BEERSHEVA (ISRAEL): The Indian mission in Israel’s plan to hold the ” India Trophy” T20 tournament this year for youngsters of Indian community in the country has generated a lot of interest.

The Indian embassy announced plans to hold the tournament on Wednesday during the Republic Day celebrations attended by hundreds of Indians, mostly Jews of Indian origin.

“Most of the youngsters in this country closely follow Indian cricket and Sachin Tendulkar is their overwhelming favourite,” Naor Gudket, the chief executive of Israel Cricket Association said.

“Fox sports is subscribed by the Indian community in the country for only one reason – to watch India’s cricket matches. I think the tournament will bring the community very close to the Indian government and people. The response will be far better than most of the Indian cultural programmes or film festivals have generated,” he said.

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

“The matches will be played on the weekends in March at three possible venues – Ashdod, Dimona and Beersheva – and we are trying to limit the number of teams to ten, even though the response has been overwhelming,” he said.

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

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

“As far as connecting to the Indian community is concerned, this is a masterstroke by the Indian mission. No diplomacy works better than cricket diplomacy as far as the Indian community in Israel is concerned.

“Though most of the Indian Jews are traditional, they come out in large numbers in Sabbath for Cricket,” said Eliyahu Yosef, a 72 year-old cricket enthusiast.

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

Bene Israel, who immigrated from Maharashtra and its surrounding regions, forms an overwhelming majority at around 50,000, and cricket is their favourite sport.

“The embassy has been engaging in this kind of public outreach activity for the past two years. The idea behind the initiative is to interact with the local Indian community in an informal, non-official, relaxed setting and get to know about their well-being,” spokesman of the Indian embassy in Tel Aviv, Sujit Ghosh, said.

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

“We could see that a lot of people felt much more comfortable reaching out to us with their queries on consular issues – visa, PIO, OCI, and academic and cultural matters when we interacted with them in such settings. This is how the idea to organise the tournament was born,” Ghosh added.

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