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The Paraball of the Prodigal Son

  • 10 July 2023
In writing this thought about the recent Test Match at Lords I acknowledge a bias. For many years I enjoyed playing park cricket. Now I prefer to watch local games to watching First Class cricket. The laser-like focus on money, the egoistic fault-finding commentary by retired cricketers and the representation of games as warlike contests on behalf of the nation put me off. I have recently welcomed the transformation of the England Team from joyless plod to carefree daring in which players are missioned to enjoy themselves, to accept defeat and victory with equanimity, and to entertain the people who come to watch. The retired players, reporters and bellicose armchair watchers, however, have grumbled at the team’s success and bided their time.

And so came the Ashes in which the English have squandered their wealth like the Prodigal Son, while the Australian team worked dourly and dutifully like the Elder Son in the parable. The English team lost the First Test but contributed to an exciting game. The joyless watchers then piled on, lashing the team for playing rash shots, for chatting to the opposition team on the field, and worst of all, for smiling after the loss. The captain should go, they said.

Then came the second game. The English team played even more cavalierly and wastefully, but on the last day still had a chance of winning. Another exciting and entertaining finish in which a legal but mean act by the Elder Son called forth one of the great Test innings by the Prodigal Captain. The Elder Son won the battle again, as elder sons usually win battles. The Prodigal Son, however, won the game and the spectators. The grizzled and some sozzled watchers found their war in which even Prime Ministers have seen fit to fire shots on behalf of their nations.

I leave it to you to decide whether the gods of the great game of cricket should throw a party for the carefree Prodigal Son, or leave it to the joyless Elder Son and Watchers to kick him off their Estate and to reimpose their joyless regime.




Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.