The Papal Nuncio and Cricket

Cricket is one of the most wonderful games in the world.

George Bernard Shaw said; ‘The English are not very spiritual people, so they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity.’

People are sometimes puzzled that a game that takes five days can end in a draw! ‘It’s boring’ is the comment on cricket that one hears most often. Not so.
It is sometimes ridiculed by those who don’t understand it because of some of the nomenclature; ‘he bowled a maiden over,’ forward short leg,’ ‘long leg,’ ‘silly mid on’ and others.

The English invented the game and brought it to their colonies. Today in Pakistan and India it is an obsession, a religion. I believe that there are four people in Pakistan and six in India who are not interested in cricket. Sachin Tendulkar of India, one of the top three or four greatest players ever who have played the game can’t go out for a haircut without half a dozen security men to prevent him from being mobbed.

The West Indies is another area where cricket is extremely popular, that is, except for Guadaloupe and Martinique. Both of these islands are Départements of France and there is something incongruous about the French and cricket. It’s hard to imagine that nation, much of the history of which has been lived at variance with England and all things English, including an obsession to keep English words out of the French language, playing that English sport! You can just about imagine Germans playing cricket (Der Cricketspiel), after all the Dutch, their linguistic cousins, play the game.  You can even imagine the Italians playing cricket, without of course paying much attention to the rules, but it is impossible to imagine the French playing that quintessentially English game.

Cricket has given many metaphors to the English language, illustrated by the following report of a fictitious AGM of one of our wonderful banks!
“The chief executive, having presented his report to the meeting, knew he was on a sticky wicket. Now he would have to field some questions from the floor.  The first question had spin on it but he coped well by playing a straight bat. The second question, however, was a doddle and he hit it for six. He had not anticipated the next question and he was badly caught out. To his great surprise the last question was personally offensive and he was stumped. The chairman intervened and said to the audience: “such an ‘ad hominem’ question simply isn’t cricket; you have had a good innings, and he drew stumps.”

If, on my deathbed somebody were to ask me if in life I had had any regrets, my reply would be: ‘Yes, I have one; that I didn’t play more cricket.’

To illustrate the degree to which cricket can be important to people, read the following poem:

The last Papal Nuncio to Ireland,
an Italian born and bred,
was a cricket fanatic.
His previous posting was to the West Indies;
when he enquired about local religions,
his informant included cricket on the list.

He decided to investigate
and in no time he was hooked.
Very soon he had devised a way
of marrying both his religions.

He spent hours incognito
at cricket matches
dressed like an upper class English gent

to preserve his anonymity
in order to be sure than no one
sent a report to The Vatican.

When he arrived in Ireland,
after he had presented his credentials
The first question he asked the President was:
‘Is there cricket?’

She told him there was,
as she knew that Ireland had done well
in the last world cup,

but since she was
a Northern Catholic
she knew nothing about the game.

The Nuncio soon briefed himself,
and could be seen in civvies in summer
watching cricket around the city.

He continued to practise his birth religion,
and for a while he kept
both balls in the air.

He eventually went to Rome,
tendered his resignation to the Pope
and renounced the faith of his birth.

He returned to Ireland,
joined the Irish Cricket  Union
and immersed himself in his new devotion.

Not long after that, one day he took ill
while watching a cricket match
in the Phoenix Park.

He died on the spot,
and, as you might expect,
he went straight to Lords.

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