ICA Youth Development Officer George Sheader recently headed South for a very successful weekend trip to promote cricket in the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, as well as a first session of the game in the Arava desert.
Armed with a 'new' second-hand tennis practice machine, 43-degree heat was not going to stop Sheader making the most of his time, or the players coming out to benefit from his immense coaching experience.
First stop was the Almog school, where local player Roger Meyer has been running junior sessions for a couple of months. Following two promotional sessions during school hours on Friday, 25 children also participated in an after-school practice. Later in the day some of the older boys honed their batting skills against the tennis machine.
On Saturday morning, with the tennis machine now officially inaugurated as a bowling machine, the Eilat senior team, ably organised by the team manager Isaac Solomon and passionate enough about the game to travel four hours to away matches, participated in a practice as well. "Each player received 80 balls on the drive at 5 second intervals", recounted Sheader. "They were each videoed, and his technique analyzed by myself, Isaac and the player concerned. We then did the same with the 'cut shot'. The practice was a phenomenal success, enjoyed by all".
Heading back north towards home in Be'er Sheva, Sheader's desert adventure had one more stop on the itinerary. "Three weeks ago I received a call from an ex-South African woman on Moshav Idan, in the Northern Arava, interested in starting some kind of cricket activity for her boys. She told me there are many ex-South Africans living in the area and that the potential is great". Despite not having great expectations, an hour session was scheduled. One hour became two as over 15 kids, accompanied by eight parents, all enjoyed perhaps the first game of cricket to be played in the Arava desert. "The potential is enormous. We talked about introducing cricket to the regional school at Sapir, which serves a massive catchment area. But what is more important, one of the parents is a qualified rugby coach, disillusioned with the rugby set-up, and is looking to use his skills in a different field", said an excited Sheader.
The pied piper of Be'er Sheva continues to take the game of cricket into uncharted territory.