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Cricket, Cricket…

Doubtless, millions of Indian Cricket afictionados, have all fastened their seat belts to embark on a flight of “Cricket Fantasty” what with the curtains going up on ICC Cricket World Cup on 30th May, 2019 (this extravaganza would last till July 14th, 2019).

Nothing quite like the sweet sound of the willow striking leather …more so if the Cricket World cup is on, in India. In our Country, especially after the heroics of our World cup winning teams’ both in 1983 and more recently in 2011, every World cup (especially, if it is hosted at home) would trigger amongst Indian cricket fans the zeal that can only be matched by the Brazilian passion whenever the curtain goes up for the quadrennial “Soccer Sorcery” to begin.

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? Plenty….read on…

A great leveller…

David Vs Goliath                                        Allan Lamb vs Brue Reid

Video link

If anything, cricket is a great leveller, 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 Rahane (all of 5 ft 5 inches)in a Basketball court pitting his skills against the likes of a towering Pakistani Mohammed Irfan (7 Ft 1 Inch)? For that matter in any other Sport involving more of brawn than brain could anyone have placed a bet on 5 ft 5 inches Lamb bearding close to 7 ft “Lion” Bruce Reid “in his own den” in an ODI in Jan, 1987. Oh yes, 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” in “an arena” presumably meant for lean and mean men? Ah the skill factor, which plays the great leveller!

By the same token, in the Spiritual realm too, when Saviour Jesus comes into the picture with His equipping power, weak folks who wouldn’t normally stand a chance against temptations of the flesh, World (behind which is a powerful devil) would square up to the foes’ and beat em’ up lock, stock and barrel (Romans 16:20/ 1 John 4:4). Howzatt!

There was a time during my teenage when I struggled hopelessly against my debilitating, health-harming addictions which would give me only temporary pleasure but would do in turn permanent harm. In my hopeless condition, it is only when I trusted Jesus to save me from my own bad habits on 16th October 1983 that He released me not only from the deadly grip of those addictions but placed inside me a Holy joy (Romans 14:17/ Gal 5:22-23, John 10:10) which He alone can give. When one “tastes” the luxuries of a 7-Star Hotel would he ever condescend to stay in any other Hotel (Matt 13:45-46)??? Jesus alone can make a person who is “allergic” to Holy life and “addicted” to sinful life now “allergic” to sinful life and “addicted” to Holy life!!!

Suffering from addictions?…Want to come out of it? Then say this prayer…”Lord Jesus deliver from my addictions. I am a hopeless sinner who with his own limited strength cannot conquer them. With your power release me from the grip of my vices and fill me with your Holy Joy. Amen”.

As you are experiencing Divine deliverance (not by human strength), I am sure Holy Joy is filling your heart even as tears of gratitude in experiencing the ethereal release are flowing copiously. Now praise Him and seek to strengthen your new found faith by finding a local Church to worship Him along with other believers and also by “feeding” on the Bible (1 Peter 2:2-3) with John’s Gospel and Book of Colossians’ as “starters” to begin with.

Unity please not uniformity…

High five for Unity!!!            Garner and Logie               Taylor and Ryder   

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 Ryder in the company of a sculpted figure like Ross Taylor involved in a National record creating feat (in 2009 in Napier vs India). 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

PS…A “rider” for Ryder Fans: Eat to live but never live to eat…do not get intoxicated with wine- Pro 13:25/ Pro 20:1 (TLB)

Team colors…

If it is “Cool” to address the Indian team as “Men in blue”, it is just as trendy to use a cliché “Men in green” to describe the team across the Wagah border. In the spiritual realm what team colors do we need to don as Christians and what clothes are we to avoid. Let the Bible take over…firstly the negative part…

“throw away all these rotten “garments” of anger, hatred, cursing, and dirty language.” – Col 3:8 (TLB)

“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” – Col 3:11-14 (ESV)

Well Christian dress code is not about being “dressed to kill”, rather it is all about being “dressed to live”…an abundant life at that (John 10:10)!!!

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)

Hmmm…our spiritual “snickometer” has to be at its efficient best.

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 who was the man of the match of 1983 WC Finals”. The answer: Mohinder Amarnath whose name was synonymous with courage. An indefatigable 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 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 not only hunt but haunt the hunter with indomitable courage.

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…

Take a break…

In any Sport including Cricket, continuous activity would lead to a “burn-out”. That is why we come across clichés recommending “breaks” such as a “timely break avoids breakdowns”. Mr. Wise Manager (read Ravi Shastri) of “Men in blue” is always all “for his soldiers” chilling it out after some “strenuous battles”!!!

Say Christian… Are you on the verge of a burn-out due to some reasons? Take a break…even the Saviour having taken a break after strenuous “Creation work” (Gen 2:2-3) suggested the said remedy to his weary disciples’…

“The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.” – Mark 6:30-31 (The Message)

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 up with “asking rate” so to speak 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 for the unbeatable team” (Romans 8:31)… FULL STEAM AHEAD, MATE!

Suresh Manoharan