Cricket, Cricket! -- By Suresh Manoharan

Nothing quite like the sweet sound of the willow striking leather …more so if the Cricket World cup is on. In India, especially after the 1983 heroics of World cup winning team, every World cup brings with it, nostalgia of the "good ole days" as also expectations that once again cup of joy of Indian cricket aficionados would run over.

As the game of Cricket originated in the ole English village greens there are some xenophobic souls (thankfully they are in the minority) who look down upon it uncharitably as a relic of the Colonial past. Here let it be stated that one needs a heart of flesh and a poetic soul to make out and appreciate the old world charm associated with it. While advent of night game, white ball, black sightscreen, colored clothing,T-20 are new welcome changes in a game which takes pride in its tradition, is not cricket stripped of all fanciful trappings still essentially a contest between bat and ball? By the way, are there any spiritual lessons to be derived from this good ole' game?

A great leveler…

If anything, cricket is a great leveler, where David vs Goliath scenes are commonplace. Where else would one find two mismatched (physically) individuals crossing swords? Can anyone bargain to see a compact Sachin or a Sunil or a Lara in a Basketball court pitting their skills against the likes of a towering Ambrose or Garner or Bruce Reid? Or for that matter is their any sport where a roly-poly Ranatunga can stand-up to an athletic McGrath or a plump Colin Milburn score centuries on behalf of all "fat, jolly men in this World" taking on lean and mean fast bowlers like Dennis Lillee? Ah the skill factor, which plays the great leveler!

By the same token, weak folks in the Christian realm who wouldn't normally stand a chance against a formidable, prowling lion (I Peter 5:8) -Mr Devil- can square upto the foe with Savior power and beat him up lock, stock and barrel (Romans 16:20). Howzatt!

The inherent quality of skill playing the balancer ensures that a Cricket team has also in its ranks players of all shapes and sizes. In predominantly a physical game like Basketball or rugby, who would expect to find a short and chirpy Gus Logie rubbing shoulders with a gigantic Joel Garner in the same team or a rotund Greatbatch in the company of a sculpted figure like Richard Hadlee. BUT CRICKET I REITERATE IS A GREAT LEVELER. Unity in the dressing room would be the key to success, not uniformity.

The Savior power unites all Christians' right? So we have in the Christian team "all kinds of players" playing with a common goal. Consider this verse…

In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.- Colossians 3:11

Variety is the spice. Yes Sir!

The Book titled "The Art of Fast bowling by Dennis Lillee" is as complete a book on pace bowling as Lillee was a pace bowler. In the intro section of the fascinating book, this consummate speed merchant conjures up an image of a perfect pace bowler…the one with the breathtaking run up of Wes Hall, the silk smooth delivery of Ray Lindwall, the blistering pace of Jeff Thompson, the fire brand aggression of Fred Trueman, the scintillating swing of Alan Davidson, the accuracy of Brain Statham, the devastating cut of John Snow, the lethal bouncer of Charlie Griffith, the demoralizing yorker of Andy Roberts, the stamina of Mike Procter and the sheer brilliance of Keith Miller. Boy !!! What a bowler. Then he observes that such a bowler who is an embodiment of all these qualities exists only in dreams. At best, three or four of the above "gifts", not more are seen enshrined even in greatest of bowlers.

By the same token, there is no "dream church", atleast not yet in this World housing only the Apostles. Paul, speaking about the rich variety of gifts and individuals in a Church goes on to observe thus:

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues[d]? Do all interpret? - I Cor 12:28-30

Unity in diversity is one of USP's of the Church and it would remain that way.

Hey, did you see or hear…

"If you have good eyesight and good hearing, thank God who gave them to you" - Proverbs 20:12 (The Living Bible)

Most thrilling game of the ongoing WC 2011? The tied match between India and England by a long margin! The turning point of that match, which had all Indian cricket lovers eyes and ears riveted on it? An eye and ear problem literally, says one media report. The English captain Andy Strauss whose mammoth individual score of 158 was one of the key factors in the English successfully tying the huge Indian score of 338 was actually "caught behind" not once but twice at his score on 13 and 111 respectively. But luckily for him (and unfortunately for the Men in blue) both the concerned bowler (Zak on both the occasions) and wicket-keeper did not see or hear the nick. Hence there was "no appeal" and with Strauss escaping the Poms' were saved from coming under greater stress during the chase. Moral of the story? In a cricket field, keep your ears and eyes open for all the opportunities that come your way to make hay!

Oh as Christians how alert we need to be in keeping our eyes or ears open for an opportunity to "appeal" to a soul with the "Gospel"! Curiosity may be aroused in an onlooker about our sincere lifestyle and an innocent prodding question; mind you not necessarily a probing one may come our way about our faith sooner than later. So here goes the Scripture instruction…

"…And if someone asks about your Christian hope, ALWAYS BE READY to explain it." - I Peter 3:15 (the key operative words being ALWAYS BE READY)

Say Dear Christian, have you "appealed" successfully of late to a conscience of any soul in the matter of his/her sins and the universal need of a Savior to this fallen world (Romans 3:23)?

Retired hurt…

For the uninitiated, "Retired hurt" in Cricketing parlance means an injured batsman cooling his heels in the cool of his team's dressing room with a proviso that he can always come back and bat at a later stage. Raise your hands, those who know the answer to this question "Name the man of the match of 1983 WC Finals". The answer: Mohinder Amarnath whose name was synonymous with courage. A batsman noted for hooking rather than ducking whilst facing bouncers.

Heres a trivia on one unique "Retired hurt" saga to which I am personally "hooked" involving who else…Mr. Courage and his comeback with a bang

In the second innings of the Bridgetown Test during India's tour of the West Indies in 1982-83, Amarnath batting at no:3 had to retire hurt (Indian score 96/1) after missing out on a hook shot and being hit on the face by a fiery Marshall bouncer. 22 stitches ladies and gentlemen! On returning to the game (Indian score 155/6), he faced Malcolm Marshall again who had done all the damage to his countenance. It was a given that Marshall would try to intimidate Amarnath by bowling a bouncer a once again, and indeed he did so. While most would expect that a batsman in such a situation would do the prudent thing and duck, instead Amarnath stood his ground and hooked the ball to the boundary. In a paltry total of 277, Amarnath went on make 80 runs. How's that for "Retired hurt" batsman rising like a phoenix (yet another name for this illustrious servant of Indian cricket) from the ashes and coming back to hurt the hurter.

In the Christian life too, there is a "Retired hurt" facility available to all those who seek it. Ask Jonah and Peter! They "retired hurt" felled by "fear bouncers" in the wake of challenges that came their way but later on inspired by their "team captain" went on "bat bravely" for Him with the results, which is there for everyone to see and be awed by even today. To Jonah goes the staggering record of winning thousands of souls of Nineveh and Peter? His power-filled sermon on the day of Pentecost, mind you without even an altar call, altered the lives of nearly 3000 souls for good…

What's the score…

Hey, aren't these words on the lips of those, keen to catch-up with live WC action, having missed some of it for whatever reason. Biblically, a rich master resembling Christ at II Coming asked his servant, endowed with some money virtually the same question (Luke 19:12-15)

"After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were."- verse 15

Taken spiritually, let's never forget the fact that sooner or later we his servants have to "report the score" to the good Lord on how we have invested the talents, He has so graciously given us. At this stage, it would serve us well to remember that just as activities like preaching, singing, healing etc which are guaranteed to bring public adulation are vital in God's scheme of things, relatively low-profile selfless acts of service such as intercessory prayer, encouraging one another, hospitality are just as significant in His eyes. Hey, is not Cricket about fielding and wicket-keeping as much it is about batting and bowling…

Want to know the key to success in investing talents? Prompt action, dear brother and sister fuelled by faithfulness. Consider this verse related to a similar account bearing the same theme in Matt 25 (a parable told in Jerusalem, unlike the one in Luke's Gospel, which was recited on the way to Jerusalem)…

"The man who received $ 5000 began IMMEDIATELY to buy and sell with it and earned another $ 5000" (verse 16-TLB)

No last minute rush for this sincere servant. Well-focused on his eventual target, he kept with up with asking rate from the first over onwards, rather than allowing it to spiral out of control. Truth be told, there is no room for procrastination at all in Christian stewardship

The result of his earnest efforts…a word of commendation and unimaginable (word used advisedly - I Cor 2:9) handsome compensation

"Well done!' The king exclaimed. 'You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.' (Luke 19:17)

Now is there any co-relation (however remote) between minas earned and cities? For merely doubling "some minas'" we are who are faithful are being guaranteed a reward of oh boy, oh boy of being Governor of TEN CITIES! A case of "blessings being not in proportion to known sources of efforts for Him" (thanks IT Department)?

Ever wondered what the management gurus' say vis-à-vis employee motivational techniques? Over a time, after much research, they have broadly arrived at a conclusion that the best way to motivate an employee is not by simply enhancing his salary (doling out monetary benefits) but by increasing his responsibility. The good Lord, you would observe in that parable had done just that …2000 YEARS AGO. Well this wisdom was with the good Lord since eternity past, albeit we have may have heard Him speak on this issue only 2000 years ago. Talk of being ahead of times…

Men of the match

While "Man of the match" awards are common in the Cricket field, when it comes to the spiritual realm, it is always a case of "men of the match"…multiple winners of the glorious rewards in proportion to their efforts vis-à-vis their measure of faith (Romans 12:3-8).

So need any more incentives to "play to the best of our abilities"…


Suresh Manoharan