New Zealand (called Kiwis in the Cricketing World) crash-landed Indian flight, “Dream-Liner World Cup 2019” on 9-10 July 2019 ODI at Manchester, England. Here are some life lessons/Bible lessons from that stunning defeat that India faced.
The first reason for India’s defeat was the shrewdness of Kiwi Captain Kane Williamson. When he arrived at the pitch following the cheap dismissal of Martin Guptill, he conducted a pitch assessment. He knew it was more of a 250 pitch than a 300 plus pitch. So he adjusted accordingly and instructed his team to play that way. That was why Ross Taylor was running twos instead of trying to hit sixes in the last few overs of the New Zealand innings. Jesus commanded us to be “shrewd as snakes” (Matt 10:16). We must be willing to start with points of interest of those we are sharing the Gospel with before we moving on to points of possible conflict (like the uniqueness of Jesus/day of judgment/eternal hell), as wise and shrewd Apostle Paul illustrated in his Gospel presentation in Athens (Acts 17).
Dropping Mohammed Shami, the man who kept picking up wickets whenever he got to play, including a hat-trick, was a huge blunder. He could have played instead of Y. Chahal. What’s wrong in going in with four fast bowlers and a spinner – your best five bowlers as per form – for a knockout game? There is no rule that for a balanced attack you need to have two spinners along with three spinners. Chahal leaked crucial runs (He gave 18 runs in a pathetic over). Kohli needed to be daringly different when it came to team selection. He could have even tried Mayank Agrawal (who has not played a ODI for India, but is a solid player with the right technique) as the opener for the semis. Rahul could have batted at Number 4. Dinesh Karthick could have been dropped. It takes guts to hand a debut to a player in a World Cup SemiFinal, but that brave, hat-ke (different) decision would have given India the match. Spiritual Lesson: Be different. Joseph was not like his brothers. One brother slept with Father’s wife. Another with his daughter in law. But Joseph was different. He did not follow the crowd in doing wrong (Exodus 23:2). He became Prime Minister of Egypt. He became a picture of Jesus.
Rohit Sharma, India’s stand-out batsmen of the Cup, got an unplayable ball and got out for 1. But sitting in the balcony, he signaled to Jadeja during the dying moments of India’s chase. “You have strength. You can do it!” – he conveyed using goosebumps giving gestures. That was team spirit at its very best. Rohit should be given the responsibility of leading India in the 2023 World Cup/2020 T20 World Cup. Kohli cannot win you a Limited Overs tournament, unless something changes dramatically. Checkout his record for RCB, Bangalore. He became captain of RCB in 2013. He has not won an IPL Trophy till 2019. Check his record in the Champions Trophy 2017 and the 2019 World Cup. He lost both. Coming back to Rohit (He had the tears in his eyes when Dhoni got out. When was the last time you cried? Have you wept for the lost? Jeremiah wept for the people before he whipped them with words of scorching warning). You may have failed, but you can still motivate your team-mates, like Rohit did in the semifinal. Paul was a Team Player. The New Testament scholars talk about 60 people who were part of Paul’s team during his ministry. Are you part of a ministry team? Do you encourage your team members?
Virat Kohli’s poor run in knock-out ICC World-Stage ODI games continues – 9 (vs Pak in 2011 Cup Semis); 1 (vs Aus in 2015 Cup Semis); 5 (vs Pak in Champions Trophy Final 2017); 1 (vs NZ in World Cup Semis 2019). When the stakes get higher, the super-star should be at his very best. When the important moment comes, you must be incredible! The Kohli tactic of playing the Semis as another game failed. When Rohit got out, Kohli should have defended as if his life depended on it like Dinesh Karthik later would at the start of his innings. Once he was set, he should have gone for his shots. Kohli should have ‘surrendered to the needs of the team situation’ instead of playing his natural game. The purpose for which He came to the World Cup – to win it – was defeated when he played his natural game (He did the same in the 2015 World Cup Semis too, when he top edged a pull/hook, a needless aggressive shot at that time). When the important moment of his life came – the time to die for the sake of the sins of the world – Jesus prayed. He stayed in touch with His Father. He yielded to the will of his father. While all others failed – his disciples ran helter-skelter – he did not. He fulfilled the purpose for which he came by focusing on what he came to do through the discipline of prayer!
Young Rishabh Pant got out, having got worked up for no reason. After four dot balls, he goes for an irresponsible shot only to be caught. He and Pandya were going well. Instead of ensuring the match went to his pocket, he sends a rocket because of four continuous dot balls, he was forced to play. Lesson: Don’t fret. Don’t panic. Stay calm. Cast your burdens onto Jesus. Then the peace that passes all understanding will be yours. The 21-year old Pant missed the opportunity of a lifetime to take India to a win in this semi-final. Do not spend the strength of your youth on sinful living but make your one life count for Jesus. It was a privilege for me to start a ministry at the age of 31 and quit my job with an international bank at the age of 34 to do fulltime ministry with the organisation I started. I have no regrets.
Hardik Pandya who lectured Pant with his eyes when Pant got out, got out in similar fashion – sending a rocket into the heavens which fell into safe hands of the New Zealand Captain, Kane Williamson. Practice what you preach. Don’t be like the Pharisees. Be like Jesus. He spoke about prayer’s importance in Gethsemane to his inner three and prayed right after.
Dhoni should have showed more intent (same old story). He does not have to wait till the 49th over first ball to hit a six. He consumed 20 dot balls in his partnership with Jadeja (who played one of best ever innings by a No. 8 batsmen in a World Cup knockout game hitting four 4s and four 6s). Don’t be a spectator when your partner is spectacular. That was Dhoni’s sin. Don’t be spectator to your pastor’s ministry in the local church. The Bible teaches the priesthood of all believers (I Peter 2:9). You are a priest unto God as a New Testament believer. Get involved in God’s Work! Give a tract! Pray for the sick! Lead a Bible Study! Care for the needy and sign out by sharing the Goodnews! Be a church volunteer! Do something for Jesus in the one life you have moved by his love!
Dhoni took six singles in the few balls before Jadeja holed out because of the compulsions of a climbing run-rate. Why did Dhoni not try to hit a six or a boundary, even before? Was he afraid of getting out? Why did he have to wait for Jadeja to all the hitting? Sambit Bal wrote, “From 71 for 5 and then 92 for 6, India would have sunk rapidly without Dhoni’s steadying hand, and yet, despite the 59-ball 77 from Jadeja, the run rate had mounted to over 15 when Jadeja was dismissed. To that 116-partnership, Dhoni had contributed 32 off 45 balls with 20 dots. Without him, the chase would have been dead long before but the question that will linger is: did he also make it nearly unachievable?” I agree with him. It was Dhoni’s tortoise-approach/no-big-shots approach that forced Hardik Pandya to go for the big one, only to be caught. Who knows what would have happened if Pandya – who hit a 90 plus off 30 plus in the IPL 2019 – had batted till the end? Don’t procrastinate. Don’t postpone matters. It leads to defeat. It leads to peril. Don’t procrastinate your salvation decision. Here’s why: You can die anytime (think of Absalom/Ahab) and after death there is no chance of salvation (Heb. 9:27). Jesus will come like thief in the night. After Jesus comes again, there is no chance of salvation. He is Savior today and judge tomorrow. The Holy Spirit may stop speaking to stubborn you (Gen. 6:3). After that, you can’t get saved. So come now. Serve Jesus now. When you get old even lavatory journey is troublesome (Eccl. 12). What missionary journey will you do? Now is the time to let it rip for Jesus.
When Dhoni got out in the 49th over, there were six fielders outside the 30 yard circle. The Rule Book says only five are allowed between Overs 41 through 50. The Umpires missed it. A big blunder. Ideally, a no-ball should have been signaled when the moment the ball was delivered. That would have given Dhoni enough time to hit the ball high in the air – as high as possible – and run for a two comfortably or try for another six without the fear of getting out (which he had through the tournament, the major reason for his go-slow approach). But Dhoni returned for a risky second run and Guptill’s throw hit the stumps. Human errors keep happening on this side of eternity. These result in cases of injustice. All justice matters will be sorted out on the final day of judgment when Jesus will be the judge. We need to wait till that day. Will there be justice, ever, you ask? Yes, there will be justice on the final day of judgment.
Martin Guptill failed with the bat, but his bulls-eye throw in the 49th over to run out Dhoni got New Zealand to the Cup final – we can say that. You may have sinned against the Lord. You may committed an unprintable sin. Repent of it. Come to Jesus. Ask for the cleansing of His blood. And with the help of the Spirit live a holy life (Rom. 8:13). By having an accountability friend you can consistently beat temptation (think of David-Nathan). You don’t have to keep goofing up. You can be a victorious Christian!
Jadeja got a bit carried away with his celebrations post his fifty. He gestured to Commentator Sanjay Manjrekar in a way asking what happened to his views that he was only a bits and pieces player who did not deserve to be in the Indian Team XI. If he had focused on the unfinished task, the task of taking India to a win that would have been great. The unfinished task of evangelism remains before the church. Let us quit fighting over silly matters (I am not talking about fighting salvation-affecting false doctrine here). Let those involved in the ministry not get into ego clashes. Let’s get on with the unfinished task of World Evangelism (North India remains the World’s most populated un-evangelized stretch).
(Duke Jeyaraj is the founder of Grabbing the Google Gen from Gehenna Mission. This is a listener-supported Indian ministry. Duke has written a Bible Devo on each of India’s games in the 2019 World Cup in England which you can read at http://www.dukewords.com. Find out more about Duke’s ministry at www.dukev.org).