Australian cricket fans are in shock.
Cricketers Cameron Bancoft and Steve Smith admitted to ball tampering during the third test against South Africa, in Cape town.
I won’t go into the details, as there’s plenty of information online about it. (And as an Indian, I must confess there was a sick sense of satisfaction. Yes, please pray for me.)
What I found interesting, though, is seeing people’s reaction to the incident. Whether the sporting greats, or the everyday cricket fans. Not to mention the reactions of other countries, my homeland included, who are gleefully enjoying this moment in sporting history. Yet here in Australia, people are using words such as ‘devastated’, ‘in shock’, ‘it feels like a bad dream’, and ‘ashamed’.
Why is that?
As long as I can remember since coming to Australia, Aussies love sport. (I see myself as Aussie when it comes to sport—expect during cricket!) We thrive in it. We desire to be the best—especially when it comes to a world sport like cricket. Underlying all of that we have this phrase that we love to use: Aussie Pride.
We desire to be the best—especially when it comes to a world sport like cricket. Underlying all of that we have this phrase that we love to use: Aussie Pride.
I wonder if pride is the real reason why this event has been so powerfully impacting Australians, and especially Australian sporting fans? After all, the good old Aussie pride has taken a hit. We’re no longer seen as squeaky-clean sportspeople—especially when it comes to cricket. We’ve often pointed the finger against those nations that have tampered with the cricket ball, or were convicted of match fixing. Now the accusations are squarely at us. And since we place sport on such a high pedestal, we feel ashamed. (Which is what happens when pride takes a hit.)
And the blaming has begun: it’s the players, it’s the coaches, it’s the captain, they all need to step down, it’s not good for the sport—and do they know how many kids they’ve affected? Didn’t they realise there were cameras on them?
Aussie Cricket and Jesus.
Now I know people need to be held accountable for their actions. And I know actions have real consequences—especially the actions of public figures. But it’s hard not to sense a bit of self-righteousness in all this blaming. We’re quick to denounce other people because we like to make ourselves judges. When we join in the shaming we get to implicitly claim a higher moral standard.
And, as I think about it, I can’t help thinking about a famous incident involving Jesus in the Gospel of John.
The religious leaders of the day bring to Jesus a woman who has been caught in adultery. According to their law, she needed to be stoned. But behind all this, they desire to trap Jesus—to make him do or say something that would convict him as a law-breaker. But Jesus does something surprising—something that gets to the heart of the issue:
And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Every time I read that passage, I feel overwhelmed. Jesus speaks straight to the heart of the situation: ‘He who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’
Can you feel the tension in the air? In that very moment, the men who think they can trap Jesus are told something that silences them—that stops them in their tracks. They realise not one of them can say ‘I have no sin’. They’re all guilty of sin—and they know it. And so, they walk away in shame.
Jesus then addresses the woman, and gives her words of grace. Jesus—the sinless one—does not condemn her, but shows her amazing grace, and calls her to live a life of godliness.
What about us?
If you’re a cricket fan, you’re probably tempted to throw that proverbial cricket ball at the ball tamperers, the team, and the coaches. Shame on them!, we say, in chorus with our Prime Minister.
But before we Christians cast that first ball, shouldn’t we first remind ourselves of our sin? After all, it wasn’t the TV cameras that caught us red-handed, but the all-seeing Judge of the Universe.
And just as importantly, shouldn’t we remind ourselves of the grace—the amazing grace of that Judge? A grace that washes us clean of all guilt and shame.
With Easter upon us, this shameful moment in cricket history can help us do just that: we can gaze at that rugged cross. We can rejoice in that empty tomb. And we can cheer at the freedom Jesus won for us—a freedom from God’s condemnation.
Maybe as followers of Jesus, we could also pray for our cricket team: that this event would drive them to experience the grace of Jesus.
After all, it’s just cricket.
Photo: Sunset over Adelaide Oval; Marcus Wallis, Unsplash