India has won the cricket world cup 2011. The euphoria has not settled down and state governments are competing with one another in offering rewards to its cricketers. We are all now part of a great cycle of celebration which no one can really neglect. The Indian cricketers have out done themselves. They have tamed the ghosts who have prevented major tournament victories. The Indian media on its part is leaving no stone unturned to bring the lives of the cricketers to the living rooms of the Indian public.
The church in India has never been very sport friendly. Seminarians will be fortunate if they find a piece of land to play a sport that they are familiar with. Churches will have elaborate parking spaces but no open spaces for sports. What little land was available as part of schools and colleges under the management of the church is also coming down and being replaced with buildings. Sports will be the last thing on the minds of Christian managements which are overly money minded these days.
What the church is usually used to is to play games on a totally different level. These don’t involve physical exertion but rather have to do with the mind. What could come close to a cricket match is the sledging that happens between teams during matches. This intimidation between denominations is done regularly. But cricket matches are not about intimidation and sledging and hurting each other anymore.
A great highlight of this world cup was that India basically played matches that were in a cordial atmosphere. If one analyses the quarterfinal, semi final and final with Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka respectively one will observe this atmosphere of deep respect and cordiality. Usually cricket matches don’t have this atmosphere. But the Indian team may have shown us a way of winning and making dreams come true without attacking and hurting anyone in the traditional sense. Even though the media loves to compare cricket matches with war, this cricket world cup did not necessarily bring out that adage.
Churches in India for some reason also imagine that they live in a war zone and are in constant tension with each other. This is given credence by the foot soldiers of denominations led by blood hungry generals. We are asked to give our best, to fight as if our lives depended on it and accept nothing short of victory. Sledging, cheating, and doing whatever it takes is the name of the game.
More interaction between cricketers these days mean that they know each other better and this has led to better respect. Even though a game is meant to be won it is not done at the expense of the friendship of one’s opponent. One would question this quoting the case of Sreesanth. But even Sreesanth in reality may only be using aggression as a way of marketing himself. It does not mean that he is not on good terms with other players.
One may challenge whether the church needs to compete in and win a world cup. Obviously there is no need for that. The analogy of a cricket world cup is rather one which gives insights to the church on how things have changed in this world. Aggression has given way to respect, non acceptance to understanding, and suspicion to trust. The world cup winning team should be seen in this perspective. The church need not accept cricket but the church can accept the new strategy of the Indian team. Till then a world cup win for the church will remain in all respects, a dream.