A FORMER South Western Districts (SWD) cricket development official has made a remarkable journey from the dusty townships of the southern Cape to become the International Cricket Council's European coach of the year for his work in Israel.
Only five years ago Herschel Gutman, 37, was shaping the future of township cricket in Oudtshoorn, where his love of the game rubbed off on a group of Bongolethu Cricket Club players who simply did not have the means to put bat to ball.
Today, he is the coach of the Israeli national cricket team and is using the sport to bridge the divide between Palestinians and Israelis while simultaneously revolutionising the way the game is administered in the minnow nation.
Gutman has also captained the Israeli national team against European associate nations.
Gutman recently took home the prestigious award for the ICC's European zone for leading the coach development programme in Israel.
"I am very chuffed about it [the award]," he said from Israel. "Working with ICC Europe has been a huge help.
"I am very happy that the ICC has recognised the work being done here."
Gutman worked in the early 2000s at the MCC Lord's Indoor School in London, "a real dream", where he honed his talents as a coach.
Returning home, he settled with his wife Natasha in Oudtshoorn as her parents lived there. Natasha was running an arts outreach programme in Bongolethu and that was how he learnt of the residents' desire to play cricket. With the help of SWD he set about empowering them and they went from strength to strength.
Having taken up a post in Israel, Gutman has over the past five years been working to get cricket started in a number of towns, faced with the dominance of soccer and basketball and the challenge of Middle East politics. "That said, we have teams made up of Muslims and Jews, from Palestinian areas and from Israel. On the ground level, cricket is doing its bit to bring people together," he said.