease. It’s a fun way to bond, an inescapable dinner conversation that for once is actually interesting, a generation gap bridged. One girl fondly recollected that her love of the big match started because her dad was Royalist, and then it became a way of life.
My first experience with boys jumping into school was of confusion and an unexpected cloistering sans teachers that allowed us Grade Sixers to riot in the comfort of our own classroom, oblivious to the rivalries and general purpose of this jumping business. Fast forward to my last year, and I had the pleasure of an unparalleled view of the action, on the third floor with our principal herself chuckling at the boys being chased to the low wall that separated the school from the outside world. We watched the boys desperately scrabbling over the wall, losing rubber slippers in the process. Almost every girl I spoke to has a story like this, of boys falling over each other to either get into the school – or out!
The Big Match has the Cycle Parade (where the cycle to truck ratio is something like 1:10 to be honest) and beyond literally stopping traffic, it’s difficult to breeze past the hundreds of boys waving flags from trucks, cheering and altogether having fun without being infected by it. If you’re going in the same direction as the parade, however, that’s another story!
It’s something our friends like
If you have a lot of friends from the schools involved it can be impossible to escape the conversations, speculations and plans being made to actually attend the thing. If you can’t beat them, join them right?
Of course, the match itself!
After the exciting build up, the match spans several days with the Cricket itself twisting and turning (unless, of course, the dreaded ‘thattu-ing’ to drag the match towards a draw happens!). The music is loud and inviting, and a general fun atmosphere pervades the stadium. While many girls already have filial loyalties, quite a few have no skin in the game which means they can have fun with whatever outcome. It also has to be admitted that the Big Match is reportedly a great place to do some boy watching! In general, Sri Lanka has a great atmosphere at cricket matches, and this one is no different!
So in conclusion, I would say that girls enjoy boys making a fool of themselves, while also respecting and enjoying the deep history behind the series, carving out space for themselves as fans, daughters, sisters and spouses. No girl has ever played in one of the matches (or attended either school for that matter) but they’re still there, supporting their friends and family and most of all – having fun!