The Ashes were retained by the Australian cricket team in emphatic fashion against the England side at the start of the year. Much media attention has been given to predicting the nature of the Australian Team to tour England for the next Ashes test cricket series in 2023. Much consideration has been given to analysing the merits and experiences of the current crop of players, as well as attempts at “crystal balling” at what may potentially lie ahead with the introduction of new players into the squad. Putting on a selector’s hat of a slightly different calling, a cricket team of Jesuit Saints and Blesseds has been put forward for your contemplation. The team was imagined by Gerard Dowling, the Dean of Faith and Service at Burke Hall, Xavier College and a former first-class cricketer.
1. Alphonsus Rodriguez
Each team needs an enterprising, engaging, selfless opener. No-one best fits this description than Alphonsus Rodriguez, who honed his opening skills as a humble porter at Montesione College on the island of Majorca for 46 years. His willingness to open doors, welcome newcomers and give selflessly of himself provides an essential ingredient in the art of opening the batting. A solid start to the innings would be established with this unassuming, respectful batsman at the crease.
2. Rupert Mayer
Openers need to be determined, courageous and tough of body and mind. Any German who had the belief, fearlessness and strength of character to speak out against the Nazi regime of the ’30s and ’40s has these attributes. Rupert Mayer, WW1 army chaplain and returned war hero with a metal leg replacing his amputated one after being shot at the front, was the epitome of courage. His preparedness to speak out against the atrocities he witnessed in his native land and his subsequent imprisonment typified his strength of character. Every team needs a courageous opener. Rupert Mayer fits this bill.
3. Ignatius Loyola (C)
Great cricket teams throughout history have had a wise, innovative and inspiring captain. Each notable team of the past has been stabilised by a number three batsman of sound technique, profound determination and great skill. Ignatius Loyola’s selection as captain and number three batsman is consistent with these themes. A key strategist, wonderful communicator and having a great capacity to look for the good, Ignatius would inspire his team with his unsurpassed example. Although limited in the field due to his previous leg injury, his fine hands and keen eye would prove pivotal at first slip.
4. Francis Xavier (VC)
The number four batting position is often assigned to the player deemed to be the most fluent and graceful, and potentially the most productive. Francis Xavier’s ability to adapt to conditions, make the most out of varying situations and his capacity to thrive where others have found the going tough have seen him considered to be the team’s premier batsman. His experience in Indian conditions would make him an invaluable tourist and his qualities would make an impression on all he encountered in his travels.
5. Robert Southwell
Robert Southwell’s batting in the middle order could be described as “poetry in motion” which would be befitting of his skill as a writer of verse. Elegant, classical and methodical in approach, if his batting followed the example of his writing, it would resonate with the purists. His poise at the crease would not come at the expense of underestimating his mental strength. His ability to withstand torture, remain true to friends and make the ultimate martyr’s sacrifice bear testament to his strength of character and deep faith.
6. Giuseppe Castiglione
Complementing the batting of the middle order is the artful Giuseppe Castiglione, whose skills as a missionary artist in China were unrivalled. His ability to blend European and Chinese styles created an entirely new school of thought about painting. It is this skill that would allow him to wield the willow in such a creative and productive way; his strokes would paint a picture of a majestic cricketing landscape.
7. Stanislaus Kostka
Every team needs a young player to learn from the more senior players. Stanislaus Kostka has that exuberance of youth, the energy of younger years and the unblinkered mindset of a fresh recruit. His determination and ingenuity are not to be underestimated either. Any teenager who walks from Poland to Rome in pursuit of his calling in life has the determination and self-belief to make an impact in this team. Kostka’s resilience, as shown in his capacity to deal with setbacks, and his resourcefulness to make do with very little are key ingredients in his selection as an important member of this team.
8. Nicholas Owen
A tradesman of exquisite skill, carpenter Nicholas Owen was deemed to possess the most important hands in England in the time of the Elizabethan persecutions. A gifted craftsman, Owen devised and constructed hiding places for Catholic priests at a time when they were outlawed. His skilful hands, extensive concentration and initiative were invaluable. These attributes would consistently flow on to allow his wicketkeeping skills to shine.
9. Edmund Campion
The “King of Spin” is a term often associated with someone who can “talk the talk”. Edmund Campion had this gift, but it was combined with a wonderful capacity to also “walk the walk”. Campion’s eloquence, oratorical gifts and flair for debating made him a noted persuasive speaker. In parallel with Nicholas Owen and Robert Southwell, he paid the ultimate price for his integrity and loyalty to his faith. In this team, he would be the number one spinner making use of his ability to present challenging questions to the batsmen. His fearlessness to compete, maintain integrity and his disregard of his own personal welfare are admirable traits in a team member. Fellow players would love playing in a team with such an engaging team-mate.
10. Miguel Pro
A spin bowler is often described as a “master of deceit”. The spin bowler’s ability to disguise a delivery adds to the confusion of the batsman and makes a potent weapon in a bowler’s arsenal. Miguel Pro was such a master of disguise who had the ability to masquerade as many different people at a time in Mexico when it was outlawed to be a Catholic priest. His courage knew no limits. After his arrest (and without trial), he faced his firing squad executioners unblindfolded and with his arms stretched out in a crucifix position. He would be an inspiring member of the team.
11. John Ogilvie
The fifth Jesuit martyr of the team, John Ogilvie was a strapping Scot who made the supreme sacrifice for not renouncing his faith in the time of King James I. The athletic Ogilvie possessed a wonderful work ethic, strength of character and body and an engaging manner. He had a great capacity to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. There would be no keener opening bowler this side of his native Bansffshire. An engaging personality with the fearlessness to serve and possessing the courage to not submit to torture, he would be the ideal bowler to take the new ball.
12. Peter Claver (12th Man)
The role of the 12th man is to be the unselfish supporter of all his playing team mates. Peter Claver’s selfless life of service to the slaves of the West Indies bears testament to his qualities as a servant. The man known as the “slave of the slaves” possessed all of the qualities of the most attentive, compassionate servant, key characteristics of a valued, empathetic team member. His endearing friendship with his mentor, Alphonsus Rodriguez, would provide a wonderful symmetry in the opening and closing of this team.
Gerard Dowling, Dean of Faith and Service at Burke Hall, Xavier College.
Feature photo by Alessandro Bogliari on Unsplash.