Ryan ten Doeschate, born on June 30, 1980, is arguably the finest cricketer from the Associate nations in the International Cricket Council fold. The South African-born Dutch all-rounder has surged far ahead of his colleagues and is today a traveller who hones his skills around the world. Nishad Pai Vaidya writes more.
The non-Test playing nations have seldom produced players of genuine class. Steve Tikolo, Thomas Odoyo and Ravindu Shah were the minority who justified their status — who fought to stay on in the big league. Then there were others such as Eoin Morgan, Boyd Rankin and Gavin Hamilton to name a few, who went on to play for bigger sides. However, Ryan ten Doeschate stands out as someone whose impact has been far-reaching and has left a mark on world cricket.
There is a sense of assurance to ten Doeschate’s game. With the bat in hand, he has the knack of guiding the innings with great skill and measure. He sizes up opponents, reads the situation and plans his innings accordingly. If wickets are falling, he absorbs the pressure and keeps the scoreboard ticking. If the situation demands big hitting, he approaches it with dextrous ease. Undoubtedly, his batting is his stronger faculty and his bowling is stable.
Born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, ten Doeschate grew up playing cricket and the other national pastime — rugby. However, it was cricket that was to be his calling. Ironically, in 1999 he made his representative debut for West Province Development XI against the Netherlands — a team that was to be his own a few years down the line. Until 2003, he featured in a handful of games for Western Province’s representative sides, but never made his First-Class debut.
Ten Doeschate then eyed Europe to further of his career. A Dutch passport allowed him to sign a contract with the English county Essex and he moved there in 2003 to play for their second eleven. His first experience with the senior side came later that year in a T20 game against Surrey. A First-Class debut came a few days down the line, but his initial days in senior cricket weren’t very successful. For almost three seasons, his appearances for the senior side were sporadic and he mainly played for the second eleven.
Nevertheless, an international career awaited him as the Netherlands were keen to pick his skills. A country that hasn’t produced world-class players wanted one of their own and saw that potential in ten Doeschate. He made his List A debut for the Netherlands in 2005 and showed immediate promise with some consistency. On First-Class debut for the Dutch, he smashed 84 against a decent Ireland attack. It was an innings that heralded a rich vein of form as his next three scores in First-Class cricket read 98, 158 and 105 not out.
The year 2006 was when it all changed. Not only did he continue to play for Netherlands, but also managed to seal a more regular spot in the Essex XI. He has never looked back since.
The last hundred came for Essex against Loughborough University — an innings that helped him settle into the Essex eleven. Through all that, he also made his One-Day International (ODI) debut against Sri Lanka at Amstelveen and scored a fighting 39 as the Netherlands were outclassed. In the ICC Intercontinental Cup encounter against Canada, he bludgeoned 259 not out to help Netherlands win by seven wickets. That remains his highest score till date.
That was the innings he was waiting for, and his consistency reached new peaks that season. In county cricket, he averaged around 40 in First-Class matches and a decent 33 in List A games. Parallel to this, his international career was taking off as he soon established himself as the mainstay in the Dutch line-up.
In the lead-up to the 2007 World Cup, Netherlands competed with the sides in their tier and ten Doeschate emerged as the star. A few weeks before the mega event, he smashed his first One-Day International (ODI) hundred against Bermuda at Nairobi. With questions flying around about the minnows spot in the big event, Netherlands had a mission and he was their torch-bearer. In the warm-up game against India, he scalped five wickets with his nagging medium-pacers, even as India amassed over 300. South Africa, Australia and Scotland were a part of their group for the main round and the two qualifying teams were anybody’s guess. But, ten Doeschate rose like a phoenix with scores of 57 against the Proteas and 70 not out against Scotland. The last innings helped his side seal a comprehensive win over their rivals.
It was evident that ten Doeschate was a cut above the rest in the Associate world. Perhaps, the fact that he had grown in South Africa and played majority of his cricket in England helped him set a high benchmark for himself. In the years that followed, he continued to perform consistently for the Netherlands and became a vital asset for Essex in all formats. His role as a batsman took precedence over the bowler as that was where he could do more damage. He was a part of the side that beat England at the ICC World T20 2009 and played a crucial finishing role in that upset.
As his cricketing stakes soared, teams from around the globe took interest in him. The Mashonaland Eagles of Zimbabwe, New Zealand’s Canterbury and Tasmania from Australia hired his services for their respective T20 leagues in 2010. Then came the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) contract as Kolkata Knight Riders snapped him at the 2011 auction for $150,000.
The second turning point of his career came during the 2011 World Cup. Against a strong England bowling attack, he scored a belligerent 119 to propel Netherlands to 292. It was an innings that truly highlighted his class as he looked in control against the likes of James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann. Netherlands almost gave England a scare, but the stronger side crossed the finish line in the end.
In a tournament where the Netherlands failed to win a game, ten Doeschate was the positive yet again. He scored 53 not out in the loss against Bangladesh and smashed another hundred — 106 against Ireland at Kolkata. His innings pushed Netherlands past 300, but again they couldn’t defend it. That was ten Doeschate’s last outing for the Netherlands as his assignments have spread over the world after that. As of now, he has the highest batting average in ODIs, but majority of his games have come against the weaker sides.
The Dutchman is a regular at Essex, but has also played for Kolkata in the IPL, Otago in New Zealand, Impi in South Africa and the Chittagong Kings in Bangladesh. Such a tight schedule keeps him away from international duty and one doesn’t know when he will don the orange again.
However, he has made a good livelihood for himself and continues to prove his worth in every sense. Recently, he smashed 180 off only 98 deliveries for Essex in a 40-overs a side encounter against Scotland. The man has tremendous ability with the bat and has a sound temperament to back it. Whether or not he plays international cricket, ten Doeschate is one of the best utility cricketers in the world. There are many more territories he would like to conquer with his cricketing skills.