2003 CHAIRMAN'S REPORT
It is with great pleasure that I present to you, the members of the Israel Cricket Association, my tenth annual Chairman's report for the year 2003.
Since taking office in 1994 I have overseen the progress of cricket in Israel from a backward, strife ridden organisation to an efficient, financially viable, proud entity. The progress of cricket in Israel has been nothing but dynamic. We can be proud of what we have achieved over the last ten years. There will always be the detractors who say that we have not achieved enough. My answer to them is "look in the book". The trophy cabinet is filling up every year, infrastructures are improving, and numbers are growing rapidly, but most important of all we have pride in what we are doing.
1. Infrastructures and Facilities
We all remember the hard conditions at the grounds ten years ago. Who can forget the famous grave yard ground in Ashdod, the sand bowl in Ramla, or the ground in Lod which today houses Lod's mall. The turning point was undoubtedly the formenting of the relationship between the ICA and the management of the National Athletics Stadium at Hadar Yosef in Tel Aviv. The facilities are well known to you all and are today taken for granted. In 1995 it was as if the ICA had moved to our "Lords".
In 1999 the ICA made a strategic decision to upgrade all the pitches in Israel. Astra turf wickets were laid down in Ashdod, Beersheba and Dimona. Nets were constructed with the blessing of the authorities at Hadar Yosef. In 2002 the last of the famous coir mats were laid to rest as the innovative Flicx wickets were introduced in Tel Aviv.
It is most satisfying for me to drive down to the Negev and there, in the middle of the desert, to see a green astra turf pitch strutting proudly. My main concern, however, is to improve the standard of the outfields, as well as practice facilities, in the Negev, where we have the burgeoning of Israel's cricket future. I feel that it is unfair to be playing on the harsh sands of the Negev in the 21st century. A special effort will be made by the ICA to try to rectify and improve the situation in years to come.
2. Youth Programme
In September 2000 the ICA decided that the time was ripe to introduce a youth programme to ensure the future of Israeli cricket. What an amazing success this programme has proved to be. The launch of the programme coincided with the opening of the nets at Hadar Yosef by the then CEO of the ICC, David Richards. Cricket centers were opened in the Negev - Beersheba, Dimona and Yeruham, as well as central areas such as Tel Aviv, Ra'anana and Ashdod. Two youth coaches were brought out from South Africa for three months, coaching the youth in their respective centers. Of the two coaches, it was Herschel Gutman who returned permanently to Israel to become the ICA's first permanent coach. His enthusiasm and excellent cricketing brain coupled with his outstanding ability helped to get the youth programme into top drive. Suddenly schools were adopting cricket as part of the curriculum. Afternoon groups were sprouting up all over the country. Summer camps and cricket festivals were held on a regular basis. In 2001 we had the first test of our youth programme when the U15 team flew out to Berlin to take part in the European Cricket Councils Division 2 competition. Victory after victory saw Israel reach the final against the hosts. Although the game was lost, Israel won the silver medal which was an outstanding achievement. The success was marred by the foolhardy act of an Afghan member of the German team who tore down the Israeli flag during the Israel - Germany game. How ironic - a German player tearing down the Israeli flag 56 years after the end of the Second World War.
2002 and 2003 were years of even greater success. The numbers of youth playing cricket in Israel had grown from 200 to 1200. The under 13 team won the ECC Division 2 tournament in Grosetto, Italy. In 2003 the U15's avenged the 2001 defeat by sweeping aside France, Greece, Italy, Germany and Belgium to take the gold medal. Although there were some outstanding personal performances, the entire squad can be commended for their fantastic efforts.
2004 sees cricket well established all over the country. ICA coaches are active in six schools and afternoon groups are entrenched. Israel will reap the benefits of the youth programme at the full international level in two years time.
In summary, the ICA youth programme has been an outstanding success. A major goal of the programme has always been to take cricket to all areas notwithstanding socio-economic backgrounds. The proof of the pudding has been in the eating. 95% of youth players are Israeli born sabras, laying to rest the notion that cricket will not catch on among the indigenous population.
Further recognition of the youth programme success was the winning of two prestigious awards -
1. The 2002 ICC
/ Flicx Community Development Global Award.
In October 2003 a second application was made to the ECC for 1st division status for our junior teams. Promotion was denied, but we are confident that another good showing in the 2004 tournaments will result in promotion being granted for 2005.
Success has not been easy. The unstinting efforts of George Sheader in the Negev areas will forever be inscribed in the annuls of youth development history in Israel. Full credit and gratitude is due to George for the tremendous amount of work that he has invested in our young players. Of the victorious under 13 and under 15 teams, 85% of the players come from the Negev. Accolades to George for his role as manager to all three European youth tournaments.
In October 2002 Steven Shein took over as full time Director of Cricket Operations, including responsibility for the overall youth programme. His meticulous planning, patience with the local kids and undivided enthusiasm has helped raise the youth programme to even greater heights.
I wish to thank all the other part time coaches who help out whenever called upon to assist at tournaments, and whose contribution is vital. However what is apparent is the lack of enthusiasm shown by most of the players in the National squad to help out with the youth programme.
3. Leagues and National Team
The ICA continues to run a varied programme of games. The basic league format of home and away split into three leagues has proved to be most successful and entertaining cricket has been provided. However the continued domination of Lions Lod has somewhat taken out the excitement of the Premier League. I would like to make special mention of the men from Lod who have won the league title five times in the last six years (2001 was the exception when Tel Aviv took home the trophy for the first time in ten years). The side has an excellent bowling attack and no shortage of fine batsmen. Lions Lod finished 2003 undefeated in all competitions. Congratulations is also due to Young Ashdod and Lod Cricket Club for winning Division 1 and Division 2 respectively.
Over the past season we were happy to welcome the Diamond Cricket Club and the Negev Academy team, comprising the young talent in the south. The adoption of the ICC and ECC regulations to the local league has also proved a great success.
Over the past ten years the national eleven has had its moments of glory at the ECC Championships. However since 1994 we have not won a game at the ICC Trophy. The standard of the national team will have to improve dramatically to see us gain or place in future ICC competitions. The new tournament formula cuts us out for the foreseeable future. Only rigorous determination will see us at the top in the future.
Over the past decade the ICA has been fortunate to have had the coaching services of well known cricketers Steve Herzberg (1996 - 1997) and David Houghton (2000). One individual I wish to single out for special mention is Roland Lefebvre, who has endeared himself to everyone in Israel as national coach (1997 - 1999) and in his current role as National Coaching Advisor. Roland makes numerous trips to Israel each year, working with our junior national squads. His professionalism, personality, sense of humour and genuine interest in the welfare of Israeli cricket make him a very popular visitor.
The ICA is also
fortunate to have the services of Dr. Dan Kiesel as team physiotherapist and
fitness advisor. Having worked with the worlds leading teams and players, his
input and skills have been a major asset on previous tours, and the ICA hopes
to continue working with him for many years to come.
Over the past three seasons the need for disciplinary hearings has almost disappeared, despite the tough ICA standards. Undoubtedly this positive development is a result of the standard of umpiring here in Israel. Umpires are human, fallible and make mistakes. However having been involved in Israeli cricket for the past 28 years, I can quite clearly say that the umpiring standards have improved beyond recognition. This fact has given the players more confidence and a mutual respect has been built up. All the credit is due to the Israel Umpires Association. The Chairman, Sammy Bamnulker, and Secretary, Eli Jacob, have done sterling work in keeping the standards high and improving all the time. Seminars with overseas instructors have become standard practice. The organisation was also instrumental in the translation of the laws of cricket into Hebrew.
Special mention must be made of Israel's only international umpire, Naor Gudker, who has now stood in at least thirty games. In 2002 he was chosen to umpire the 1st Division final of the European Championships.
5. Finance and Sponsorships
The budget of the ICA has increased ten-fold in the last decade. However the major portion of our income stems from the annual dividend allocated from the ICC. Over the past two years donations have been received from individuals in England. Local clubs continue to receive limited support from the Toto and Sports Ministry.
The intention of the ICA is to raise the numbers of youth players to 2000 by 2006. This in turn means we need at least another $25000 per annum, bringing our annual budget to almost $175000. This is a challenge for the incoming board who will be charged with this task.
6. International Cricket Council; European Cricket Council
There is no doubt in my mind that the success of our youth programme wouldn't have come without the cooperation from the ICC and ECC. Cooperation and understanding with the ICC and ECC have been the key words to the success of Israeli cricket over the past few years. Finance, tours, equipment, umpires and coaches - these have been the fruits of our association with the ICC and ECC. I wish to thank them unreservedly for the support and I am sure that our excellent relations with these two bodies will continue to blossom in years to come.
It has been my pleasure and honour to have worked with four Presidents of the ICC; Sir Clyde Walcott, Jagmon Dalmiya, Malcolm Gray and the present incumbent Ehsan Mani while serving on the ICC Finance and Marketing and Management Committees. In addition it was a great honour to have the-then CEO of the ICC, David Richards, visit Israel in 2000. We look forward to Malcolm Speed, the current CEO, following in his predecessors footsteps.
Special mention should be made of the staff at the ECC office in Lords, and in particular the European Development Manager, Richard Holdsworth, who will be visiting Israel in March 2004, Philip Hudson and Alison Davies, for their support.
7. ICA Board of Directors
I wish to thank the Board of Directors of the ICA for their undivided cooperation over the past ten years. Without their full backing we would not be where we are today. The composition of the board has changed over the past decade, but I wish to pay special thanks to two members. It has been my pleasure and honour to have served with Naor Gudker, the ICA Secretary, and Ezra Ben Yehuda, the ICA Treasurer. Over the past ten years I have come to realize the enormous effort they have put into ensuring the smooth running of the ICA. They have devoted, voluntarily, many hours of their time to the day to day running of the organization. All those who are reaping the benefits of cricket today will forever be indebted to them.
With best wishes for a successful and enjoyable season in 2004.