This is a copy of my article in the JULY 2015 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’ which can be read here

As we look forward, with great anticipation, to a prolonged period of dry, sunny weather, nothing epitomises a pleasant English summer more than a leisurely day watching a relaxing game of cricket and enjoying a glass or two of Pimms or G&T!

Cricket, some would say, is the quintessential English sport – its origins go back to 1598 and the Tudor game of ‘Creckett’. It is often referred to as a ‘gentlemanly’ game which helps to promote excellent manners and behaviour in those who play.  And, whilst that may be true for club and county cricket, it is certainly not true of an Ashes series – when England renew their rivalry against Australia – the ‘Auld Enemy!’ For many cricketing fans, it’s much more important than just a game – national pride is at stake.

Ex England player and coach, and now a legendary commentator, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, in his entertaining book about the Ashes, acknowledges that the Ashes is “ferociously contested” and, in the midst  of the infamous ‘sledging’ that takes place, it also promotes “unbelievable friendships and ultimate respect.” International cricket umpire Billy Bowden has umpired nearly 100 Tests and 200 One Day Internationals (he is also a Christian – his father, Marcus, is a clergyman) and he rates former Australian wicket-keeper, Adam Gilchrist (pictured) as the nicest and most authentic cricketer he has witnessed playing the game.

In his autobiography, Gilchrist describes an incident in the 2003 World Cup semi-final vs Sri Lanka when he ‘walked.’ He tells how, when he was batting, the ball touched his bat, then his pads and he was caught by a fielder.  Gilchrist knows he has hit the ball and is out but the umpire is shaking his head and saying “Not out.” Gilchrist knows the umpire has made a mistake – what does he do? He said he heard a voice inside his head saying ‘Go, walk, you got to go, that’s out.” Then he said he heard another voice telling me not to be stupid: “Cricketers don’t walk.” He chooses to walk and when he reaches the pavilion his captain, Ricky Ponting, says: “Did you see the umpire give you not out?” Gilchrist replies, “Yes. I saw him.” Many people were surprised at his actions but most applauded the way he had acted in a sporting way.  This is a moment that lives on in cricketing folklore and has been used many times to signify the spirit of the game. Does the Bible have anything to say about actions such as this? Quite amusingly it does in Psalm 1:1: “Blessed is the man who does not walk … !”

When sportsmen and women compete at the top level, how do they give every fixture their ‘best shot’ without treating it like World War III? It might be recognising the difference between ‘sportsmanship’ and ‘gamesmanship’. Sportsmanship could be said to playing a game fairly; whereas gamesmanship is taking an unfair advantage. Greg Linville argues for replacing ‘sportsmanship’ and ‘gamesmanship’ with the idea of ‘Christmanship’. He suggests: “Christmanship embodies the best of sportsmanship (fun, fairness and being a good loser) with the best of gamesmanship (giving one’s best effort to win) but it surpasses them both … it challenges the Christian athlete to compete as Christ would compete.”

It seems as though Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel (7:12):  “Treat others as you want them to treat you” gives food for thought, not only for those who compete in sport but for each one of us as a way to live our daily lives.  Whatever you have planned for the coming months – whether watching the Ashes on TV or avoiding it like the plague – may the Lord’s blessing be upon you and those you love