SA duo behind Israel taking cricket to Olympics
The Israel national cricket team are going all out to make their mark in this year’s T20 World Cup, and the two South Africans behind the team’s development will be gearing up to make the team stand out.
Though it may take a while for the team to become a strong power in cricket, the new South African team behind Israeli cricket – Joanne Tankle and the new head coach, who has asked to remain anonymous for his security – are looking forward to the challenge of building up the strength of the national side.
“The best answer to these murders, terrorist attacks, and monsters is to be in the Olympic games with double the amount of people than we originally planned for and have had in the past. When Hatikvah plays at the Olympics, it gives the best image of Israel – that we’re a nation of peace. There’s no better way than to develop sport in Israel,” Alon Granot, the chairperson of the Israeli Olympic committee told the SA Jewish Report.
“Sport is a way we can bring people together again. The government has realised that sport is the best new routine, so we’re going to invest more effort in developing it. Sport is the best way to demonstrate Am Yisrael Chai [the people of Israel live]. You can have an Israeli delegation at the United Nations, and it won’t let you speak, but when we’re on the field, in a gym or pool, we’re like everybody else. The Israeli government understands this,” Granot said.
When the Maccabi South Africa junior cricket team won gold at the Maccabi Games in 2021, one of the coaches was approached by the chairperson of the Israeli Cricket Federation, Yefeth Nagavkar, to coach the Israeli national team. This acceptance was on condition that Tankle became a part of the leadership team.
The duo worked to get to Israel a year before officially taking up their role. Tankle and the head coach visited Israel just before the war broke out to start building a foundation for cricket in Israel.
“I got the feeling that the conditions Israeli cricketers play in are almost rural, and I was reminded of the Jewish folktale, Something From Nothing, about a loving grandad, a fine tailor, who transformed his grandson’s tattered blanket into a jacket, then into a vest, a Shabbas tie, and eventually a button,” said Tankle.
“During our week in Israel, we met many involved in Israeli cricket as well as Alon Granot, the head of the Israel Olympic committee. We had many discussions regarding the development of the sport in the country and on our return to South Africa, we were informed by Granot that men’s cricket would be included in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Cricket is gaining momentum worldwide,” the head coach said. “Our visit to Israel made it clear that there’s growing interest in cricket among the youth as well as those who have been playing for many years and are eager to take Israeli cricket to the next level.
“Developing cricket will require the investment of time as well as money. Many different things are needed to grow the sport there, but we all feel that getting a national team through the World Cup qualifiers in June 2024 to play in the World Cup in 2026 is the first step needed. Once we have a national team competing in the world arena, these young men will become our ambassadors for the sport and will create awareness of cricket in the country. They’ll become the people the youth will look up to and aspire to become as they grow older, hence our ball continues to roll,” Tankle said.
“The players eligible for selection into the national team are mostly men with families to support and have no resources to sustain their families as they embark on this journey to bring glory to Israel in the growing world of cricket,” the head coach said.
“The war has changed everything,” Tankle told the SA Jewish Report. “Our initial goal was to develop cricket throughout Israel. Now, our goal is only to get through the first round of the T20 World Cup qualifiers in Italy in June this year. Our players are soldiers serving in the army, so intense training is needed. From there, we hope to grow, and for those players to bring more attention to cricket and show people what can be done and be role models for children.
“The Israeli Cricket Federation needs to invest more in development. It needs more facilities like fields, batting nets, and stadiums. There’s talk of getting a cricket stadium and more coaches to improve the knowledge of cricket at local level, as well as more players.
“All of this is aimed at the unique sport permit which will take the Israeli national team to a new level and a chance to be in the Olympics,” Granot said.
“The main problem is funding this programme. We need to prove our skills. The more we do that, the more funding cricket will get. Cricket gets only a portion of what other smaller sports get because of lack of recognition. We have the roadmap, we just need the funds.”