Cricket bigger than football in Israel town

Mon, Jul 11, 2011 10:50 AM

Cricket bigger than football in Israel town
Juniors involved with Israel cricket
This month Israel head to the ICC European Division 1 Championship in the Channel Islands to battle it out with eleven other teams for a top two finish, which would take them to the global qualifier next year in Dubai, UAE.

It has been a very exciting time in Israel with many incredible ground-breaking cross border projects being started in the area, of which many, Israel captain and national development manager Herschel Gutman has been involved in.

"It has been very exciting being involved in such wonderful projects. One of the most positive projects is one we launched that involves teaching cricket to Bedouin teachers and that has proved a phenomenal success as we have created five new junior teams in the town of Hura and cricket has surpassed football in popularity.

"We practise weekly in Hura village, a town south of Beersheba, the juniors absolutely love playing and have recently started playing hard ball cricket. To see Jewish and Arab players playing together, talking about cricket and getting on so well shows you how sport can unite people," said Gutman.

The developments of cricket in these areas have also helped develop political relationships, as Gutman explains a new exciting project. "We also have another very exciting project, in partnership with the Peres Centre for Peace where we have introduced cricket to 2 Palestinian towns on the West Bank, Yato and Samoa and have paired those towns up with 2 Israeli towns, Dimona and Yeruham. The coaches and players all get together once a month to play cricket, learn Hebrew and Arabic and learn about their different cultures, "said Gutman.

The projects have been fantastic at increasing participation levels in Israel, but also the awareness around the sport, which will only benefit Israel. "I think in terms of helping cricket in Israel, it creates a bigger pool of players, more teams entering leagues and gives cricket an appeal that other sports don't. These projects also help in educating our players and gives them a better idea of different cultures and players at different stages of their learning cycle," explained Gutman.

With this there has been great interest from the media, which the Israel Cricket Association has been delighted with. "It has created a huge amount of interest in local press and the average Israeli is slowly realising the positive impact that cricket can offer and is starting to take notice of the sport. Local cricket is now a regular feature in newspapers around Israel and more and more people are being introduced to the game," said Gutman.

Looking forward to the ICC European Division 1 Championship in the Channel Islands, Israel are hoping to make an impact at the tournament. "We hope to achieve a top 6 spot. We realise this will be a tough ask as all the teams will be of a high standard," said Gutman.

Israel have been preparing for the 12-team tournament for some time and are focusing on adjusting to the grass wickets as key, "We have been practising twice a week in Tel Aviv and Lod and our players are all getting into form. Adjusting to grass wickets will be key for us, but I feel that if the players play to their potential we will cause some surprises in the tournament. We also introduced a T20 format into the league and this has helped the players adapt to the T20 which is all new to us," concluded Gutman.

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