Sticky wicket or wicked googly, cricket brings kids together

Sticky wicket or wicked googly, cricket brings kids together

Just about everything has been tried to foster better relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, so maybe it was time to think a little outside the box.
Cricket, anyone?
We may not understand the game on this side of the pond — I think of Jerry Seinfeld’s Amex commercial where he’s playing and cries out, “That was a wicked googly!” — but that doesn’t mean it can’t help bring Arabs and Jews together, kids in particular.
That’s been the hope of a group called Cricket for Change, formed 30 years ago following inner-city riots in London. They’ve taken their show on the road to the Middle East and recently brought Jewish and Bedouin children together to enjoy an “on-drive through deep mid-wicket.”
Through an initiative of the Israel Cricket Association — yes, it really exists — practices in the Bedouin village of Hura began. After a few days of work, the kids of Hura traveled to Beersheva to play “street cricket” with Jewish kids who’ve been learning the game as well. The ICA has been running a junior development program for 10 years in Jewish towns and cities. The organization reached out to Cricket for Change to teach those in villages like Hura the game, and then bring Arabs and Jews together to play, often for the first time against each other.
“The ultimate aim is to get kids to enjoy each others’ company, respect each others’ differences and, hopefully, become good at the sport. It’s very simple,” Cricket For Change’s chief executive Tom Rodwell said at a big tournament the group held for the Bedouin and Jewish children at the end of April.
The kids of Hura are now participating in weekly practices in Beersheba, and a group went to Tel Aviv recently to play in a Cricket Youth Festival. Their skills, understandably, are still being sharpened, but the reaction at the time of some of the kids makes it easy to understand why this is a worthwhile endeavor.
“I didn’t realize so many kids play cricket”, a boy named Ahmed said.
“I loved playing with all these children,” said another, named Mohammed. “I can’t wait until the next time.”
“The idea behind the day was to get as many youngsters who may have an interest in cricket involved, and now getting clubs started up in their areas so within a couple of months we have cricket established in as many cities and towns as possible,” said Herschel Gutman, the new National Cricket Development Officer. Adding cricket to many more Negev Bedouin communities is a priority for the association.
The cynics among us will quickly question what cricket can possibly do to bridge centuries-old divides. The answer, truthfully, for adults, might be “not much.” But that’s why this program, and others involving sports, theater, dance, you name it, for kids in different communities is so important. The Cricket for Change folks clearly get it and they want to bring their program to Jerusalem next year to involve Jews and Palestinians in the game.
“Here we have a chance with the young kids: they’ve not yet been brainwashed into separation, and there’s no need for it,” Rodwell said. “That might sound naive. But there isn’t any need. And so these kids now, they’re all playing happily together. And hopefully maybe they can grow up together. And then maybe some of the problems could be solved.”
Now that would indeed be a wicked googly.
(Jonathan Mayo, The Chronicle’s sports columnist and a staff writer for, can be reached at