Cricket takes a second life…in Israel

November 30, 2014 by Michael Kuttner
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An umpire who was a former captain of the Israel National Cricket Team has died while umpiring a match in Ashdod.

Hillel Oscar

Hillel Oscar

He was hit in the jaw by a cricket ball which had been batted away by a player during a match. He collapsed on the field. Magen David Adom ambulance medics tried to revive him on the field and then rushed him to nearby Barzilai Hospital. Doctors there were unable to save his life and he died in the hospital. The Israel Cricket Association named the umpire as 55-year-old Hillel Oscar. The game was the last in the national league season.

This incident follows the tragic death of Australian Test cricketer Philip Hughes who died after being struck in the neck by a ball. He experienced a vertebral artery dissection when playing in Sydney on Tuesday. The cricketer was resuscitated but he died later in the city’s St Vincents Hospital.

The Israel Cricket Association has been an associate member of the international cricket council since 1974. It was a founding member of the European Cricket Council in 1996. Cricket was introduced to the Middle East by the British. During the pre Mandate period there were pitches in Jerusalem and Haifa as well as at the Tel Hashomer Army Camp where British and Australian military personnel and members of the civil service played regular matches. After the British left in 1948, the game somehow survived and with the influx of olim from Commonwealth countries, notably England, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India, cricket slowly spread to those places where Anglos resided. By the 1960’s owing to severe economic conditions and wars, the game was in danger of floundering, however a further influx of immigrants from cricket playing countries revitalized it. In 1966 the first league was established which in turn lead to the establishment of the Israel Cricket Association in 1968. Hampered by near impossible playing conditions and a chronic shortage of funds, nevertheless cricket slowly gained in popularity and support. In 2000 the ICA launched a youth development programme which has proven a great success, helping to introduce a new generation of youth to cricket while at the same time assisting disadvantaged youth to achieve positive goals and be part of team sports. There are about 16 teams spread throughout the country which play in various leagues.

A recent development has been night cricket where an abridged version of the game for those unable to take part in regular matches can participate. There are over 19 teams taking part in this competition which has proven very popular and further enhances interest in cricket.

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