As I write, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 is well under way (I’m hoping England justified their No:1 world ranking and won the competition) and nothing epitomises a pleasant English summer more than a leisurely day watching a game of cricket and enjoying a relaxing glass or two of Pimm’s or a G&T! Cricket, some would say, is the quintessential English sport and many would disagree with the observations of George Bernard Shaw when he said:
Cricket is a game played by 11 fools watched by 11,000 fools.
The origins of crickets 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 hold some truth for club and county cricket, it is certainly not true of the rivalry between England and Australia – the ‘Auld Enemy!’
For many cricketers and fans alike it’s much more than just a game – international pride is at stake. Legendary ex-England player, coach, and now commentator, David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, in his entertaining book about the Ashes, acknowledges that any game against Australia is “ferociously contested” but also promotes “unbelievable friendships and ultimate respect.”
Former International cricket umpire Billy Bowden umpired nearly 100 Tests and over 200 One Day Internationals (he is also a Christian – his father, Marcus, is a clergyman) and he rates former Australian wicket-keeper, Adam Gilchrist, as the nicest and most authentic cricketer he has witnessed playing the game. Gilchrist, too, is a Christian and was given the nickname ‘Churchie’ by his team mates.
In his autobiography, which he called ‘Walking To Victory’ Gilchrist describes an incident in the 2003 World Cup semi-final vs Sri Lanka when he ‘walked’ (the act of a batsman giving himself out, without waiting for an umpire’s decision). 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. Some hailed him as a ground breaker. But many in his team were livid for a supposedly needless show of honesty. Gilchrist said:
I kept going back to the fact that, well, at the end of the day, I had been honest with myself. I felt it was time that players made a stand to take back responsibility for the game. I was at ease with that. The more I thought about it, the more settled I became with what I’d done.
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 walks … !
Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel (7:12) give us 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:
Treat others as you want them to treat you.
Whatever you have planned for the summer, may the Lord’s blessing be upon you and those you love.
This is a copy of my article for the August 2019 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’