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Oranje sun rising


Netherlands_CricketIt has been quite a turnaround for the Netherlands over the last four years. Back in January 2014, the Oranje were staring down the barrel, having lost their ODI status for the first time since attaining it in 2001. Stinging defeats to Namibia and Kenya, which knocked them out after the first round of the World Cup Qualifier, not only robbed the Netherlands of a fourth consecutive World Cup berth, but also cast a shadow over their immediate cricketing future.

Nevertheless, the first signs of redemption came barely two months later. Clubbed with Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE in the qualifying stage of the 2014 World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, the Netherlands stormed into the tournament proper by pulling off a scarcely believable coup against Ireland in Sylhet. Needing to chase down a steep target of 190 in 14.2 overs in order to qualify, the rampaging Dutch batsmen did the needful with three balls to spare.

Furthermore, despite being shot out for 39 in their opening league match against Sri Lanka, the Dutch were not disheartened. In fact, they improved their game by several notches as the tournament progressed – they came within six runs of toppling South Africa – and this confidence culminated in an astonishingly convincing 45-run victory over England, adding to their famous triumph against the same opposition at Lord’s in the 2009 edition of the tournament.


The Netherlands’ success in the World T20 made them a force to reckon with in the shortest format, and this has gradually led to the revival of their 50-over fortunes as well. They sit at the top of the table in the ICC World Cricket League Championship, the final round of which is to be played in the first week of December. Led by the astute Peter Borren, they are a win away from winning the title, which will hold immense importance in the current scheme of things.


The ICC recently confirmed that the winner of the ongoing World Cricket League Championship would take the final spot in the 13-team ODI league that is slated to begin in the 2020-21 season, joining the twelve full member nations. The league is expected to provide much-needed relevance to ODI cricket, and will be contested on a home-and-away basis, with each team playing an equal number of three-match series leading into the 2023 World Cup.

This massive incentive means that there is a lot at stake for the Netherlands going into the final round of WCL fixtures in Dubai. The Dutch, who have 18 points, will play two matches against Namibia, and with Papua New Guinea (16 points) and Scotland (15 points) not too far away, will have to ensure that there are no slip-ups in the last lap. Even though Namibia are placed second from bottom in the table and are out of contention, they certainly cannot be underestimated.


Participation in the ODI league has the potential to do a world of good for cricket in the Netherlands. For starters, there will be a diet of four three-match ODI series at home against top-tier opposition in the two-year cycle. This will be no less than a windfall, considering that throughout their history as an ODI side, the Netherlands have played just three home ODIs against Test nations – twice against Sri Lanka in 2006 and once against South Africa in 2013.


Besides looking to finish at the top in the WCL Championship, the Netherlands will be aiming to shine in the ten-team World Cup Qualifier next year, from which the top two sides will make it to the 2019 World Cup. Borren’s men will face the likes of the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland in what promises to be a fiercely fought tournament to grab the final slots available for the quadrennial event that has been callously trimmed to a ten-team affair.

The Netherlands received another shot in the arm earlier this month, when star all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate was named in the squad that will play Namibia in the last-round fixtures of the WCL. South Africa-born Ten Doeschate last played in orange colours in the 2011 World Cup, and has since then concentrated on playing for Essex, besides plying his trade in various T20 leagues across the world. Even at the age of 37, he can be a great asset to his national team.


The last few years have seen the Netherlands forge a potent pace battery. Tim van der Gugten, Ahsan Malik and Paul van Meekeren are as good a trio as any on their day, not to mention the rising talent of Shane Snater and Vivian Kingma. Former Proteas international all-rounder Roelof van der Merwe’s presence has bolstered the spin attack, while the batting has gained stability thanks to the efforts of Stephan Myburgh, Wesley Barresi and Ben Cooper at the top.


The year 2017 has shown that the Netherlands have it in them to pack a punch beyond the Associate world. They beat a full-strength Zimbabwe side by 149 runs at Voorburg in June and later in the season held Ireland, newly elevated to Test status, to a draw in their Intercontinental Cup match in Dublin, despite missing quite a few of their first-choice players. The Netherlands finished a creditable third in the Intercontinental Cup table, behind only Afghanistan and Ireland.

After the bitter disappointment of losing their hard-earned ODI status and the subsequent frustration of their successful two-year WCL campaign not being recognized as ‘official’ ODIs, the Netherlands are on the upswing again. With a spot in the 13-team ODI league well within their grasp, and armed with the belief that they have the resources to upset an applecart or two in the World Cup Qualifier, the stout-hearted Dutchmen have bounced back and are here to stay.    


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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