The plans for the 2015 World Cup may be the bullet with the Netherlands’ name on it, but for now, Group B awaits probably one of the most competent of the Associate nations. 2007 was a horror show as they conceded more than 350 against Australia and South Africa, whilst a steamrollering of Scotland was the only consolation. Four years on, the Netherlands boast a batting line up that will prove difficult to break down by all but the best bowling attacks. A win against the Irish will be the least that the Dutch will want to come away with from their group, and the ambitious amongst them will look upon the fixtures against West Indies and Bangladesh with genuine hope.
The Netherlands remain a team that continually frustrate. When placed on a big stage such as Lord’s in 2009, they can send shockwaves through International cricket. Stick them in Group C of the English domestic one day competition and they are unable to win a game. They lack consistency, which is to be expected from a team who have just three players on central contracts, though the increase in Dutch players in domestic professional leagues is certainly a step up.
Battingwise, the Netherlands probably look the strongest out of the Associate nations. Though not finalised yet, it appears highly likely that the entire top six or seven of the XI that play the first group game will be professional cricketers. Of these, probably the most exciting is Alexei Kervezee. After finding his feet with a couple of fifties in the Championship in 2009, Kervezee opened up in 2010, quickly establishing himself as an exciting heavy run scorer. Whilst his form will benefit the Netherlands, it will be the experience he has gained these last 12 months that will prove the most valuable. It appears that the national side are keen to use him as an opener though he could arguably make more of an impact at three or four. Kervezee will be joined in the top four by South Australia’s Tom Cooper, a compact player who will again enhance the batting line up due to his State level training. Combined with Szwarczynski and the seemingly ageless Bas Zuiderent and the Netherlands possess a top four that is not just experienced but carries some serious clout.
Not as much clout though as one of the finest allrounders in the current game, Ryan ten Doeschate. Clearly such praise cannot be taken lightly but ten Doeschate is a world class player. He’s as equally adept at taking five wickets as he is at scoring a century at more than a run a ball. Rumours that England are keen on taking advantage of ten Doeschate’s residence in Essex speak more than enough, and it’s fair to say that the Netherlands’ overall performance this World Cup rests solely on the allrounder’s shoulders.
On the bowling front the loss of Mark Jonkman places more emphasis on the spinners in the squad. Jonkman had the pace to be a threat on the Subcontinental wickets but as it is the right arm – left arm spin pairing of Adeel Raja or Mohammad Kashif, and Pieter Seelaar will have to bowl 20 overs between them match in, match out. The Netherlands’ bowling stocks look weak, and it seems that much of the bowling will have to be taken on by the allrounders in the side.
The XI would be: Szwarczynski, Kervezee, Cooper, Zuiderent, ten Doeschate, Borren (c), Bukhari, Barresi (wk), Seelaar, Raja, Kruger.
Obviously this is would mean leaving out Tom de Grooth at the top of the order but the lack of bowling options means that Bukhari should come into the side. What was lost in the openers in terms of firepower by the retirement of Darron Reekers has been more than replaced by the talent and class of Kervezee and Cooper. Peter Borren is a good choice as captain given the relative safety of his place in the side, whilst the addition of the three players who play professionally in England and Australia can only help to improve the skill level of the team. The Netherlands will certainly not reach the final of the World Cup, and barring some amazing performances one cannot see them progressing beyond the group stages. However that certainly does not mean that they should be labelled as whipping boys like they were four years ago.
Cricket in the Netherlands has come a long way since Herschelle Gibbs hit Dan van Bunge for 36 in one over. Making up the numbers again this time around? I wouldn’t be too sure of that.
Preview by Josh Taylor