Finding a cricket role model for my children

It’s not always easy to find positive role models in the sporting world. Sure, if all we’re looking for is success or strength, there are plenty of examples in Australia. But what about sportsmen and sportswomen who also have integrity, and who speak and act in ways that you can say to your own children, there’s someone to look up to? There’s been more than a few times when I’ve had to say to by kids, sure this person excels in their sport but… It is refreshing when one can complete the sentence without needing to introduce the ‘but’!

All of my three children play cricket. My boys have been playing for years and my daughter is playing her first season. I love watching my kids train and play. I love that the fact that I can no longer face my boys in the nets, too many bruising deliveries now. I love watching a beautiful cover drive and hearing the sound of the ball reverberate off the willow. I love how my daughter and her friends enjoy every moment of a game and encourage each other, and even make a rep team after only 3 months of playing!

Cricket is a beautiful sport to watch and to play.  And yes, cricket is also frustrating. Seriously, in few sports does a single ball or shot have such repercussions for an entire game. Sometimes, as I tell my kids,  you have to accept the fact that Umpire made a mistake (or just possibly maybe, my own kids played the wrong shot).  Whether they played well or not so well, I can say to them now, remember the perspective Marnus Labuschagne has spoken about.

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Those living in a cricket playing nation will almost certainly have heard the name Marnus Labuschagne. Marnus Labuschagne is emerging a truly great cricketer for Australia. While debuting for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield during 2014-15 and receiving his baggy green in 2018, it was during the recent Ashes tour of England that Labuschagne’s reputation shot into the sky. Filling in for an injured Steve Smith, he batted beautifully for Australia and retained the spot for the rest of series.

Yesterday during the First Test against New Zealand, Marnus Labuschagne scored his third consecutive century during the Australian Summer. He is an impressive young Aussie cricketer and has easily cemented his place in the nation’s first 11.

There is another quality about Marnus Labuschagne that I can point out to my children. For Labuschagne there is more to life than cricket and sporting success. Obviously, to play at such a standard he is clearly gifted at the game and no doubt he trains tirelessly, at yet, he is open to sharing what life is about for him.

He says, 

“Sport is a fickle game and injuries play a big part. In the big scheme of things, what you’re worth, what you put your value in, isn’t out there on the pitch; it’s internal and in Christ… cricket is always going to be up and down and if you have [Jesus Christ as] a constant in your life, it makes life a lot easier.”

His mum would write Bible verses in his shoes, to remind him of greater things, and on his bat there is a picture of an eagle, to remind himself of the Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31. “For those who hope in the Lord, He shall renew their strength. They shall soar on wings like eagles; they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not be faint.”

This is such a healthy perspective to have on sport and life. You can enjoy the sport and keep God central. It is possible to be a leading international cricketer and practice Christianity. It is possible to love the game but have your identity found in Christ.

I haven’t met Marnus Labuschagne, but I’m encouraged by what I’ve heard him say.  I’m wrapped to find another Aussie sportsperson of whom I can say to my kids, listen to what he just said, what he’s saying is true and worth thinking about. You can try to play cricket like Marnus Labuschagne and place “your worth…in Christ”.

A Cricket Masterclass in Civility

India not only gave the world a masterclass in cricket last night but also in sportsmanship.

In Australia’s third game of the World Cup that is being played over in England, the Indians batted first and gave the crowd an exhibition of sublime batting, as well as exposing Australia’s lack of depth in our bowling attack.

Late in the innings when Steve Smith moved to field at third man on boundary line, much of the crowd, largely made up with thousands of Indian supporters, began to boo and jeer him. Smith has been booed throughout the tournament so far, whether he is fielding and especially when batting.

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Just over a year ago, Steve Smith was Captain of Australia’s men’s cricket team when he and two other players were embroiled in an incident of ball tampering, which resulted in a 12 month ban from the game. The ban has been served and now Smith and David Warner are back in the Aussie side.

Virat Kohli, India’s captain, was batting at the time when he left the crease and approached the spectators, signalling with his hands and telling them to stop booing Smith, and instead suggest that they clap Smith.

At the press conference after the game, Kohli spoke about the issue,

“So just because there’s so many Indian fans here, I just didn’t want them to set a bad example, to be honest, because he didn’t do anything to be booed in my opinion. He’s just playing cricket.

“He was just standing there, and I felt bad because if I was in a position where something had happened with me and I had apologised, I accepted it and I came back and still I would get booed, I wouldn’t like it, either.

“So I just felt for him, and I told him, I’m sorry on behalf of the crowd because I’ve seen that happen in a few earlier games, as well, and in my opinion that’s not acceptable.”

Kohli has exhibited the kind of leadership that is unusual in this highly charged and partisan age. At a time when the temptation is stop playing the ball and instead throw insults at those with whom we hold disagreement, a little grace and kindness is a powerful alternative. It is amazing how a few drops of perspective can breakdown a wall of irrational and unnecessary antagonism and bullish behavior.  I reckon our political leaders and leading social commentators could take a lesson from last night’s cricket. I suspect that even Christian leaders could do with learning to play few balls like this.

India didn’t lose anything by Kohli’s actions. He batted well and he captained his side to victory. At no risk to India’s performance, Kohli exercised fairness and tolerance, dressing down his own fan base for unsportsmanlike behavior. In doing so, he gained the appreciation of Smith and other Australian players, as well as that of the general public.

It was Jesus who said, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

Peter would later write, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

The Apostle Paul added,

“clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

We don’t lose by exercising these qualities. But in this season of outrage we too often wrongly conclude that the only way to combat opposing ideas is to respond with throwing insults and alleging the worst of motives in others. Kohli last night proved that theory flawed. Of course, the issues being debated and argued on the world stage are of greater significance than a game of cricket, and yet this doesn’t lessen the power of civility and grace. Indeed, such qualities are of even greater necessity and value today.

If Classical Composers were a Cricket Team…

 

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A suggested batting order:

1. Shostakovich: unconventional but effective and stays in for a long innings

2. Beethoven: hard hitting play maker who can make a score

3. Mozart: perfect technique, exquisite shot playing every time

4. J.S. Bach: the heart and captain of the side. Everyone learns from him

5.  Debussy: can do everything with the bat(on)

6. Rachmaninoff:  a sublime all rounder

7. Schumann: Because someone has to be wicket keeper

8. Ravel: he dances down the pitch, whether batting or bowling

9.  Chopin: the perfect leg spinner who turns the ball with uncanny precision

10. Puccini: the art of fast bowling who mesmerises all who watch

11. Tchaikovsky: power, strength and volume

 

 

 

 

 

It’s not cricket: “Crucify him”

In the wake of one of the most controversial weeks in Australian sporting history, Shane Warne was out in the press today and bowling this delivery,

“You shouldn’t crucify someone unless they deserve to be crucified.”

By this, Shane Warne is suggesting that the punishment being hand out to the guilty players is excessive.

“We are all so hurt and angry and maybe we weren’t so sure how to react. We’d just never seen it before.

But the jump to hysteria is something that has elevated the offence beyond what they actually did, and maybe we’re at a point where the punishment just might not fit the crime.”

I actually think Warnie has written a thoughtful piece. He doesn’t minimise the actions of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft, and he is asking for Australians not to over react.

“I am still trying to wrestle with what I think the punishment should be. They have to be harsh, but if they are rubbed out for a year, the punishment does not fit the crime.

Let’s take the emotion out of it. We are all feeling angry and embarrassed. But you need a level head and you shouldn’t destroy someone unless they deserve to be destroyed.

Their actions were indefendable, and they need to be severely punished. But I don’t think a one-year ban is the answer.

My punishment would have been to miss the fourth Test match, a huge fine, and be sacked as captain and vice-captain.”

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It seems though that Shane Warne has a thing for the word, ‘crucified’. In the lead up to the 2013 Ashes series he called for English batsman, Joe Root, to be crucified,

“They could be crucifying him”.

I’m pretty sure Joe Root wasn’t guilt of ball tampering. In fact, Warnie was simply doing what Aussie cricketers have a habit of doing, and that is, tossing a googly into the head of an opposition player: If I suggest that Root is vulnerable to our fast bowlers, then he might begin to think it also.

Warnie’s analogy couldn’t be more fitting, because this weekend happens to be Easter. On the very same day, on the Thursday, crowds had gathered at a courtroom in Jerusalem, and there they denounced an innocent man, and called for his crucifixion. The Roman Governor acknowledged the man’s innocence, and he tried to bargain with the mob.

15 Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16 At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18 For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.”

The plan backfired and Pontius Pilate was forced to release Barabbas and instead sentence the innocent man to death on a cross.

21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

“Barabbas,” they answered.

22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24 When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25 All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (Matthew 27)

When we Australians found out what our nation’s cricketers had done, we were angry and disappointed. They had not only broken the rules of our national game, they had failed us as a country, and made Australian sport a mockery around the globe. I’ve also noticed how this sad affair has driven to the fore of the nation’s consciousness the fact that there is a thing called right and wrong, and that right and wrong matters, and such a distinction exists even on the cricket pitch.

Easter is all about the innocent been crucified in the place of the guilty. What is right? No, and yes. The crowds persuaded Pilate to kill Jesus because they were vindictive and couldn’t tolerate what Jesus stood for. The idea that Jesus claimed to be God gave them an insatiable desire for blood. At the same time, God ordained the cross because he is loving and merciful. For you see, God made the world with purpose and design. There are rules, and everyday we break them. Should there not be consequences?

Easter demonstrated to the world that there is consequence and it is weightier than a 12 month suspension. But the God who exists is not only utterly holy and hates those who bend and break the rules, he also loves the very same people.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit”. (1 Peter 3:18)

Shane Warne was right, we shouldn’t crucify someone who is undeserving, and yet that is exactly what Jesus volunteered to do.  Next time we talk about crucifying someone, perhaps we should also remember the One who was crucified for us.