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Netherlands eye comeback to top tier through T20 cricket

Netherlands have been given T20 International status by the ICC © Getty Images
Netherlands have been given T20 International status by the ICC © Getty Images

As Netherlands were awarded Twenty20 International status on Saturday, Nishad Pai Vaidya spoke to Ed van Nierop, the manager of the Dutch side.

Fortune wasn’t very kind to the Netherlands in 2013-14. In the World Cricket League Championship (WCL), they tied an important game against Ireland and their encounter against Canada was washed out. Those games ultimately cost them, as they were placed fourth in the points table and couldn’t seal direct qualification into the ICC World Cup 2015. They had another shot at qualification in New Zealand early this year, but a couple of tough outings saw them being knocked out of the race. The implications were serious given the fact that Netherlands lost their One-Day International (ODI) status and the ICC High Performance Grants.

It was a tough time for Netherlands, a side that had been at the top in the Associate world. However, they now find hope in the fact that the ICC has awarded them Twenty20 International (T20I) status after an encouraging outing at the ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh this year. “We will benefit from any international cricket. Losing ODI status early this year hurt us as we can’t play the full members in the format. We are good in T20 cricket, as you saw during the tournament in Bangladesh. Now we need to find opposition,” says Ed van Nierop, who has been Netherlands’ team manager since 2008.

During the World T20 in Bangladesh, after the last-ball defeat to Zimbabwe, Netherlands brushed aside Ireland to get into the Super 10s. Chasing a total of 190, Netherlands needed to do it inside 14.2 overs and their batsmen put in one of the most exhilarating displays of batting. But, then came the rude shock as Sri Lanka bowled them out for a paltry 39. Chasing 146 to win against South Africa, they had all but sealed it when they need 30 off the last 43 balls with five wickets in hand, before Imran Tahir spun his web. That was followed by a defeat to New Zealand, a game where they fought hard.  But the campaign ended on a high with the amazing victory over England. In a nutshell, the campaign showed potential in the team and also exposed certain flaws.

 

“We don’t play at the highest level so often and need to get as much international cricket. We are used to playing the other associate nations. We haven’t played Sri Lanka since 2006. So, the players have never faced someone like a Lasith Malinga. When you come across someone like that, you watch the bowler and not the ball. That is why the inconsistency occurs,” says van Nierop.

The loss of ODI status came at a time when Netherlands stopped participating in the domestic one-day competition in England, where they competed with the counties. Van Nierop said, “It was an important experience for us. That helped us when we played England in international tournaments, as we knew the players. We are grateful to the ECB to have us involved there. But, it was a hassle for the counties to travel to Netherlands to play our home games. We offered to play our home games in England, but the ECB is now focusing on their national side of things.”

During an interview with CricketCountry last year, Amol Muzumdar, the Indian First-Class cricketer who worked as Netherlands’ batting consultant for some time, said that Netherlands need more exposure. Van Nierop echoes a similar view, “The more international games we get, the more we travel and the more consistent we get.”

Netherlands have certainly shown that they are made of stern stuff, especially against England. They also beat them in the opening encounter of the ICC World T20 2009 at Lord’s and then ran them very  close during the ICC World Cup 2011 encounter at Nagpur. “If Peter Borren hadn’t been injured and bowled his 10 overs, we could have won. We lacked one bowler on that day [at Nagpur],” says van Nierop, “We have made major steps in professionalising game. With the help of our sponsor ABN Amro, we have been able to make a few trips around the world. In 2012, we played the England Performance Squad in Pune and beat them in two out of the three games.”

Though Netherlands have featured in 50-over cricket at the highest level, they would now use T20 cricket to get back to the big league. However, the shortest format is also one way of popularising the game in the country. Van Nierop believes that the shortest format can help them find broadcasters, “It is easier to attract sponsorship for the short format.  We don’t have a cricket culture and have only about 6,000 people playing the sport in the country. There is no cricket on TV, so this may help us get broadcasters. As a kid, how can you start playing the sport if you can’t watch it on TV?”

T20 cricket thus comes as a lifeline for the Netherlands and they now chart their path for the future, starting with three one-day matches against Scotland early next month. They will also start approaching international teams for T20 matches and more importantly, start their campaign to get back into the WCL Division 1. But, they also have an eye on the ICC World T20 2016. “The next step is to qualify for the World T20 2016 in India. Our qualifiers are in Ireland and Scotland next summer. So, that is the main goal,” concludes van Nierop.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)

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