The Jewish cricket season is almost upon us. Clubs up and down the country have been fine-tuning their skills during winter nets in a bid to get their campaigns off to a flying start.
While the focus for some will be on making the grade for the respective junior and open squads for next summer’s Maccabiah Games in Israel for some, some of the usual suspects will be out to grab the headlines for their clubs.
Mark Landau believes that MAL will be able to mix it with the best when they make their Middlesex Sunday League Division One debut against North London Muslims on April 29 followed by a mouth-watering clash against London Maccabi Vale 1st next month.
The MAL vice-captain, who will complete his pre-season training by taking part at the London Marathon, believes the team is well-equipped to maintain the momentum of the last few years.
"After four enormously successful seasons in succession, MAL will be presented with an extremely tough test in 2012, following promotion to the top division of the Middlesex Sunday Cricket League,” Landau said.
It promises to be a busy year for Landau — last season’s JC player of the year — who will combine his duties at MAL with coaching duties at London Maccabi Vale colts section, as well as the Team GB Junior Maccabiah squad.
He said: “Retaining Division One status is a tricky goal, but an attainable one if we play to our ability.
With the 2nd XI having played seven games in 2011, the aim will be to match, if not exceed that number in 2012.”
Much will be expected of MAL’s most productive players. Landau had a stand out year with bat and ball in 2011. He bludgeoned 992 runs at an average of 55.11 and chipped in with 16 wickets at an average of 15.13.
Yoav Lebens will also be looking to catch the eye. He smashed 532 runs at an average of 40.92 and claimed 22 wickets at 22.14 last season. Landau said: “And if Russell Corin and Grant Traub are available regularly, the spine of the team will be very strong."
MAL have lost the services of Grant Pakter and Yoni Schurder, while fast bowler Oscar Brodkin looks set to miss the opening weeks through injury.
London Maccabi Vale will be led by Neil Lederman, the club’s youngest-ever captain. He is predicting big things from all-rounders Andrew Greenwall Cohen, Mark Bott and Andrew Daniels.
Lederman's brother, Benjamin, won the LMV top player award last year and the captain believes "he will only get better".
As for his hopes for the season, Lederman commented: "We aim to compete for the MSCL Division One title and to continue bringing through colts into the adult teams.
"It is also our intention to further solidify our place as the no. 1 Jewish cricket club in the country - both for adults and colts."
New signings include Ben Frais, Gavin Diamond and Richie Reggel, while Jerome Roith and Daniel Becker return after one-year sabbaticals.
Daniel Caplan, the new skipper of the LMV 2nd XI, believes exciting times lie ahead for everyone connected to the club.
Caplan said: "We're aiming to win the MSCL Division Three title and bring more youngsters through from the Vale academy."
Young spinner Simeon Cohen has been pinpointed as “the one to watch,” while Caplan points to the emergence of Jonny Gould and Avi Hoddes.
New additions include Alex Brodkin, Paul Harrod and brothers, Jono and Josh Gaon.
The thriving colts section is in for another busy year, with plans for some more academy matches, with a view of integrating players into the men’s teams. An under-nine team will also be introduced while the Rowley Lane club gained planning permission for outdoor nets which will be officially opened with a reception at the ground on May 17.
Captained by Danny Myers, Chigwell & Hainault Synagogue CC will look to build on the successes of last season when they won six out of nine completed matches.
Myers will be working closely with vice-captain Matt Murray and the message is clear. “We want to play competitive, fair and friendly cricket in every game we play,” said Murray.
"We also have some young players who we hope will continue to improve. The Ronnie Shapiro Cup game against Southgate will be pivotal as we know they will be out to avenge our one-wicket victory from last year."
Murray has pinpointed Alex Katseph “for his fiery opening bowling spells” and 2011 player of the year Paul Salador “for his all-round brilliance” as the ones to watch. Also look out for Joshua Rose, the club’s most improved player last season, along with Alex Katseph, who won the players' player accolade.
Asked about new signings, Murray commented: "Getting some of the lads away from their wives for more than one Sunday per summer will make us feel like we have some new signings."
Chigwell have entered the Maccabi Cup and they will play old foes Southgate in the Ronnie Shapiro Cup, as well as several friendlies against teams from Essex and east London.
Belmont & Edgware skipper Warren Averbuch believes his team has what it takes to win the MSCL Division Three title.
With Alex Goodman, Jonathan Feigenbaum and vice-captain Jonny Evans leading the batting line-up, Averbuch will be assisted in the bowling department by the evergreen Neil Myeroff, brothers Jon and Ami Wynbourne and Gideon Restan.
Averbuch said: "Winter nets have been really positive with a lot of new faces on both teams."
BECC 2nd will again be captained by Ryan Monk. He is targeting turning narrow defeats into victories and hopes to see some of the club's younger players continue to develop.
Monk told JC Sport: "We're always looking for more players of all ages and skill level who want to rediscover their love of the game."
With vice-captains Steven Altman-Richer and David Kaplan working closely with the skipper, keep an eye out for Adam Jacobs, Steven Altman-Richer, Keith Aizen, as well as youngsters Elliot Mayer, Mitchell Mayer and Noam Attar.
- Trial dates for the Team GB cricket squads for the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel next year have been announced. Juniors - April 30, Seniors - May 1.