The Netherlands

When we first talk about the Netherlands from a sporting perspective, it is its football team that comes to mind in the first place. However, it appears that the concept is about to change soon, as besides its football and hockey teams, its cricket team is also on the fast rise. Although the Dutch first rose to prominence when it qualified for the World Cup in 1996, it was the ICC World Cup 2003 in South Africa that allowed them to draw wider attention, having given India a tough fight in their opening clash before being eventually tamed by the Men in Blue.

While the Netherlands also made it to the main round of the following two editions of the CWC, it missed out in 2015 and 2019. As for the 2023 edition, it is going through the Qualifiers in Zimbabwe as usual, and to everyone’s delight, it is putting on a show of a lifetime, as it is well on the verge of punching its ticket to India later this year. And how is it happening? Let’s take a quick look.

In the four group stage matches it has won three and lost just one, therefore comfortably making it to the following Super Six stage. While its only defeat in the group stage came to table-topper Zimbabwe, its most contemporary and pivotal success came to former two-time world champion Windies in a high-scoring thriller, where the Dutch tied the fixture while chasing a target of 374 and eventually went on to win the Super Over emphatically. At the same time, the encounter entered the history books, especially in terms of the highest successful chases, although the Netherlands did not technically chase the target down.

Also, New Zealand-born Logan van Beek was the star of the meeting, as, besides his 14-ball 28, he also smashed 30 runs in the Super Over, which is the most by any batter or a team in the tie-breaking over in international cricket and is extremely difficult to be broken anytime soon. Nevertheless, credit must also be given to Teja Nidamanuru for his aggressive, smart and unconventional style of play, which was risky indeed, but played dividends in the monstrous chase, as he scored 111 off 76 including 11 fours and three sixes at a gracious strike rate of 146.05 that is highly commendable in this format of the sport.

Now, the question on everyone’s mind is that where do the Dutch go from here? Hmmm… Well… It is a wonderful question. From what I can see now, a flight to India is very much on the cards for them, having been placed fourth on the table for the Super Six stage, and a delightful performance, especially against the likes of Windies, Zimbabwe and Asian Twenty20 (T20) champion Sri Lanka, will surely guarantee their spot.

However, coming up with a similarly dominant performance against the above-said three sides is a million-dollar question. Although the Netherlands might be challenging Ireland as the next fast-rising associate nation in world cricket, it is still a long way away when it comes to consistency, unlike Ireland, which was consistent enough for nearly a decade to bag the Test status. While it can give a hard time to Oman and Scotland in the Super Six, all it needs to do is put on a similar vibrant display of cricket against any two or one of the three sides as said above to ensure its CWC spot in India.

And, who can help the Dutch scale such great heights as their football team? Well, it can start with skipper Scott Edwards. Although he has fared well as a batter, he has struggled in aiding the side to consistent wins, winning just three of the 14 matches he has led so far, besides losing 10 and one engaging in a tie. However, he has displayed that he does possess great leadership skills, and given the time, he is sure to mature on the international stage. Still, let’s not compare him with Ryan ten Doeschate.

Also, Nidamanuru is one talent who is not to be forgotten, as he has been the only lad who has been consistent in terms of scoring a great number of runs and has been the Netherlands’ only centurion of late. Moreover, van Beek is undoubtedly a decent pacer, but given the power-hitting skills that he possesses, he can well turn out to be the Dutch Shardul Thakur or Tim Southee or Pat Cummins, who can be a force to be reckoned with the bat, especially in the closing stages of the game, as a finisher.

While many might say that giving these players the Indian Premier League (IPL) exposure might aid them in bettering their international careers, it is a valid point indeed. Over the years, we have seen the IPL paying dividends to the associate cricketers more than the full-time member players. The likes of ten Doeschate, Sandeep Lamichhane (Nepal), Tim David (Singapore/Australia), Mohammad Nabi (Afghanistan) and more have gained prominence from the IPL.

Although the Netherlands players won’t have IPL exposure before the CWC this year, they surely can get some next year before the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 in the West Indies and the United States of America (USA).

You might keep wondering how long would it take for the Dutch to reach the level of the Afghans or Irish. But, let me tell you the famous quote, “Rome was not built in a day.” Now, if you want to draw parallels between their cricket side with the football team and debate how the latter was a major force in world football quickly compared to its cricket side, let me tell you, just because they reached the pre-quarters in their maiden FIFA World Cup appearance did not make it a great football side.

Barring 1934 and 1938, they did not make it to the main round until 1974, ending as the runners-up during the edition and the following one four years later. Yes, it took them 36 years to become a powerhouse since 1938.

In cricket, while the Netherlands has failed to make it beyond the group stage in the CWC, it barely managed to make it to the Super 12 in the T20WC last year. Thus, it still has a long road ahead to glory, but it is travelling in the right direction. Also, let us not draw a comparison with football, given that the two are completely different sports.

Nonetheless, patience will get it there, while credit is surely due to the side about how it is dealing with its business nowadays. Until then, cheer for the Orange Army, “Wij houden van Oranje (We Love Orange)”.


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