Jelte Schoonheim
source: Screen grab from European Cricket Network


How we succeed in life isn’t determined by what we achieve and what we don’t at the end of the day alone. Perhaps it may not be entirely incorrect to suggest- success is also be measured by how best we handle heartbreaks and dejections, which also happen to define one’s character. Here’s what Rahul Dravid said when he was yet to debut for India, a time where despite giving it all in domestic competitions, he wasn’t yet called into the national set-up:

“Gods delays are not his denials.”

The Wall wasn’t wrong. He ended up persisting for that’s what one can do when things don’t exactly turn as per plans, and ended with 36 Test hundreds and well over 13,000 Test runs.

But there is a Dutch cricketer, someone not with Dravid-esque records or a mountain of runs, who took utter heartbreak in his stride and didn’t allow a particularly sad event to hold him back or prevent him from trying further.

His name is Jelte Schoonheim and the Rotterdam-born cricketer today, is in a league of his own, someone without whom the contours of the venerable European Cricket League would stand colourless, let alone imagining the renowned VOC Rotterdam in the all-rounder’s absence.

But facts first. Today, the ECL, a T10 format, has birthed some of Europe’s finest cricketers who might have been left bereft of an opportunity to exhibit skill in an age where the fan is often spoilt for choice.

“Which league to follow for cricket’s briefest format- the IPL, BBL or the PSL, in an age where focusing attention to the sub-continent overrides the cricket devotees’ attention from looking at that very continent obsessed with Football, which is churning one talented cricketer after another.”

It must be said, however, that several great recoveries in Cricket and achievements thereof have stemmed from a space of bitter disappointment.

In the life of Jelte Schoonheim, that not-so-memorable day came on this very date, albeit back in 2008.

A day when a 26-year-old was about to finally make his T20I debut at Belfast, for the all-important ICC World T20 qualifier final.

Having contributed all along to Dutch Cricket, playing for clubs and scoring runs at will and clinching wickets until such time, August 5, 2008 was to have been Jelte Schoonheim’s most important cricketing date.

Except, it was anything but as overcast conditions and inclement weather that yielded a barrage of rains prevent Jelte Schoonheim from even taking the field.

The dream that one nurtures- of stepping on to a cricket field for an international- was left crushed akin to crumpled pieces of paper one usually allocates to the bin.

A medium-pacer with a genuine knack of taking wickets and a hard-hitting bat, Jelte Schoonheim’s dream of representing Dutch Cricket, that’s birthed fantastic talents like the current captain Pieter Seelar, was left submerged in Belfast’s unsparing rains.

It’s noteworthy to note that the contest Jelte was to mark his international T20 debut saw him being picked over Pieter Seelar.

But just how indescribably strange can be the moment when you register your maiden T20I and yet, never end up taking the field, conjuring a record that’s perhaps horror like the movie Conjuring itself?

From thereon, he’d never get to play another international for The Netherlands in an ODI or T20I having featured in a solitary game against Scotland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup held earlier in 2007.

Though later, the talented cricketer would find a second wind of sorts with the ECL of which the Dutch ICC federation forms a vital part.

So instead of keeping his head down and abstaining from trying further, Jelte Schoonheim marched along.

Today, however, one of Rotterdam’s finest exports to the T10 format of the game, is a force to reckon with in a cricket league put together by a melange of a cricketer himself- the very respected Daniel Weston (formerly, German captain), and prominent European business minds who’ve held prominent positions in the realm of soccer.

So implicitly involved is Jelte Schoonheim in the said league that he was in midst of the action when his V.O.C Rotterdam, his long-standing club won the 2019 edition of the ECL.

But it wasn’t just a flash in the pan glorious effort that endeared Schoonheim’s name all over Europe. That he was one of the driving forces behind the great win of 2018’s Dutch ODI League Championship, that enabled his club to qualify for the ECL 2019, was the first stepping stone to the success he currently enjoys.

Cricket, by the way, runs in the family of the soon-to-be 40-year-old cricketer.

His father, Mr. Rene Schoonheim was a dependable keeper for The Netherlands in the ICC Trophy during its 1979, 1982 and 1986 editions. Meanwhile, his brother Tjerk Schoonheim has also played the game that’s fast becoming a central sporting highlight across Europe.

Yet, for someone who has a penchant for painting, admitting he’s no Van Gogh, being a person who obviously seeks more pleasure in lifting huge sixes back past the bowler’s head than being stuck at home, not knowing where to go during the peak COVID crisis of 2020, it’s the cricket field to which Schoonheim belongs.

It’s where he finds his meaning and a hope to contribute to a sport he cannot imagine himself without.

Having competed against the likes of Andre Adams, Neil McKenzie, Tom Cooper, Pieter Seelar himself, whom he regards as the best spinner whilst having shown his craft alongside none other than George Bailey and Lou Vincent, to quote just a few, at 39, Schoonheim is going strong and in both departments of the game.

If you want to see power-hitting in one of its best avatars, then look no further than Jelte Schoonheim’s unbeaten 46 that came off just 25, against EXC, in 2020.

A man with all the big shots in the book and a penchant to clinch quick wickets, it’s about time to cast a keen eye on forces driving European cricket forwards instead of resorting to the rhetoric that the much-loved sport is only flourishing in the Test-playing nations alone.


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