Faf Du Plessis follows Christ as he leads South Africa into Cricket World Cup

One of the biggest sporting events in the world is set to commence Thursday — but it’s not the NBA Finals. That’s just the biggest sporting event in the U.S.

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The 2019 Cricket World Cup will be underway before most Americans are even out of bed. The event’s first match features England, this year’s host country, squaring off against South Africa at The Oval in London on Thursday at 5:30 a.m. ET. The tournament, which includes the 10 best cricket-playing nations in the world, then continues until July 14, when the final match will be played at Lord’s in London.

Though England will have the home-field advantage and could certainly challenge for the title, Australia enters as the defending champion, having won its record fifth World Cup championship in 2015. India will also field a strong team, led by Virat Kohli, the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricketer of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

The country of India is a big reason why the sport of cricket is so popular. According to World Atlas, cricket boasts 2.5 billion fans (No. 2 behind soccer), and “the sport is overwhelmingly popular in former British colonies such as India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Australia.” According to CNBC, broadcasts from the Disney-owned Indian network Star Sports could reach a TV and digital audience of 1.5 billion people, and the network figures to meet its goal of $143 million in revenue for the World Cup, “cricket’s biggest multinational competition.”

But another squad to watch in the World Cup is South Africa, which advanced to the semifinals of the 2015 tournament, before falling to New Zealand, which finished runner-up to Australia. South Africa is captained by Faf Du Plessis, who’s been representing his country in international play since 2011.

The 34-year-old is also a follower of Jesus, as is made clear to his 1.64 million Twitter followers.

“I know the reason I have success in this sport is solely due to Jesus and I thank Him every day for that,” Du Plessis wrote for SportGoMag.com.

Du Plessis said he grew up thinking he was a Christian, but it wasn’t until he met a pastor who became his friend that he understood what it meant to have a relationship with Jesus. The pastor explained what Jesus’ love really looks like.

“Once I understood this powerful truth, I chose to get baptized,” Du Plessis wrote. “My heart instantly changed as I gave my life to Christ and started understanding the truths of God much more clearly. As I found a new completeness in Christ — something I had never experienced before — I wanted to change the way I lived my life to be in alignment with these truths.”

Du Plessis says he often finds himself as the only Christ-follower on his teams, and it’s tough to not have fellow believers to pray with or support. But he knows God has him in the high-profile position he’s in for a reason.

“I know that my purpose is about more than the runs I score on the cricket field,” Du Plessis wrote. “I hope to be able to spend time with people to show them the love of Jesus and see His love shine through them as well.”

To watch Du Plessis in action during the Cricket World Cup from the United States, visit Willow TV.

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