In a strange but sad coincidence, an umpire and ex-captain of Israel’s national cricket team was struck by a cricket ball while he was performing his duties and died overnight as per reports coming from Israel’s National Cricket Association. The shocking incident comes just a few days after the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes, who was severely injured by a bouncer while playing a match for South Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The 55-year-old cricket umpire going by the name of Hillel Oscar was hit, when a batsman’s powerful strike ricocheted off the stumps in front of him and struck his chest. Oscar was umpiring in Saturday’s last game of the National League Season at the Ben Gurion Park in the port city of Ashdod, where the incident occurred. All attempts to revive him on the ground failed and he was pronounced dead at the hospital, where he was immediately admitted.
The news of two deaths from speeding cricket balls on the ground within one week in two distinctly diverse places was the strangest coincidence in the history of the game. The untimely deaths of Phillip Hughes and Hillel Oscar have brought gloom from a game that is not known to be as fierce as boxing, fencing, rugby or motor sports. While the cricket world was still mourning the death of Phillip Hughes, Oscar’s death under unusual circumstances has made people sit up and shocked in awe. The India-born Hillel Oscar had been associated with cricket all his life and no one could have imagined that he would be claimed by, what is usually considered as, a gentlemen’s game. According to reports available from the Israeli news media, a speeding ball was struck firmly by the batsman and his shot hit the wickets just in front of Oscar. Before the umpire could react, the ball hit his chest and the umpire fell down on the ground. The players and officials on the ground rushed for help and attempted to resuscitate him while taking telephonic instructions from the local MDA station. It took nearly 10 minutes, before the paramedics arrived on the scene. They succeeded in getting his pulse back and Oscar was immediately rushed to Ashdod’s Barzilai Hospital in a critical condition. It looked like Oscar suffered a massive coronary failure and could not be saved and his death sent another round of shockwaves to the cricket community, which was yet to recover from the death of Phil Hughes.
Unlike the players, cricket umpires do not wear helmets because the balls are never directed to them. However, there is close precedent to Oscar’s death on cricket ground. Five years ago, an umpire had died in Wales, when a fielder’s hard throw at the wicket had landed on his head. The Israeli Cricket Association, ICA described umpire Hillel Oscar as the former captain of the national cricket team. The Chief of ICA Gudker has expressed his shock and sorrow at Oscar’s unfortunate death, saying that the entire ICA and its players bow their heads in his memory. Gudker added that Oscar was a wonderful man, cricketer and umpire.
Cricket is not a popular sport in Israel, though there is an amateur league with players from countries such as India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Oscar had been associated with the league ever since his childhood and he was considered one of Israel’s best cricketers. After his retirement, he had taken to umpiring for the sport that he loved all his life.