The Israeli attacks in Gaza over the conflict with the Hamas militant group started on July 8, and has claimed over 1,300 lives, mostly in the Palestinian territory, till Wednesday.
In this dance of death, there is an Indian connect, a tale of two young men, who insist duty to their adopted nation comes first but hope things will calm down soon so that they can swap the army gear for cricket attire.
The Waskar brothers, Shifron and elder sibling Ronen, were preparing for Israel’s domestic cricket league when fighting erupted. Their father, Raymond, who migrated with his family from Mumbai in the 1990s, is a cricket umpire.
Shifron, 20, is a pace bowler in the national team, but swing and seam will have to wait. Right now, he is stationed deep inside Gaza. Ronen too is in the army — he is a sergeant — and plays for Israel, but has also been called up by the army.
Ronen Waskar was preparing for Israel’s domestic cricket league when the Gaza conflict broke out. He is now serving the army. (Photo courtesy: Facebook)
“This is hard, but this is reality,” Ronen, 26, told HT from his home in Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, barely 40 km from the conflict zone. “As an armyman and cricketer, I am enjoying both my duties. The cricket league has been postponed because there are rocket attacks every day. I am also close to the war zone. But I hope to return to cricket soon,” he said.
They may not be in the league of the famous Bedser brothers, Eric and Alec, who tossed to choose who will bowl pace and who will be the spinner — a decision that helped them both play for England. Ronen is a leg-spinner.
“Shifron is fighting inside Gaza. Of course, we are worried, but this is our duty. Every Israeli has been trained for this situation. We don’t play cricket every day. Most of the time, we have military training,” Ronen said.
Naor Gudker, CEO, Israel cricket association, acknowledged. “Both the Waskar brothers are assets to the team and army. Ronen has been with the national team for three years. He is a very good bowler. Shifron has played at the under-19 level as well and is our future, but at the moment both are fighting for the country.”
Israel has been an International Cricket Council (ICC) Associate Member since 1979.
“Players of Indian origin have had a great impact in Israeli cricket. We have many players who were born in India. They came here and contribute a lot. Our Mumbai-born captain Eshkol Solomon is one of them,” Gudkar, a former umpire, said.