Playing for Pride

The final one-day game between Israeli Invitation XI and India A will be played this morning in Ashdod, with nothing but pride left to play for in this three-game series, which is being held in celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary,

The Indian team won the first two games comprehensively, although Israeli Invitation XI - with former South Africa captain Jonty Rhodes and a host of Jewish cricketers from around the world - put on a much-improved performance in Monday's second game, raising hopes that today's finale will be a closer encounter.

"All eyes will be on Ashdod, in the hope that the Israeli team will be able to get some sort of result," Israel Cricket Association chairman Stanley Perlman told Haaretz yesterday.

The game starts at 9:30 A.M., and - because the Indian players have an early flight back home - the game has been reduced from 50 overs to 40 overs.

While the games may have largely escaped the attention of the mainstream Hebrew press, the same cannot be said of India. In fact, the series has attracted so much attention back home that the general secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Niranjan Shah, flew out to Israel yesterday to participate in the last two days of the tour, including last night's festive dinner and yesterday's tour of Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Indian-born cricket umpire Naor Gudker was honored yesterday by the Sports Authority for his outstanding contribution to the game here.

Gudker was given the award by Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Rajeb Majadele. Gudker is also the chief executive officer of the Israel Cricket Association and has supervised ECC games in countries like Malaysia, England, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Cyprus and Germany.

"I feel honored at the recognition bestowed on me but as the CEO of ICA my goal is to bring Israeli cricket to the forefront and provide international exposure to the youth. The India A tour has given a big boost to our efforts to attract young talent in the country," Gudker told the Press Trust of India.

Gudker's parents immigrated to Israel in 1963 from Mumbai when he was six but he is still fluent in Marathi and Hindi, which he picked up here from people from the Indian community here.