Yachad’s tzitzit out to bat for Lord’s cricket expo
The tzitzit worn by former Proteas batsman Mandy Yachad in his cricket match against India in 1991 has been described as the most unique item on display at the recently-opened exhibition, “Jewish Community and Cricket” at England’s prestigious Lord’s Cricket Ground.
Britain’s Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis, who was at the official opening of the exhibition on 28 June, referred to Yachad’s tzitzit as “the prize item” at the exhibition in the Community Gallery of Lord’s Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Museum in London. And there’s a plaque next to the framed tzitzit, indicating the significance of the garment and insight into the game in which Yachad wore them.
These particular tzitzit have treaded a remarkable journey since that One Day International in Gwalior, India, to being displayed at the Home of Cricket, as Lord’s is known.
The exhibition features stories of well-known international and first-class cricketers from Australia, England, Ireland, South Africa, and the West Indies. It addresses cricket at grassroots level in Israel and the Maccabiah. It tells the story of how the Jewish community contributed to cricket, and considers the prevalence of antisemitism in the sport. It’s accessible either via a Tour of Lord’s or by ticket holders on match days.
“Jews have contributed at all levels of cricket, on and off the field of play,” reads introductory text at the museum. The South Africans highlighted in the exhibition are Yachad, Norman Gordon (1911-2014) who was the first openly Jewish test cricketer and the first test cricketer to live to 100; Sid O’Linn (1927-2016) who played cricket and soccer for South Africa and whose real name was Sydney Olinsky, the son of a kosher butcher; and Dr Ali Bacher, who captained the South African team in the late 1960s and became an international cricket administrator.
Back in 2019, two Jewish MCC members, Zaki Cooper and Daniel Lightman, approached Neil Robinson, the head of heritage and collections at the MCC, with an idea for a display on Jews and cricket.
“The approach came at a time when we were looking for ways to represent grassroots cricket in the museum and tell the story of cricket’s history from a broader range of perspectives,” Robinson said. “These ideas soon coalesced into the concept of the Community Gallery, a dedicated space where individual communities can tell their stories of their relationship with cricket.”
Cooper and Lightman put the exhibition together because they hoped it wouldn’t just inspire the next generation of Jewish cricketers, but “encourage other communities to come forward and tell their stories of their relationship with the great game of cricket”.
South African Dennis Gamsy, who played in two Tests for South Africa in 1970, says the exhibition is unique and special and “must have taken a hell of a lot of work to put together”.
Lord’s is the home of the world’s oldest sporting museum and the MCC, long the world’s foremost cricket organisation. The prestigious Lord’s honours board includes some of the most famous cricketers in history.
Mirvis said at the opening, which was the first kosher-catered MCC event at Lord’s, “This is the Lord’s cricket ground, in the same way that this is the Lord’s universe.”
The journey of Yachad’s tzitzit began soon after the match he played wearing them, when the head of Chabad House was looking for a special set of tzitzit to be auctioned and he asked Yachad if he would be willing to donate them. “Robbie Brozin [the co-founder of Nando’s] bought them and has held them ever since,” Yachad says. “When the idea for this exhibition came up, Daniel Lightman, one of the two guys who were the brains behind it, asked me if there were any items of interest which I could lend to the exhibition.”
Yachad thought the tzitzit would be a novel item relating to the Jews in cricket, and Brozin willingly lent it to the exhibition.
Yachad was as observant as possible during his cricketing career. He kept kosher, put on tefillin daily, davened three times a day, and went to shul on Shabbat mornings when possible. “By the very nature of the fact that we played on Saturdays, it was impossible to be shomrei Shabbos while I was playing cricket. I had an internal conflict for many years, and eventually decided to give up because I felt I couldn’t continue to play on Shabbos.” Towards the end of his career, Yachad ran from Orange Grove to the Wanderers instead of driving on Shabbos.
Yachad acknowledges the view expressed by some that he batted too slowly during his sole international game, having scored 31 off 76 deliveries before being trapped Leg Before Wicket by Venkatapathy Raju. However, he says the conditions were difficult. “Also, I was looking to build an innings, knowing you normally score a bit quicker later on in your innings. Unfortunately, I got out just as I was hoping to build the momentum. The one-day games in those days were a little different to the way they are now in terms of scoring rates and expectation.”
Yachad was never chosen for the national team again. “They felt that I wasn’t good enough,” he says. Batters like Kepler Wessels, Clive Rice, Andrew Hudson, Peter Kirsten, Hansie Cronje, and Jonty Rhodes were around at this time.
Yachad says he was inspired by the likes of Bacher and Gamsy.
The latter says he was the first South African cricketer to speak out in favour of mixed-race sport in the country. “Upon returning from the tour of England in 1965, I was invited to talk on a platform of Helen Suzman’s Progressive Federal Party. In my speech, I informed everybody that I found it repugnant to play cricket under apartheid’s rules and laws. That made headlines in the Sunday Times. My letters and my phones were tapped for seven years thereafter.”
Nowadays, Gamsy is the deputy chairperson of GIB, the largest privately owned broker in South Africa, while Yachad is a legal consultant, having practised law for 15 years.