Rev Robert Glenny
Curate in the Marston and Elsfield Benefice

A few days ago in the Buckinghamshire town of Wing, two occasional cricket teams met for a friendly match.

The Authors XI included high-profile writers such as Sebastian Faulks and Tom Holland, whereas the Archbishop of Canterbury’s XI was made up of those preparing to be ordained, some priests and one bishop.

I made up one eleventh of the church side, who lost a closely-fought game by two runs.

What had actually brought these two sides into competition was that they had both previously played a Vatican XI and we were warming up for a return trip to Rome in October.

In the always enjoyable cricket blog The Nightwatchman, the celebrated American writer Mike Marquesee posed the question why on Earth do human beings play games at all?

As a writer well versed in a number of disciplines, he observed: “A school of functionalist anthropology sees games as rituals designed to reproduce social norms and integrate the individual.

“Post-modernists read games as texts, successions of signifiers.

“A psychoanalytic approach sees them as sublimations of sexual desire.

“A political lens sees games as nation-builders or release valves for social conflict.

“And then there’s the brutalist school, which sees them purely as a means of generating profit.”

With this in mind, what might we see at a cricket match through the lens of Christianity?

Firstly, sport is a reminder that the gifts we are given in life are there for our enjoyment, flourishing, and to give glory to God.

Whenever we exercise those gifts, displaying perseverance and humility and producing beauty, we go some way into achieving our vocations to be as God calls us.

Secondly, cricket is the only sport I’m aware of which begins its rules with a preamble entitled “The Spirit of Cricket”.

Opposition players, umpires, and above all the game itself is to be respected at all times.

When India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni withdrew his appeal against Ian Bell in 2011 – Bell had been run out, not attempting a run, but walking off because he believed it was time for tea – he acted within the spirit of the game.

Christians have a word for this kind of behaviour, it’s called grace.

If there were to be a preamble to the words of scripture, they might read as Jesus said: “Love God, and love your neighbour as yourself.”

Cricket gives those who play a wonderful opportunity to remember that truth.