Batting for peace

Stanley Perlman, chairman of the Israel Cricket Association, makes dreams come true

Stanley Perlman. (photo credit: ICA)
Stanley Perlman.
(photo credit: ICA)
Everyone should be giving Israeli cricket a big thumbs-up, says outgoing Israel Cricket Association chairman Stanley Perlman.
After 20 years as chairman, Perlman recently stepped down so he could devote more time to his business interests. The 15,000 hours he devoted to Israeli cricket on a voluntary basis were not lost on the ICA board, who immediately appointed him president.
Since his aliya from South Africa in 1976, Perlman has been closely involved with cricket in Israel, first as a player and then as a board member and chairman. He holds many of the national team’s batting records, but he made his greatest contribution off the field.
He served on the executive board of the International Cricket Council for four years, as well as other ICC boards. However, it is his efforts as the head of the ICA to promote the game at the grassroots level in Israel that have received the most recognition.
Three years ago, the ICA, together with the Peres Center for Peace and al-Quds Association for Democracy and Dialogue, launched the Cricket 4 Peace initiative, which brought together Palestinian and Israeli children. A group of children aged five to 13, from Yeroham and Dimona and the Palestinian towns Yatta and Samoa, met for the official launch.
Perlman is especially proud of Cricket 4 Peace and he plans to continue and work to further the program from his position as president. The program claimed The Spirit of Cricket Award as part of the European regional winners of the prestigious Pepsi ICC Development Programme Awards for 2011.
“One of my goals has been to get Palestinian children playing cricket with Israeli children, and winning the award is the light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “It’s something very positive. Everyone should be giving Israeli cricket a big thumbsup.”
The ICA won The Spirit of Cricket Award on two previous occasions. In 2001 for the Hitting Poverty 4 6 project and then for the Hurah Children program in 2009. “It’s like a dream come true,” Perlman said at the time.
According to Perlman, Hitting Poverty 4 6 has brought thousands of children to play cricket for the first time over the past decade, but that still doesn’t guarantee success at the senior level.
“We started with around 1,000 kids playing cricket on a regular basis and now we have around 1,500,” he says. “But unfortunately, it is very difficult for cricketers to come through from the youth ranks to the senior level.
“We actually had a wonderful team of youth cricketers between 2001 and 2005 which won just about all the competitions in Europe in the under-15, under-17 and under-19 age groups. But we haven’t had enough players coming through recently and this is something that the ICA has to deal with now.”
The first national cricket league in Israel was established in 1966, with eight teams currently playing in Division 1 and 10 teams in Division 2. Both leagues are amateur.
Israel currently plays in Division 2 of European cricket and Perlman admits the national team has failed to make much headway in recent years.
“On the field we could have done better,” he said. “We did well, but we seemed to have slacked in the past two or three years. At the beginning of 2000 we were in the top half of Division 2 in Europe. However, we are not in the same position as Germany or Sweden, whose teams are comprised completely of Pakistani players. We don’t have any Pakistanis in Israel. So this is where we are at a serious disadvantage at the moment in terms of world cricket. Everybody else is getting thousands of migrants.”
The national team nevertheless recorded a proud moment last year when it won the silver medal at the Maccabiah for the first time, defeating South Africa.
Perlman ended his playing career for the national team in 1997 due to a conflict of interests as he was also the ICA chairman. But he was still occasionally inserted into the side when his services were required.
“In the 1997 Maccabiah the team was short a few players so I came back in the last game,” Perlman said. “I captained the team and we beat England in the playoffs for third spot and the bronze medal.”
One of the problems the ICA faces is the cut in funding from the ICC.
“The ICC are saying ‘develop your youth cricket,’ but they have cut back on everybody’s funds,” Perlman says. “They have taken away $70,000 from each country which we used to develop cricket and that is a big knock for us and all the small countries like us.
“So we are in a bit of a dilemma at the moment. How do we fund our youth program that the ICC is telling us to develop, and on the other hand they are taking away $70,000?”
Arik Kaplan, president of Ayelet, The Federation of Non-Olympic Competitive Sport in Israel, calls Perlman “one of the biggest contributors to cricket in Israel.” He praises Perlman’s introduction of elements of professionalism while working to advance the sport across the country with various projects which received international awards.
There are still plenty of challenges facing cricket in Israel, yet despite the many difficulties, Perlman remains optimistic.
“There are many ways to get kids to play cricket. To keep them on is the problem,” he said. “However, I’m sure things will go forward and not back.”