Life Lessons From Thrilling Moments From The Cricket World Cups
WHEN DHONI RAN TO MEET WITH JOGI!
World T20 Final 2007. India versus their arch-rivals Pakistan. In Johannesburg, South Africa. Pakistan needed 13 runs to win off 6 balls with just one wicket in hand in the inaugural T20 World Cup Final. A seesaw game it was. Tension in the air. Spectators at the edge of their seats. Mahendra Singh Dhoni in what was his first international tournament as captain entrusted seamer Joginder Sharma – a bowler he had seen defend totals as low as 2 runs in domestic cricket – to bowl the crucial last over with the dangerous-looking Misbah-ul-haq of Pakistan on strike (despite his star spinner Harbhajan having one over left in his bowling quota). Misbah had hit Harbhajan for three huge sixes in over number 18. Joginder bowled an ultra-wide as the first ball. Captain Dhoni calmly collected the ball and ran all the way to the other side of the pitch to put an arm around Joginder, who had by then walked back to his bowling mark. After giving him a brief pep talk, Dhoni ran back to the usual wicket-keeper’s position. Dhoni told him this: “If we lose this game, I will take the responsibility. So, relax and give your best! You have done it in small grounds when no one was watching you. You can do it when the whole world is watching you!” Misbah was beaten off Joginder’s next ball, “trying to carve the ball away over point,” as commentator-on-air Ravi Shastri put it. He thrashed over the bowler’s head the third ball, which was an innocuous fulltoss, for a huge six to make the equation 6 off 4 balls for Pakistan. Yet, again, Dhoni took the long journey from the wicketkeeper’s customary spot all the way to the fastbowler’s starting point. Another short-session of nerves-calming! Going by the next ball Joginder bowled – a slower ball with the word ‘trap’ written all over it – this may have been Dhoni’s advice: “Don’t try to contain Misbah. Try to get him out!” Sambit Bal’s lines about the last ball of the World T20 Final 2007 is worth quoting: “Then, with only one wicket in hand and fine leg in the circle, Misbah went for that scoop which, not for the first time, ended in tears for the batsman. Sreesanth would have never taken a more important catch in his life. But for Misbah, who has been Pakistan’s surprise star of the tournament, it will take some forgetting.”
The God who made you and me, did something similar to what Dhoni did in that climatic final over. We had goofed up like Joginder. We had sinned and were in danger – the danger of going to eternal hell, the place which God made for the Devil and his angels. God could have chosen to just watch this happen. But he did not. Just as Dhoni ran from the wicket-keeper’s position to the start of the bowling mark of in the T20 World Cup Final last over, God too travelled. He left the comfort of heaven and came all the way to earth, just to save us. Yes, Jesus, God in flesh, came down to seek and save us, sinners, the Bible, God’s Word in human words declares (Luke 19:10).
WHEN DHONI PROMOTED HIMSELF IN THE WORLD CUP FINAL VS SRI LANKA!
It was late evening of April 2, 2011. India had to come up with the best ever chase done in a World Cup Final – overhaul Sri Lanka’s imposing 274 – to win the World Cup 2011, 28 years after the magic day when Kapil Dev and his boys won it in the year 1983. Virender Sehwag, first and Sachin Tendulkar, later, got out rather cheaply. India’s score stood at 31, when Sachin, just one short of his 100th ton then, got out. When the well-set Virat Kohli after a fighting 83-run partnership with “iron-willed” Gautam Gambhir also got out, caught and bowled brilliantly by Tillakaratne Dilshan, India were in real danger. In danger of losing the World Cup Finals. In danger of not becoming the first ever team to win the World Cup at home. That’s when Captain M. S. Dhoni stepped in. He volunteered to bat at Number 5. He could have stayed back and sent into the tension-filled middle, the in-form Yuvraj Singh. But he marched out of the Indian dressing room to bat at Number 5 when India still needed 161 runs to win in the 22nd over (161 from 170 balls, to be precise). The required run rate was almost 6 an over and had to be maintained for 28-plus Overs – that was the huge challenge before Dhoni when he walked in! In his previous seven innings leading up the final, Dhoni had just scored a grand total of 150 runs! Yet, he backed himself. He volunteered to go up the batting order when India was in a crisis. He stuck his neck out saying, “I will do this for India!” He told coach Gary Kirsten that as Lankan ace spinner Muthiah Muralitharan was operating he wanted to go ahead of the inform Yuvraj Singh. As the movie, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, opened, we got a breath-taking, eagle-eye view of the entire Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai with the camera slowly zooming into faces in the stadium abuzz with untold tension. Rohit Vats, writing a review for this movie, hits the rewind-button on those goose-bumps-giving moments no Indian cricket fan will ever forget this memorable way: ‘When India is reeling at 114 for 3 (in a chase of 274) against Sri Lanka in the cricket world cup final of 2011, a man decides to take charge of the situation. It helps that he is also the captain of the team. He silently walks past the crowd, enters the ground and creates history. The cricketer’s image of rotating the bat as if he is wielding the sword is etched in our memory’ (Hindustan Times, April 15, 2017).
For the first 10 overs of his stay in the middle in that treasured final match, Dhoni did not hit a single boundary. He ran like a rabbit between the wickets, converting the singles in twos. Apart from hitting 25 fours and a couple of sixes, Indian batsmen chased down 274 with 99 singles, 24 twos, and even a three. To do this, hectic, hare-like running was required and Dhoni was most ready for that. He was sweating, he was blowing his running nose and he received treatment for his back “as the Mumbai heat took its toll.” Andrew Miller reported, “Dhoni at one stage looked so immobile that a precautionary retirement seemed the only logical response, but after some harsh work from the physio he resumed his stance and responded with another trademark filleting of the extra cover boundary, an area in which he scored six of his eight fours – three of which helped to blunt Murali’s attacking instincts.” Sidharth Monga observed, “Once Gambhir tired, Dhoni took over the responsibility of scoring. In the time that Gambhir moved from 87 to 97, Dhoni went from 29 to 60.” In utter desperation, Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara threw the ball to his strike bowler Lasith Malinga hoping that he would take two wickets off two balls or do even better. But Dhoni hit him for two consecutive boundaries through mid-wicket to hasten India’s World Cup win before a roaring crowd in Wankhade Stadium! Dhoni was the calmest soul in Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai, when he hit the Cup-winning six for India with 10 balls to spare. And India was home! The World Cup was India’s! Quite memorably!
HE CHOSE TO SWIM IN THE AMNIOTIC FLUIDS OF MARY…
You and I are in danger. The danger of living a life of hell (life without purpose, meaning and real joy, a life in which you are empty despite having everything) and going to a literal hell (a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth forever, a place which Jesus spoke about 8 times). That’s when Jesus stepped in. Jesus could have stayed back in heaven and sent someone else to save you from going to hell. He did not. In eternity past, there was a meeting held in heaven. In that meeting Jesus stood up. “I will go Father! Just give me a body! I will get into it, become a human, go to the earth and die for the human race. I will march down the Calvary route and open a doorway to save the human race!” (my imagination based on Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10 from the Bible). He came down and became a man. He chose to swim in the amniotic fluids of Mary rather than swim in the praises of angels and cherubs in Heaven. God took on flesh and bone. Yes, He did it for you. Yes, He did if for me. For everyone – he did it. When he was stopped from the Cross-route, he was determined to keep going, the Scripture records (Luke 9:51). He called as ‘Devil’ the one who discouraged him from walking down the road to Golgotha. On the road to the Cross, Jesus endured infinitely more discomfort more than Dhoni ever did in the World Cup Finals of 2011.
The following 12 ‘s’ torment Jesus endured to win the only true salvation offer for you. Here they are:
First, SOLD. Judas sold priceless Jesus for a price that was less than the price of a man 20 to 60 years old, according to the Bible (Leviticus 27:3). We sell Jesus even today when our friends apply peer pressure on us, don’t we?
Second, SWEAT. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus sweated blood, the Bible records (Lk 22:44). This happens only when a person experiences highest tension. That punishment would have been apt for a pleasure-lover, like you and me. But Jesus took it upon himself.
Third, STRAPPED. Jesus was bound by ropes before High Priest, the Gospel narratives of the Bible tell us (John 18:12). The most-free man on this earth, Jesus, was now bound. Why? Jesus was dying to release a poisoned, bound generation – a generation bound to drugs, alcohol, porn-watching, gossip-mongering, Facebook!
Fourth, SPAT UPON. This happened twice to Jesus, according to the Scriptures (Matthew 26:67; 27:30). Only an irresponsible husband was to be spat upon, the Old Testament, one portion of the Bible, tells us (Deuteronomy 25:9). We were irresponsible when it came to using what God had given us and the punishment went to Jesus.
Fifth, SLAPPED. Jesus was slapped by the High Priest’s servant, the Scriptures note (Matthew 26:67). His sinless mouth was hit hard. The reason – he was dying for a human race that consistently uses its mouth to sin – by lying, by using abusive language, by having oral sex outside of the marriage bond.
Six, SCOURGED. When Jesus was whipped, his back became like a plowed field with strips of flesh hanging loose (See Matthew 27:26 in the Bible). Only the back of fools was to be whipped, according to the Scriptures (Proverbs 19:29). We were foolish to race behind temporary worldly pleasures (see Hebrews 11:25 in the Bible) ignoring the eternal pleasures at the right hand of God, our Creator (see Psa. 16:11 in the Bible) and the punishment for that sin went to Jesus.
Seventh, STRIPPED. Jesus was stripped off the clothes he originally wore and was then clothed in a scarlet robe (Matthew 27:28). Scarlet robes were only worn by royalty those days. So, the Roman soldiers who made Jesus wear it were making fun of Jesus with words of mockery that could have sounded this way: “You claim to be a King, Jesus? Ha, Ha! You don’t look like a king! Now, wear this scarlet robe and you will look more like a king! Come on, let us fall prostrate before this King!” Jesus was dying for a generation that takes pleasure in making fun of the timid and giggles when they suffer in excruciating pain.
Eighth, SPLINTER-PRESSED. The thorns were pressed on the head of Jesus, a Gospel-writer of the Bible notes (Matthw 27:29). It was you and me who had a big proud head. Those thorns should have come upon us, but Jesus, in his great love, took it upon himself.
Ninth, SHAMED. Only kings of the enemies of the Jews were hung on a tree, publicly, the Bible records (Joshua 10:26). But that shameful punishment came to Jesus, the real King of Kings. Crucifixion on a wooden cross beam was worst punishment reserved for the foulest enemies of the state by the Roman Government. It was akin to being urinated upon in public those days (See, Philippians 2:8 in the Bible). You and I must be publicly humiliated for all our secret, unprintable sins. But Jesus took that punishment on our behalf.
Tenth, SPIKED. Nails were thrashed onto Jesus’ two hands and legs, the Bible tells us (Matthew 27:31). Those nails should have gone on our hands for we sinned against Jesus with our hands and legs. I am referring to sins such as cigar-smoking, masturbation while porn-watching, fondling the intimate parts of the person belonging to the opposite gender not our spouse, walking into a filthy movie show, etc. But Jesus took the punishment for all our sins on the Cross. He was our substitute, the Bible declares (Isaiah 53:4,5; Galatians 2:19,20). The nails could not hold Jesus to the Cross for which nail, however strong, could ever hold God onto a Cross for long? Love did. He could have ripped them off and come down when he was challenged to do that and scoffed at for refusing to do it (see Mark 15:30 in the Bible). But Jesus stayed on because he loved you and me.
Eleventh, SEPARATED. God turned his face away from Jesus as all of our sins – past, present and future – were placed upon him for six hours, one Friday, about two thousand years ago. At that time, Jesus lost his close fellowship with his holy Heavenly Father who would not even look upon sin. This was a heart-breaking experience for Jesus and so he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” as the Bible declares (Matthew 27:45-46). He became so utterly lonely so that he would be able to lift the loneliness in your life, the loneliness that comes even when you are rubbing shoulders with plenty of friends in a packed booze party.
Twelfth, SPEARED. This treatment was given to him, minutes after he was dead, the Bible tells us (John 19:34). The final blood drops in his body came out then. Every drop says, ‘I love you!’ Only this blood can cleanse you from you from every sin, the Bible teaches (I John 1:7)! It is impossible for anything you do or the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin, the Bible makes clear (Hebrews 10:4).
WILL YOU PRESS THE NAILS ONTO HIS HANDS HARDER, OR…
How do you respond to this great love of Christ that was so supremely “demonstrated” while he hung on the Cross (to use a phrase from Romans 5:8 from the Bible)? You could, in stone-hearted stubbornness, press the nails onto his hands a bit deeper, by continuing to live in sin. That’s one way to respond. You could press down the thorn crown on his head roughly and crudely, once more, in rebellion, by continuing to flirt with the Devil and the world. That’s one way to respond. You could stamp on his holy blood that was shed for you on the Cross by returning to sin like a pig that returns to her wallowing in the mud, as the Bible points out (Hebrews 10:29; 2 Peter 2:22). That’s one way to respond.
Or will you, repent like one of the dying thieves beside Jesus on the Cross like we read in the Bible (Luke 23:42,43)? And would you believe on him (him, who is alive today, him, who is coming back), like the Roman centurion and those with him who screamed, “This is indeed the Son of God!” as per the Biblical record (Matthew 27:54)? The choice is yours.
WHEN DHONI SPRINTED LIKE USAIN BOLT IN A WORLD CUP GAME….
It was a group game in the World T20 2016 which India had to win to stay in the tournament in the Chinnaswamy stadium Bangalore. And when it came to the last ball, Bangladesh needed two runs to win. Captain Cool Dhoni had clearly told young rookie Hardik Pandya, the bowler, how to bowl: “no bowling a Yorker, but bowl a well-aimed slightly short-pitched express delivery, wide of the off stump.” Pandya followed Dhoni’s orders to the centimeter. Bangladeshi batsman Shuvgata Hom attempted an offside slash, only to miss connecting with the ball. Dhoni, who had already removed one of his gloves (in anticipation the tail-ender may miss connecting the ball), calmly collected it and was off his blocks like a 100 meters sprinter! Usain Bolt usually starts slow, but Dhoni had no such problems! He sprinted towards it and broke the wickets catching the non-striker Mustafizur, well short of the crease. The spectators who had their hearts in their mouth, celebrated India’s one run win over Bangladesh in that World T20 game. India’s semifinals hopes were kept afloat following this nerve-wracking one-run win! Shaun Pollock, Darren Ganga, Nick Knight and Russell Arnold, all former cricketers who were on commentary duty during this particular T20 World Cup, slipped into different roles to create a mock replay of this episode – this last ball runout which resulted in an Indian win was that memorable!
Like Dhoni sprinted towards the stumps, shall we sprint towards God-in-Flesh Jesus to receive salvation for the Bible says, ‘Now is the “acceptable time”, and this very day is the “day of salvation”’(2 Cor. 6:2, Phillips). We tell ourselves, “There’s always time to come to Jesus! There’s always time to get saved!” How foolish such an idea is!
The Bible talks about times when it could be too late for us to come to Jesus and get saved. For instance, we cannot get saved after we have died. There is no chance for salvation after we die – this is the teaching of the Bible (Hebrews 9:27). And sudden death can come to us anytime – can it not? Think of what happened in 2014 to 25-year-old Aussie cricketer Phil Hughes who was struck by a 140 kmph bouncer which struck him at the back of his neck as he took evasive action. He lost consciousness, never to regain it again!
Also, we cannot get saved after we have hardened our hearts beyond a certain limit – a limit that God sets for us, which he alone knows if we have crossed or not. This message jumps out from passages such as Genesis 6 and Romans 1 and from the stories of Pharaoh and King Manasseh in the Bible. So, while the Holy Spirit of God convicts us of our sin, by gently speaking in our heart, we must repent and turn to Christ. If we keep silencing his soft voice, the Holy Spirit of God may never speak to us ever again and we may never be saved eventually!
At this juncture I recall another event from the semifinal of the ODI World Cup of 2015 between India and Australia. After Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane (who had smashed 79 runs off 60 balls in India’s earlier game versus South Africa to lift India to a surprise, easy, win) stitched a ‘’fight-back” partnership with the goal of overhauling Australia’s king-size knock-out game first innings total of 328 this event which Carly Adno writes about happened: “Dhoni put on a 70-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane, before the sharp ears of Steve Smith intervened. Smith was the only one who heard a nick off Rahane’s bat when a Mitchell Starc delivery caught the faintest of edges on its way to Brad Haddin.” A umpire review was taken by Australian Captian Michael Clarke following this and Rahane walked back to the pavilion. India’s last recognized batting pair’s partnership was broken and so where India’s hopes of beating Australia in that semifinal.
Just like Steve Smith’s alert ears caught the nick, amidst a noisy crowd in Sydney Cricket Crowd that day, would you listen to the soft, faint voice of the Holy Spirit of God in your soul, telling you to repent now, and put your faith in Christ for your salvation, as you read this piece? Don’t turn off that tender voice! Obey it!
We must not forget that it becomes too late to get saved after Jesus appears in mid-air to judge us, all of a sudden. When Jesus comes back the second time, he is not coming back to offer salvation – but to execute judgment, the Bible teaches (Revelation 1:7). During that final judgment time, there is no way anyone can get saved. The message you are currently reading will be preached to you then. No altar call to come forward and accept Christ would be given then.
Why should we still scratch around with sin even after knowing very well that Jesus came to save us from sin? Sin makes us sad. It does so after giving us an initial elation. Sin will ultimately take us to hell, the Bible declares (Revelation 21:8). Why not join Jesus – the Jesus who died for us, sinners, on the Cross and waits to embrace us with arms open wide? Why not do it this very second, lest it becomes too late.
By praying this prayer you can be saved and receive true joy and real peace which only Jesus can give:
Dear Jesus, I am a sinner. Please forgive my sins. You died for me on the Cross. Cleanse me with your blood. Come into my heart and life. From this day onwards, I will turn away from sin and live for you, who rose from the dead. I believe you are the only way to heaven and will return one day to judge all the earth, as the Bible proclaims. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for cleansing me. In your name I pray. So be it.
Once you have prayed this prayer, get busy with the following regularly because you love Jesus: 1. Studying the Bible (ESV Bible App can be downloaded onto your smart phone). 2. Talking to Jesus in prayer. 3. Joining a Bible-believing church/fellowship 4. Tell others about Jesus, through your life and lip.
(This was written by Duke Jeyaraj, an avid cricket enthusiast who lives in Hyderabad, India, whose letters have been published in newspapers like The Hindu. Duke, at one point in time, won an elocution contest as a visiting student in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India. If you have a question about what you just read or want to know more about Jesus, shoot a mail to Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can read more such writings of Duke at www.PurposeSpot.blogspot.com. You can watch Duke share similar messages at http://www.YouTube.com/VisitDuke).