I recall some years ago the then Australian cricket team captain Michael Clarke the week of Phillip Hughes tragic death after being struck by a rising ball at the SCG on Tuesday 25 November 2014, in an emotional press conference, stated he had an agreement with Cricket Australia to retire shirt No 64 (Phillip Hughes shirt) from the one day format of the game.
Phillip Hughes was on 63 (runs) when he fell unconscious to the ground and that week as the social media took to the air waves, with cricket bat, ball and cap left outside doors to commemorate him, Cricket NSW had 63 bats, balls and caps lined up.
Cricket, like any sport, has its famous participants, and these people are highly acclaimed for their skills and performances and the statistics are endless. I recall in 2010 his former Australian opening batsman Justin Langer in the twilight of his career playing for the English county side Somerset, passed Sir Donald Bradman's first class total run score for an Australian.
Seventy-one years earlier, Bradman had scored a grand total of 28,067 first class runs and then Justin Langer surpassed it that record. Cricket statistics are something else. Cricket is one sport whose statistics are phenomenally complex as there is a different set of statistics generated for each series of Test matches between countries.
This is just one example. During the 2010 Third Test at Edgbaston, England, the two opening batsmen provided manna for statistically-literate luminaries. Some of the records were: the highest partnership at Edgbaston for English openers against Australia; the number of balls faced by each opening batsman (both individually and within that specific opening partnership); the number of fours scored by each opening batsman (both individually and while in that opening partnership by each batsman); the numbers of single runs, as well as the twos and threes; and for the more finicky addict of statistics, notations about the direction of each hit and from which end the ball was bowled. Who would believe it?
Statistics apply to everything
And all this for the opening batsman. The same generation of numbers upon numbers, records upon records applies to each partnership down the batting order for all eleven men. It goes on and on and on and on. This set of statistics not only applies to Edgbaston, but for each ground, and each team.
As cricket chaplain now since 1984 (Australian Team for 17 years then Life After Cricket), it is little wonder it takes quite some time for the uninitiated, particularly migrants or tourists, to begin to understand or appreciate Cricket. Sport is very cultural and this was illustrated to me dramatically in 1982 at my initiation of ministry to professional athletes when attending an international sport mission conference in Hong Kong.
I could count on one hand the number of people who had any idea who Australia's greatest field hockey player was, but in Australia Ric Charlesworth was widely recognised. Similarly 'Dr J', Julius Irving, the then greatest US basketballer of all time, but not within my orbit of sports knowledge. He and I chatted away in 1982 at an international sports missions conference, but it wasn't until later someone pointed out his credential. It was almost a case of 'so what'!
This encounter was perhaps the most profound for my ministry, as I realised at that point how much the knowledge and enjoyment of sport is based in a cultural identity, and that athletes too are in need of Jesus. That one single experience more than any other directed my philosophy when pioneering the Sports and Leisure Ministry on my return to Australia.
Ron Ross pointed this out in a different and more poignant manner in what is now a press article of historic acclaim in Sports Ministry, back in 1993, when writing for the Noosa Times. Ron was at that time the Minister at Noosa Baptist Church but had been a YWAM missionary for many years and prior to that the Sports Editor for WIN4 (Wollongong). This was when I first met Ron Ross as I was writing field hockey media stories for the Wollongong media including WIN4.
The December 1993 article in the Noosa Times in Ron Ross's regular column, he noted I was visiting my parents in Noosa and his article was titled, "Aussie cricketers turn to chaplain". The last sentence highlights the essence of the only true eternal statistic. I will forever be honoured by this comment of his.
"Dr Mark Tronson may not be a well known hero in Noosa. But in heaven lies his achievements where they are written in capital letters."
Now, that's a statistic worth writing home about (as the old adage says) - now it's Email, Twitter, Text, Facebook and whatever else!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html