Rhodes to be part of unique Israel team
Jonty Rhodes, the former South Africa player, will be the top draw in a unique Israel team - including a collection of Jewish cricketers from South Africa, Australia, Ireland and India - that will take on an India A squad to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding.
Rhodes, 38, who retired from the game five years ago, has confirmed his participation for the three one-dayers to be held in Tel Aviv and the port city of Ashdod from July 13-16, Stanley Perlman, the chairman of the Israel Cricket Association, told Cricinfo.
Perlman said he was particularly happy at being able to give an international look to the Israel 60th Anniversary XI, which also has an Indian Jew - Bensiyon Songavkar, who has represented Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy. The squad has seven overseas players whose Israeli contingent includes a left-arm spinner from the Army and a wicketkeeper still in school.
"It was very difficult to find enough first-class cricketers from around the world who are Jewish," Perlman, who is also an ICC board member, said. "But as you can see, we finally managed to get a cricketer even from India."
Except for Rhodes and Netherlands' Roland Lefebvre, who are "supporters of cricket in Israel", the Israel team will comprise entirely of Jewish cricketers including Adam Bacher (South Africa), Steven Herzberg (Australia), Jason and Greg Molins (Ireland) and Songavkar. The two Israeli players who are sure to make the XI are Shai Chayun, the wicketkeeper, and Solomon Varsulkar, from the country's armed forces.
"I just hope Solomon gets leave and Shai's exams don't clash with this event," Perlman said. "Israel celebrated its 60th birthday recently and it is a very special occasion for us. Believe it or not, no other sport here has organised any such celebration and I am so happy cricket is the game that has gone ahead. It is also a great opportunity to bring in a group of good cricketers and show Israel what the game is all about.
"My first thought was who would I want to celebrate this with? The answer was clear: my friends from India, who share very rich historical ties with us."
The BCCI had accepted an invitation earlier this year from Perlman to send a team for the event, and Niranjan Shah, the board secretary, told Cricinfo that the squad would consist of a "collection of fringe India players and some under-19 cricketers".
Shah, who is based in Rajkot and is also the secretary of the local Saurashtra Cricket Association, said he had suggested Songavkar's name for the event after receiving a request from Perlman to identify Jewish cricketers from India to be part of the Israel XI.
"I will be playing against an Indian team in Israel for an Israeli team and that will be a bit strange. But I am looking forward to the trip," Songavkar, 22, a left-handed batsman and right-arm off-spinner who works for the Indian Railways, told Cricinfo.
Ajay Shankar is deputy editor of Cricinfo in Bangalore