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The greatest game

And the people gathered together, grumbling among themselves.

They approached the Lord saying, ‘Now don’t get us wrong and we’re really grateful for the way you got us out of Egypt. But quite frankly things get a bit quiet in the desert, especially at weekends.’

‘What’s your point?’ asked the Lord.

‘Well,’ said the people, ‘we wondered if we could invent some sort of game—.’

‘I’m the inventor around here,’ the Lord reminded them sharply.

‘Of course, of course,’ said the people. ‘Sorry. Perhaps You could create a game to provide carefree family entertainment and encourage a sense of team spirit amongst the young.’

‘Let me sleep on it,’ said the Lord. ‘I’ll let you know tomorrow.’

‘Does the Lord really sleep too?’ asked one little boy in the crowd.

‘Shhh’, his mother warned.

The next morning the gong sounded and the people assembled promptly.

‘OK,’ said the Lord, ‘I’ve come up with a game called Cricket. It’ll be played over five days and will be called a Test.’

‘There He goes again,’ muttered a middle-aged man, ‘always testing us. Can’t He give us a break just for once? And five days, how ridiculous!’

‘That’s enough, dear,’ soothed his wife.

‘Here are the rules,’ the Lord continued. ‘I’ve had them carved into these stone tablets. Mind you study them well.’

‘Yes Lord,’ replied the crowd, ‘thank you Lord for Cricket. We shall play it in Thy name.’

And they did. And they were content and peace and healthy sporting attitudes bound the community closely together.

But after a while, fresh grumbling could be heard.

‘It’s a silly game,’ a few of the men said. ‘It goes for so long and sometimes there’s not even a winner and they call it a “draw”. What a stupid word. Or occasionally, on the fourth or fifth day, it gets a bit interesting and then there’s a dust storm or a flash flood and still there’s no result.’

‘But we asked for it in the first place,’ some of the other men chided.

‘We asked for something that would kill time, not drag it out endlessly.’

‘Cricket is the Lord’s work,’ said its defenders. The others fell silent.

But not for long. For the feeling that Cricket wasn’t all it might be gradually gained strength. Teams were hard to muster, very few turned up to training, and crowd attendances dropped sharply. A delegation was despatched to meet the Lord.

‘What is it now?’ He demanded.

‘We thank You daily for all You have given us,’ the delegation leader intoned. ‘But,’ he paused for a moment, ‘the truth is that, um, Cricket in its current form is not holding the community’s attention.’

‘And why not?’ asked the Lord tetchily.

‘Well it goes for a bit too long and often it goes nowhere.’

‘All right,’ said the Lord, ‘I’ll see what I can do. Again,’ he added, with heavy emphasis. ‘But I really don’t know how any of you will get to Heaven if you can’t keep your mind on one thing even for a few days.’

‘Thank you Lord,’ the delegation sighed in unison, anxious to be away.

‘He’s in a great mood,’ one of them whispered sarcastically.

‘Quiet!’ the leader snapped. ‘Haven’t you heard of omniscience?’

‘Oops, sorry. Do you think He might have—?’

‘Forget it! Just watch your tongue.’

But the Lord was as good as His word. And so One-Day Cricket came to pass.

‘Hallelujah, Hallelujah,’ the crowd cried out. ‘God is the greatest and so is 50-Overs-a-Side Cricket.’

Contentment lay across the community like a thick woollen blanket on a cold clear night.

And then, amazingly, the rumbles of discontent started all over again.

‘A whole day to watch one game, what a waste!’

‘I could pick half my olive harvest by the time the game’s finished!’

‘The crowd behaviour’s just disgraceful. Why don’t they ban the sale of pomegranate juice at the grounds?’
So another delegation was despatched.

‘What is it with you lot?’ the Lord asked in exasperation. ‘Can’t you keep your mind on anything for more than five minutes?’

‘No,’ the delegation replied sheepishly.

‘Lord, might it be possible to have a word in private?’ asked the youngest member of the delegation, a handsome, clean-cut man in his early 90s.

‘Well, I suppose so,’ said the Lord. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Moses,’ replied the man.

‘OK, Moses, see that hill over there. Be at the top at midnight.’

‘Thank you Lord.’

Next morning, as the people gathered around their campfires to cook breakfast, Moses appeared, a look of triumph on his tired face.

‘Here at last is the answer,’ he proclaimed, unfurling a chalk-white parchment. The people gathered around and read aloud in wonderment.

One-One Cricket—the rules

Each side shall consist of 12 players, one of whom shall be nominated as umpire; Each side shall bowl a maximum of one over; No bowler shall bowl more than one ball; No batsman shall face more than one ball; The position of wicketkeeper shall rotate after each ball; Whoever is wicket keeping shall assume the position of team captain; Whenever the ball is hit, no matter how near or far, the batters must run; A ball hit to the boundary scores five runs, plus any additional ones run by the batsmen while the ball is being fielded; A ball hit over the boundary on the full scores 10 runs, plus any additional ones run by the batsmen while the ball is being retrieved; Balls hit to or over the boundary must be returned without delay by spectators.

As they finished reading, the people fell to their knees. ‘Oh Lord, provider of all that is good, we give thanks for One-One Cricket. Through it You have ensured that never again will our interest wane or our concentration lapse.’

I wonder about that, thought the Lord, I really wonder. But He kept His doubts to Himself. 

Peter Rodgers writes regularly on Middle Eastern affairs. His latest book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is Herzl’s Nightmare: One Land, Two People (Scribe). He has also written prize-winning  short  fiction.


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