''India Trophy'' T20 league creates buzz in Israel

Beersheva (Israel), Jan 27 (PTI) The Indian mission inIsrael''s plan to hold the "India Trophy" T20 tournament thisyear for youngsters of Indian community in the country hasgenerated a lot of interest here.

The Indian embassy announced plans to hold the tournamentyesterday during the Republic Day celebrations attended byhundreds of Indians, mostly Jews of Indian origin.

"Most of the youngsters in this country closely followIndian cricket and Sachin Tendulkar is their overwhelmingfavourite," Naor Gudket, the chief executive of Israel CricketAssociation told PTI.

"Fox sports is subscribed by the Indian community in thecountry for only one reason -- to watch India''s cricketmatches. I think the tournament will bring the community veryclose to the Indian government and people. The response willbe far better than most of the Indian cultural programmes orfilm festivals have generated," he said.

Naor, an Jew from the Bene Israel community, immigratedhere with his parents when he was just two.

"The matches will be played on the weekends in March atthree possible venues -- Ashdod, Dimona and Beersheva -- andwe are trying to limit the number of teams to ten, even thoughthe response has been overwhelming," he said.

The three possible venues have been selected as per thestrength of the Indian community.

Seven teams, mostly comprising of Indians, from thesetowns are already active in the Israel Cricket League.

"As far as connecting to the Indian community isconcerned, this is a masterstroke by the Indian mission. Nodiplomacy works better than cricket diplomacy as far as theIndian community in Israel is concerned.

"Though most of the Indian Jews are traditional, theycome out in large numbers in Sabbath for Cricket," saidEliyahu Yosef, a 72 year-old cricket enthusiast.

There are 70,000 Indian Jews from four differentcommunities living in Israel.

Bene Israel, who immigrated from Maharashtra and itssurrounding regions, forms an overwhelming majority at around50,000, and cricket is their favourite sport.

"The embassy has been engaging in this kind of publicoutreach activity for the past two years. The idea behind theinitiative is to interact with the local Indian community inan informal, non-official, relaxed setting and get to knowabout their well-being," spokesman of the Indian embassy inTel Aviv, Sujit Ghosh, said.

The embassy has a team comprising of diplomats and stafffrom various wings, which has played matches against localIndian teams in various cities during the last two years.

"We could see that a lot of people felt much morecomfortable reaching out to us with their queries on consularissues - visa, PIO, OCI, and academic and cultural matterswhen we interacted with them in such settings. This is how theidea to organise the tournament was born," Ghosh added.

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