This is a copy of an article I wrote for the Billericay Gazette on Wednesday 15 June 2022.
England are currently midway through a three-test series against New Zealand. Some would say Cricket is the quintessential English sport – its origin’s go back to 1598 and the Tudor game of ‘Creckett’ – and nothing epitomises an English summer more than a leisurely afternoon down at Billericay Cricket Club, or the County Ground, enjoying a relaxing glass of Pimm’s or a cool G&T.
Cricket 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, 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 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 84 Tests and 200 One Day Internationals (he is also a Christian – his father, Marcus, was a clergyman) and he rates former Australian wicketkeeper, 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 teammates.
In his autobiography: ‘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.” However, Gilchrist knows the umpire has made a mistake – what does he do?
Gilchrist 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, angrily asks: “Did you not see the umpire give you not out?” Gilchrist replies: “Yes. I saw him, but I hit the ball.”
Many people were surprised at his actions, but most applauded the way he acted in a sporting way. Some hailed him as a ground breaker, but many of his teammates 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 we read: “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.”
And finally, may you be ‘bowled over’ by the Lord’s blessing on you and those you love.
A Cricketer’s Prayer
Old Father Time, I pray to you
That clouds give it a rest,
And that I get a game today,
And that I play my best.
I pray that my side score quick runs
And our opponents falter,
And if it comes to pass we lose,
I pray the game’s a belter.
I pray that once I’ve donned my pads
And walked out to the square,
That none of my nicks find a palm,
And that I score my share.
I pray the wicket’s well-prepared,
And that it doesn’t stick,
That all my shots find gaps –
And that the outfield’s fairly quick,
I pray the umpire knows his job,
And doesn’t lift his finger.
But if he does I pledge to you:
I’ll not forlornly linger.
I pray the Captain sets his field
With telepathic skill,
That all his plans work well
And that the catches do not spill.
I pray that if a batsman
Loops a ball into my lap,
I’ll pouch it without too much fuss,
And get a well-earned clap.
And if I’m asked to bowl I pray
The ball leaves my hand true,
So whether or not wickets come
I’ll know that they’re my due.
Above all, Father Time I pray
When all is said and done,
That we can all look back and say
“By ‘eck, that game was fun!”