From Obscurity to Prominence: Decoding the phenomenal rise of Netherlands Cricket

As the Netherlands cricket team qualifies for another ICC World Cup, we look at the rise of Dutch cricket. %%sep%% %%sitename%%

Soumarya Dutta
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From Obscurity to Prominence: Decoding the phenomenal rise of Netherlands Cricket | Sportz Point

As the realm of international cricket continues to grow further in the age of globalisation, the gap between Full member Nations and Associates has continued to widen even more. In terms of cricketing standards specifically, it may not be the main emphasis, but the significance lies more in the monetary benefits and particularly in the infrastructure.

The ICC, the global governing body of the game, has now reduced the 50 Over World Cup (Cricket's ultimate flagship tournament) to 10 teams, the lowest ever since 1992. The T20 World Cup does feature 16 teams at the outset, but the ploy of dividing it into two rounds ensures that most of the associate nations get eliminated even before the Super 12s begin. As the road ahead has gotten tougher for the lesser-ranked cricketing sides, the "Giant Strides", taken by the Netherlands in cricket, has taken the cricketing fraternity by storm.

On Thursday, as the Dutch beat Scotland in a nail-biting finish at the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, they became the only associate team to feature in this year's 50-over World Cup scheduled to be held in India. What makes their feat even more remarkable is that they've done it ahead of three other full-member nations, who were also in the hunt. West Indies, Ireland and hosts Zimbabwe all had to swallow the bitter pill as the Dutch galloped ahead of them to book for themselves a place in the World Cup Qualifiers. So how have the Dutch, managed to turn the tide in their favour and usher in a new Renaissance of their cricketing glory, at a time when cricket is being increasingly monopolised instead of being democratised?

Historical Overview and Rise from Obscurity to Prominence

Over the years, Netherlands have never really been known for its cricketing prowess. Actually, it has been football that has always managed to capture the imagination of the Dutch public. Cricket, for the larger part, had been limited to a few pockets, and their participation in the World Cups didn't really culminate into anything special until it all changed in the 2014 T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. Holland managed to beat arch-rivals Ireland by chasing 193 in just 14 overs and thereby booked their spots for the Super 10 phase of that tournament. In that phase, they ran top teams like South Africa and New Zealand really close before stunning Giants England in their final game. They beat the Three Lions by a humiliating margin of 50+ runs as they bundled them out for 88. From there onwards, their cricketing ecosystem saw a significant churn where players from different countries with Dutch roots and ancestries started to flood the country in search of cricketing opportunities.

The 50-over domestic competition in Netherlands, known as the "Topklasse", is a fiercely fought tournament that features players from all around the world, including India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia and, in particular, South Africa. A lot of these players stayed back over time and acquired citizenship to make them eligible to represent the Dutch. For most South African cricketers plying their trade in the country, the connection is not just professional but also emotional and one that involves cross-cultural and civilisational ties. The white community of South Africa are mostly the "Afrikaans" speaking people who derive their ancestry from people of Dutch origin. While the two languages are different from one another, they have a lexical similarity of more than 50%, thereby making it really easy for a person from one community to understand the other.

The dawn of a new era: ICC ODI Super League

The coming off age moment for cricket in Netherlands was when their efforts paid off, and they became the 13th team to be a part of the ICC ODI super league cycle from (2019-2023). Being a part of the cycle meant that they were entitled to play at least 24 ODI's during this period, most of which came against top nations like, West Indies, England, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand. They failed to win against the big sides, but the exposure massively helped them to improve their skill sets. They got the better of Namibia and UAE in the first round to make it to the Super 12s, and this time, they managed to better their show from what it was in 2014. The Dutch team beat an in-form Zimbabwean side before upsetting South Africa, who were looking set for a semifinal berth. The game against the Proteas could be called a watershed moment in Holland cricket as a lot of the members of that team including, Stephan Myburg, Colin Ackerman, Brandon Glover and former Proteas all-rounder, Roelof Van der Merwe themselves, were from South Africa. Not only did it take away a semis berth from SA, but it also ensured a direct qualification for Netherlands Cricket to the 2024 T29 World Cup.

Read Also: India's fixture in ICC World Cup 2023, schedule and venue details and semi-final situation

World Cup Qualifiers and the Dutch Cricketing Folklore

However, despite all the highs of the last 24 months, the Dutch came into the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe on the back of a weak squad. They were missing most of their front-line players as they were busy with county duties. Despite that, however, they managed to string together a decent squad from those playing in the Topklasse and included new players like Michael Levitt, Shariz Ahmed and Saqib Zulfiqar. The likes of Vikramjit Singh, Logan Van Been and Bas de Leede won them games singlehandedly as they upset the West Indies in the first round and managed to run Sri Lanka really close in the Super Six stages of the competition before beating Scotland yesterday and ensuring that the fairy tale that they had started won't be finishing any time soon. A World Cup qualification will allow the Dutch to travel to India in October and play the best sides in the world for nine games. On the financial front of things, it would lead to a massive inflow of revenue and sponsorships and would help them to grow cricket at the grassroots and build new and better cricketing facilities in the country.

At this juncture, as the game struggles to make itself more equitable to its members, the Dutch have been the flag bearers of associate cricket. The World Cricketing fraternity is still searching for a new Full member nation after Afghanistan and Ireland were granted Test Status in 2017. With a generation of cricketers who are unwavering in their commitment and indomitable in their will, the Dutch are certainly front-runners in that aspect. It was thus very fitting that a native Dutchman, Bas de Leede (Son of former captain and legend Tim de Leede), produced the performance of a lifetime to take them to the Zenith of international cricket, the World Cup. At this stage, one has to admire, applaud and bow down to this incredible cricketing folklore that has been stitched together by a country better known for its windmills, tulips and cycling prowess. To sign off, at this moment, the Netherlands Cricket stands tall as a harbinger of hope, an embodiment of the infinite possibilities that lie dormant within the heart of every cricketing nation.

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