Cedric Olivestone

Give cricket its due!

Illustrative. A cricket player. (iStock)
Illustrative. A cricket player. (iStock)

According to many commentators, cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world. Played and followed intensively in nearly all English-speaking countries (except only minimally on the North American continent), there are no fewer than 108 countries where cricket is payed and enjoyed. This game, which dates back to the 18th century, is estimated to be followed today by some 2.5 billion people around the world. This number will no doubt increase following the sensational “once-in-a-lifetime” game played last Sunday in which England beat New Zealand at Lords Cricket Ground in London (the traditional “Home of Cricket”), by the narrowest of possible margins.

The game is not understood and is sometimes ridiculed by speakers of other languages, probably because of its somewhat complicated rules and also because of the great difficulty “foreigners” have in understanding most of the numerous cricketing terms which at first hearing seem to have no connection to reality, such as: maiden over, leg break, backward short leg, slips, gully, silly mid-on,silly mid-off, sticky wicket and so on.

But for the aficionados this game is almost a religion.

Although matches can sometimes last up to five days and result in a draw, they can be tremendously tense and very exciting. The modern era has seen the birth of much shorter forms of the game, the most popular of which is the one-day match, the format used in the recent World Cup, where 10 leading cricket playing countries from Afghanistan (!) to the West Indies competed in a tournament lasting over seven weeks.

In Israel, cricket is played mainly in cities where English speakers tend to live such as Ashkelon, Ashdod, Lod, and Modiin. In some towns, because of our intense summer heat, a unique form of the game called “Night Cricket” has been adopted, such is the enthusiasm for this wonderful game that new immigrants have brought with them from the lands of their birth.

There is an Israel Cricket Association and an Israeli National Cricket team (ranked only 61st in the world, but not bad for an itsy-bitsy country), but despite all this, this wonderful and popular sport is almost totally ignored by the media in Israel. The Jerusalem Post is, I believe, the only newspaper ever to mention cricket and this only sporadically.

Later this summer, the most competitive of all international cricket clashes, England versus Australia (a five-match tournament played every two years and known as “The Ashes”), will take place in the UK. These games will be viewed and followed by literally tens of millions of fans around the world.

Surely the time has come when we should expect some coverage of the game on one of the many Israel sports channels.Many Israeli enthusiasts who wish to view these games have to resort to purchasing and connecting to a “box” which can give them access to foreign stations. However, most of us try to see the games through “pirate” internet websites such as crictime, mobilcric, cric1 or livecricket. These sites which are possibly illegal, are totally unreliable. They are more than occasionally taken off the air by the authorities and are subject to constant buffering as the internet signal fades.

But why is cricket not televised in Israel? There are so many minor sports shown here. So why not this major one? Surely the time has come for those who decide these things in the Sports Channels to screen The Ashes and other international cricket series which I am sure would be welcomed and watched by the tens of thousands of enthusiasts living in Israel.

And one more thing. . . . PLEASE …… No commentary in Ivrit!

About the Author
Cedric was born and educated in the UK and immigrated to Israel in 1966 where he joined Bank Leumi le-Israel. During his 40 years with the bank, he held many senior posts both in Israel and overseas, retiring with the rank of Executive Vice President in the International Division. Since his retirement, Cedric has become involved in several philanthropic ventures in Israel, particularly those covering areas of co-existence between Arabs and Jews.
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