For those fearing withdrawal symptoms following the completion of the World Cup, they need not panic. Another major international sports event kicks off just two days after the final in Soccer City, and Israel will be even be participating in this one. Of course the event in question is the ICC Europe Division 2 Cricket Championships taking place in Guernsey from July 13 - 19..
Speaking of the World Cup, Israel has a clearly defined pathway to qualify for the 2016 cricket version of the Mundial. Basically a couple of slots at the World Cup are open to the so-called minnow (non test-playing countries), and global cricket has recently been structured into eight divisons, each of approximately six teams, with the teams at the top of the pyramid come World Cup time, joining the illustrious test nations at the tournament.
The bad news is Israel is currently not even amongst those approximately 50 countries within the global structure.
The good news is it does have a realistic chance of joining that club, having been promoted back to European Division 2 following good results last year. Confused? Admittedly it’s little complicated but to cut a very long story fractionally shorter, the bottom line is if Israel finishes above both Germany and France at next week’s tournament they will win promotion to World Group Division 8 and a ticket to that tournament which takes place in Kuwait later this year. Win that tournament and its promotion to Division 7 in 2011. Win that and bring on Division 6 in 2012. Very simple.
The pathway may be clearly marked but just getting onto it will not be easy. Guernsey, already in World Group Division 6, will be the clear favorites to win the tournament. Cricket is very well established in the Channel Islands, the facilities are of the highest standard, and Israel does not realistically stand a chance against the host nation. Norway - yes Norway - has had excellent results in recent years and become one of the stronger nations in European cricket.
The team is predominantly made up of Pakistani immigrants and if anybody will be challenging Guernsey for the title, it will be the Norwegians. Against the other three teams Israel will fancy their chances. Although both Gibraltar and Germany have had the better of contests with Israel in recent times, and results against France have at best been mixed, these are countries against which Israel will know they stand at least stand a chance. Priority number one will be to win at least one of these games and hopefully avoid relegation, priority number two win all three and get one foot on the path to World Cup 2016.
The Israel squad is very similar to the team which was so successful in winning last years Division 3 tournament. Herschel Gutman, Israel's national cricket development officer, carries the dual responsibility of both captaining and coaching the team. Raymond Aston, recently appointed vice captain, will be expected to lead Israel’s batting, although debutant Josh Evans should add much needed stability to the top of the innings. Safania Nagavkar and Gabi Schachat, who have both risen through the junior ranks into the full national team, will be looking to build on their experiences from last year and show they have the ability to perform at the senior level. Eshkol Solomon has been in superb form in the domestic league this year and will also want to really make his mark at an international tournament.
All-rounders Yaniv Razpurker and David Massil are proven performers for the Israel team, as are spinner Steven Shein and wicketkeeper Shailsh Bangerra. Eliezer Samson, a revelation last year, will take the new ball, with his Lod Rangers teammate, medium pacer Raymond Talkar, another debutant, keen to continue the good form he has shown that won him selection. Two more players embarking on their first tour with the senior team are Ra’anana opening batsmen, Daniel Hyman who would like to replicate his club form into the international arena and Neve Yonatan’s Itamar Kehimkar, another to rise through the junior ranks.
Live scores and updates are available on the ICC Europe website www.icc-europe.org