Club News

Back to News

A history of Jewish first-class cricketers

Posted: 11-Mar-2011 by Cricket Senior

Julien Wiener

Melbourne-based historian Melvyn Barnett has compiled a detailed summary analysing the modern history of Jewish cricketers to have played at first-class level around the world.

The article, a product of months of research, was first published in the November 2010 edition of the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, and is particularly relevant for all lovers of Jewish cricket.

In 1948, aged ten years, I was taken by my father to Lords Cricket Ground in London to watch Don Bradman's 'Invincibles' play against England. My father had grown up in Australia and was very proud of Don Bradman's cricket team's success. This match was the turning point for me as I became firmly hooked on cricket. A year later, with my parents, I migrated to Australia and thereafter seized every reasonable opportunity to follow and watch cricket. Again, often taken by my father, I would watch every Test match that I could see as well as Sheffield Shield matches, District cricket and Ajax/Maccabi cricket. Unfortunately for me, my skills as a cricketer never matched my enthusiasm for the game. Thus, I confined myself to being a spectator and collector of statistics. Over the years I became intrigued by what, at first glance, seemed to be a lack of involvement of Jews in cricket at a first class level.

I decided to inform myself more on this aspect as there would appear to be little specifically written about the topic of Jews in cricket. To some extent, I hope that this article will help put matters into perspective and even, correct some misconceptions. In addition, I hope to be able to share some information which may be of interest to readers who, like me, are cricket lovers.

Cricket, as we know it, was first played in England. It is a relatively leisurely sport. I know of no other sport which one may be able to play over five days and still achieve no result. The leisurely nature and genteel behaviour of cricketers in the early days was one that was appealing to the establishment class in England. During the nineteenth century, England was a class ridden society and it was in this environment that cricket took hold. It was considered a gentleman's game and it was some considerable time before working class people competed in the game at a first class level. Indeed, a clear line was drawn between the amateurs (gentlemen who could afford to play without pay) and the players (the cricketers who were paid for their efforts). For over one hundred years, matches were played between the Gentlemen of England and the Players. The English Test team carefully recorded those who were amateurs and those who were professional. Until the 1950's, no professional player captained England. Because England is the 'birth place' of cricket, in covering first class Jewish cricketers I shall list the English cricketers before dealing with those from the former 'colonies' and, in particular, Australia

Not surprisingly, Jews were not initially attracted to cricket. Most Jews in England during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century were migrants who were struggling to make a living and feed their families. At the same time, cricket authorities were not welcoming to what they may have considered an 'alien' class. I have not been able to identify any Jewish first class players who played in England in the nineteenth century. The first Jewish cricketers to compete in County cricket began to appear in the very early part of the twentieth century.

The first Jewish cricketer of note was John Raphael. Raphael was born in Belgium but grew up in England. He was educated at Merchant Taylors and later at Oxford University. He was an outstanding English sportsman who played rugby union for England and captained the British Lions in a tour of Argentina in 1910. As a cricketer, he was a specialist batsman playing either for Surrey or Oxford University. In addition, he played for Marylebone Cricket Club, Gentlemen of England, London County and England XI. He played his Surrey County matches between 1903 and 1909 and as a batsman averaged over thirty runs an innings. His last first class game was for Marylebone Cricket Club in 1913.

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, he enlisted and served as a Lieutenant with the King's Royal Rifle Corps and died of wounds in 1917 in Belgium while fighting in the country of his birth.

Dar (Malcolm Douglas) Lyon played for Somerset County club from the 1920's. Indeed, his County Cricket career stretched from 1920 to 1938. He was a right-handed batsman and also wicket keeper. He was educated at Cambridge University for which he played. He went on to play for the Gentlemen of England for whom he scored one hundred and twenty runs in one match. In a Test Trial match in 1924, he played for the 'Rest' against England and was the only member of the team not to go on to represent England at cricket.

His cricket career was put on hold for a while as he was appointed a Magistrate in Gambia in 1932. He had been called to the bar and was a successful lawyer, and went on to become a Resident Magistrate in Tanganyika. He fought during the Second World War, and after the war moved to Kenya where he served as a Magistrate and then Chief Justice of the Seychelles, followed by being appointed a Judge to the Ugandan High Court.

Dar Lyon's younger brother was known as Bev Lyon who played for Oxford University and for most of his cricket career, Gloucestershire. He was apparently a very outspoken person and this may have held back his career and possibly selection in a Test team. Nevertheless, he was captain of Gloucestershire for six years from 1929 and he was so successful that his county won more matches than any other county in 1929 and 1930. He was chosen as Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1931. He continued to play cricket from time to time for Gloucestershire right up to 1947 when he was forty-five years old.

Nathaniel Mayer Victor Rothschild was a versatile and gifted man as well as being a cricketer of considerable talent. He was a right-handed batsman and leg break bowler. Educated at Harrow School and later Cambridge University, he was obviously a leader of men. On one occasion, he opened the batting with the well-known playwright Terrence Rattigan. At Cambridge, he was well known as a playboy, driving a Bugatti and collecting art and rare books. He joined a society which was predominately Marxist and although he had left-wing leanings, he was never a Marxist. He played first class cricket not only for Cambridge University but also for Northamptonshire for eleven matches between 1929 and 1931.

In 1937, he inherited his title from his uncle, Walter Rothschild, who was the 2nd Baron Rothschild and thereafter sat as a Labour party peer in the House of Lords. During the Second World War, he was recruited by MIS and was awarded the George medal for his work. Unfortunately for Rothschild during his university days, he had associated with Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt who were subsequently unmasked after the Second World War as Soviet spies. Some suspicion was levelled at Rothschild as to whether he was also a Soviet spy. Lengthy investigations proved there was no substance to this and he went on to become the security advisor to Margaret Thatcher.

Although a number of Jewish cricketers played County cricket after the Second World War, they were mainly from Australia and South Africa and I shall refer to them later. One English Jewish cricketer who had a long county cricket career was Mike Barnard who played for Hampshire as a right hand batsman and medium pace bowler. His career was from 1952 to 1966 playing in 276 first class matches.

In recent years, the only two Jewish cricketers playing first class cricket would appear to be Mark Bott who played for Cambridge University and Darren Gerard who played for Oxford University. Both these cricketers are young enough to reach loftier heights in cricket which may post-date this article. Both Bott and Gerard were members of the Great Britain Maccabi cricket team and played at the Maccabiah games, in the case of Gerard in 2005, and in the case of both of them in 2009.

On the face of it readers will note that there does not appear to be any Jew who has played Test cricket for England, unless one includes a surprising addition. Not long before he died, one of England's greatest ever bowlers Fred Trueman discovered that his maternal grandmother had been Jewish. This, according to Jewish law, may well have marked him as being technically Jewish. Obviously Fred Trueman, with his genial manner, took it all in his stride. According to a Jewish Chronicle journalist, he was happy to be considered Jewish although he added 'just don't expect me to stop eating bacon sandwiches.'

The British Empire was at its height in the nineteenth century and one of the cultural additions it spread around its colonies was cricket. Many of the former colonies adopted cricket with a great deal of enthusiasm, so much so that England itself on many occasions lost its ascendency in the cricket world to its former colonies. One country which adopted cricket with a great deal of enthusiasm was South Africa. For Jews living in South Africa, cricket was a very attractive pastime.

The general affluence of white South Africans enabled them to spend a great deal of time indulging in leisurely sports such as cricket. The first South African cricketer of note was Manfred (Fred) Susskind. Susskind played cricket for Transvaal commencing in 1909 as a right hand batsman and wicket keeper. His first class career stretched from 1909 to 1937 during which time he played 97 first class matches and was the first Jew to play Test cricket, representing South Africa in five Tests in 1924 against England. In addition to playing for Transvaal and South Africa, Susskind also played for Cambridge University and Middlesex. Although South Africa did not have a particularly strong Test side, he was second in the Test batting averages during his short Test match career.

The next South African Jew cricketer of note was Norman Gordon. He also played for Transvaal and his first class career spanned from 1933 - 1948. In addition, he played in five Tests against England in the 1938-1939 Test series in South Africa. He was a right hand batsman and right arm fast bowler. His Test career was cut Sh011 by the Second World War as the Test series was on the eve of the Second World War. He played in what has come to be known as the "timeless Test" which was to be played until it finished irrespective of the time it took. However, after ten days, it was eventually drawn by agreement as the English Test team needed to catch a boat home. Gordon is one of only two living Test cricketers who played Test cricket before the Second World War and is approaching his hundredth year.

Ali Bacher had a most distinguished cricket career as well as an even more distinguished career as a cricket administrator. He played 12 tests between 1965 and 1970. In 1969 to 1970, as a right hand batsman, he captained the South African team against Australia. The series was a high point for South Africa as the home side won all four Test matches in the series. Unfortunately for him, like a lot of South African cricketers, his career was sh011ened by the international boycott against South Africa and he did not play cricket again after 1970. He has gone on to be one of the world's best known cricket administrators. Apart from his cricket career he is a medical practitioner.

The 1969-1970 Test series in South Africa saw the unusual sight of two Jews playing in the same Test side. Dennis Gamsy was a wicket keeper of some note who played in two of the Tests in 1970 against Australia. He also suffered from the world boycott which was badly affecting sport in South Africa.

Ali Bacher's nephew, Adam Bacher played 19 Tests for South Africa mainly between 2000 and 2005. He was a right hand batsman and right arm medium bowler. Although his batting average in Tests was only 26, he at least has the distinction of playing in the most Tests by any Jewish cricketer. He also involved himself in representing South Africa in the Maccabiah games in 2005 and 2009.

Mandy Yachad is quite a colourful character playing field hockey and cricket. He represented South Africa on a number of occasions playing field hockey and as a right hand batsman and leg break bowler playing for Transvaal between 1978 and 1994. He was on the verge of Test match selection and played in a One Day International with moderate success against India. He eventually retired from first class cricket for special reasons. Yachad was an Orthodox Jew who had to wrestle with the problems of playing sometimes on the Sabbath. He eventually decided that he would be a bad example for his children and their religious observance if he continued to play cricket on the Sabbath and thereafter gave the game away.

Lawrence Seeff played with Western Province and Transvaal opening the batting for Western Province with his brother Jonathan Seeff. His career ended in 1993 after sixteen years and 113 first class matches.

Australia, like South Africa, embraced cricket from the earliest colonial days. Nevertheless, there does not appear to be any prominent Jewish cricketer in the nineteenth century. The first notable Jewish cricketer was Roy Levy whose first class career was from 1929 - 1936. Although born in New South Wales, he moved to Queensland through work commitments in 1928. He made his first class debut for Queensland in 1929, and went on to play 25 matches for Queensland amassing 1510 runs with a batting average of 33.55. He captained Queensland on eleven occasions and maintained an active interest in administration after his retirement. His other sporting interest was baseball and he represented Australia in 1936. He was the first Australian base bailer to be offered a scholarship to play and study in the United States of America. His involvement in baseball continued until after the Second World War.

The next notable Jewish cricketer was Leonard "Jock" Livingston. Jock Livingston was born in Sydney and was a left hand batsman and occasional wicket keeper. Although he made his first appearance for New South Wales in 1941, his reputation as a hard hitting left hand batsman became apparent after the Second World War. He had represented New South Wales on five occasions with some success, but was not picked for the famous 1948 tour of England. He decided to transfer his cricketing career to England where he played in the Lancashire League for Royton. In 1949 Livingston was selected to lead a Commonwealth side to India which included some well-known Test cricketers including the famous Sir Frank Worrell. The tour was successful and included five unofficial Tests against Indian Test sides. Livingston continued his cricket career playing for Northamptonshire and amassing a large total of runs, and was still playing cricket in 1964. He is sometimes recognised as the best Jewish batsman Australia has produced.

Marshall Rosen was a right hand opening batsman who played 21 matches as an opener for New South Wales amassing 1220 runs with an average of 30.5 per innings. His career spans the years from 1971-75. Rosen was also involved in the Maccabi carnivals over several years.

Ray Phillips was another New South Welshman who after a few games for New South Wales relocated to Queensland. He had a very successful career, mainly as a wicket keeper. He also was a right hand batsman. He played 89 first class matches mainly for Queensland and was selected in the Australian touring party which went to England in 1985 although he did not play in Tests. He too was involved in Maccabi carnivals and has gone on to become a respected cricket administrator in Queensland, and continues to be a cricket commentator on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Julien Weiner is probably the best known Australian Jewish cricketer if, for no other reason than he is the only Jewish cricketer to have been selected to play for Australia in Tests. Weiner made his first class debut for Victoria in 1977-78 season and scored 106 in his first match. He continued to perform well for Victoria and made his Test debut against England in 1979. He played in 6 Tests, his last Test being in 1980 against Pakistan. Ironically it was in this Test that he made his highest score of 93 runs, but was not picked to play for Australia again. He continued to play first class cricket in Victoria until he retired in the 1984-85 season. During this period he amassed a large number of runs as an opening batsman for Victoria and with Jeff Moss had a partnership of 390 runs which still stands as the record third wicket partnership in first class Australian cricket.

Michael Klinger made his first class debut playing for Victoria in 1999. He showed outstanding potential having captained the under 19's Australian team prior to making his first class debut for Victoria. He continued playing for Victoria and although he amassed a large number of runs, his form was not always consistent. In the hope that he may further his first class career, he moved to South Australia for the 2008-09 season and met with considerable success scoring his maiden double century against Western Australia, finishing on 255 runs. He continues to play for South Australia and still holds some hope of one day playing in a Test match.

Steve Herzberg made his first class debut in 1990. Although born in England, he came to Australia aged nine and showed potential as a right arm off-break bowler. He had a somewhat chequered career playing for Worcestershire in England and Western Australia in Australia. He then moved to Tasmania where he played Sheffield games before moving back to England where he played for Somerset and Kent.

Jonathan Moss was another New South Welshman who moved interstate coming to Victoria where he played 83 first class matches, mainly for Victoria, although he had a season with Derbyshire in England in 2004-05. Moss was a right hand batsman and right arm medium pace bowler. For several matches when playing for Victoria, he played alongside a fellow Jewish teammate in Michael Klinger. Moss at various times was considered by some journalists as a potential international cricketer but never quite realised his potential. In 1997, together with Michael Klinger, he was in Israel for the Maccabiah Games and was involved in the bridge disaster which killed four members of the Australian Jewish Maccabiah team. He retired from first class cricket in Victoria in 2007 but is still involved in cricket at club level in New South Wales.

A few years ago an elderly Jewish Jamaican told me that he attended Hebrew school in Jamaica in the 1920's and that one of his school friends went on to play cricket for the West Indies in the 1930's. I must confess that I was a little sceptical about the story but as I investigated further the story rang true. Ivan Mordechai Barrow played in 10 Tests for the West Indies and has the distinction of being the first West Indian to have scored a century in England. He is the only Jewish Test cricketer to have scored a century in a Test match. On the other side of the penny, he is only one of two batsmen to have been dismissed by a spare time bowler called Don Bradman in a Test match.

Barrow was a wicket keeper and had moderate success as a batsman. He died in 1979 and in 2007 the Jewish Heritage Society in Jamaica commemorated his cricket career. The local Jamaican newspaper covering the event wrote "Making his fellow Jamaican Jews proud... Barrow's scored the first century in the 1933 Test at Old Trafford."

Of the other Test playing nations, there would appear to be no record of outstanding Jewish cricketers. In India recently the best known Jewish cricketer is Bensiyon Songavkar who plays for the Saurashtra team. He is a left-hand batsman and right arm off-break bowler. Songavkar was in the successful Indian Maccabiah Games team in 2009 which won a silver medal.

Ireland surprisingly has produced one outstanding Jewish cricketer in Jason Molins. Molins is a Dublin born Oxford educated cricketer who captained Ireland between 2001-05 recording victories over Zimbabwe and the West Indies. He is regarded as Ireland's most successful captain having captained the country on 45 occasions. He has retired from first class cricket and now lives in England after completing an economics degree at University College in Dublin and then a post graduate diploma at Oxford University. Along with England's Mark Bott and Darren Gerard, he competed in the 2009 Maccabiah Games for Great Britain.

Having examined the careers of Jewish first class cricketers and given the relatively small number involved, it is hard to arrive at any definite conclusions. What one may do is make a few observations. The numbers of Jewish first class cricketers playing in England, the home of cricket, is small compared with Australia and South Africa. If you take into consideration the fact that the Jewish population in England at its peak numbered nearly half a million while in South Africa and Australia it was a fraction of that number, it is even more surprising. It is also noted that most of the English Jewish cricketers attended Oxford or Cambridge Universities and thus may have come from a privileged background.

The Australian and South African cricketers appeared to come from a broader background. There does not appear to have been any element of overall anti-Semitism governing their progress, certainly not since the Second World War. In summary, one may say that although the Jewish involvement in first class cricket was moderate, it was not insignificant. It is perhaps reflective of the fact that Jews seldom number more than half a percent of the general population. It is thus a contribution worthy of recording.

From an Australian point of view, the record of Jewish first class cricketers is quite commendable. For the last forty years, there have been very few years during which there has not been at least one Jewish cricketer playing State cricket. Looking to the future, with a Jewish population of over 100,000 and allowing for the fact that most Australian Jews are sports lovers, there is some basis for predicting that we will produce many more first class Jewish cricketers.

Editor's Note:

Australian player Dean Kino played five first-class matches for English County side Oxford University in 1999. Dean is now heavily involved in the administration of cricket in Australia in his role as General Manager, Legal & Business Affairs at Cricket Australia.

No article on cricket would be complete without slipping in a table of statistics. I have set out the Test match statistics of the seven known Jewish Test cricketers below.

Jewish Test Cricketers - Statistical Summary:

First Class Jewish Cricketers - Statistical Summary

Melvyn Barnett has been a practising lawyer for over 48 years and is in partnership with his daughter, Shaynee. In 1998, while President of the Victims of Crime Assistance League, he was invested with the Order of Australia Medal for services to victims of crime. His other passion is cartooning having had his cartoons published in the Australian Jewish News and Law Institute Journal. The highlight of his less than illustrious cricket playing career was captaining Melbourne High School (Jewish cricketers) against Mt. Scopus College in its first inlerschool cricket match in 1953.

This article has been republished with permission from the Australian Jewish Historical Society.