Few homecomings will be sweeter than the one for Scott Edwards, the Dutch national cricket team’s captain, Ryan Campbell, the outgoing head coach, and Tom Cooper, the middle-order batter in a rich vein of form, as the Dutch prepare for their fifth T20 World Cup appearance in Australia this week.
Their premature exit from the tournament in the UAE last year, where they failed to beat either Ireland, Sri Lanka and Namibia, fuelled wild conjecture. Lack of quality preparation was one of the main reasons but an unprecedented home summer this season provides ground for optimism.
‘A big part of the motivation for the group that went to Zimbabwe (for the World Cup Qualifiers) was redemption,’ Campbell, who took over as the head coach of the side in 2017 and is stepping down after the World Cup, told Dutch News from Melbourne.
‘In such a big tournament, you have to be confident in the players around you, what they bring to the table, the planning and how you want to play. After the last World Cup, there were questions to be asked and questions answered. We have got much better preparation this time around as our preparation last year was just not good enough. The team hadn’t been together for so long because of Covid, it was really disappointing and the results reflected that.
‘This time around, we have played lots of cricket. We feel the combinations are right and there are lots of guys looking to put their hand up for a position in the team. Competition for places is at an all-time high.”
Since the last World Cup in October, the Dutch have only played two T20Is against New Zealand, losing both, in addition to the T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, where they finished as the runners-up. The preparatory phase in the run up to the World Cup involved seven members of the squad training at the Gary Kirsten Cricket Academy in South Africa and later training and warm-up matches in Adelaide and Melbourne.
The Dutch lost the first warm-up game against Scotland on Monday as they fell 18 runs short of chasing down 152. Brandon Glover (3-17) and Bas de Leede (3-20) starred with the ball before opener Max O’Dowd (43) and Vikram Singh (31) shared a 64-run partnership but lack of support from other batters and aggression cost them a win. The second warm-up fixture against the West Indies was washed out due to heavy rain on Wednesday.
The squad will now shift base to Geelong, about 47 miles southwest of Melbourne, where they will play in the first round of the tournament with matches against the UAE, Namibia and Sri Lanka as part of Group A. Only the top two teams from each group (A and B) will progress to the Super 12s.
One of the main challenges teams are likely to face is adjusting to the ground dimensions at Simonds Stadium. Also used for Australian rules football games, the boundaries are shorter on the sides and longer straight down the ground. Drop-in pitches add another layer of intrigue as they tend to favour slower bowlers just as much as they would aid the batters on other occasions.
‘Good players are going to succeed here. You’ll find a way,’ believes Campbell. ‘T20 is a format where if you aren’t bang on the money, you can be made to look silly.’
The Dutch squad sees a return of county-contracted players in Roelof van Der Merwe, Colin Ackermann, Timm van Der Gugten, Brandon Glover and Paul van Meekeren as the likes of Vivian Kingma, Aryan Dutt, Clayton Floyd, who were all part of the Dutch home summer miss out.
While the fast-bowling stocks look healthy, left-arm spin bowling all-rounder van Der Merwe is expected to lead the spin attack alongside Ackermann’s part-time off-spin, once the latter has recovered from a finger injury. Tim Pringle and leg-spinner Shariz Ahmed could be thrown into the mix should the conditions require an extra spinner.
The batting order picks itself with the experienced duo of Stephan Myburgh and Max O’Dowd set to open with Bas de Leede, Scott Edwards, Tom Cooper and one of Vikram Singh or Colin Ackermann shoring up the middle-order.
The coaching set-up has been bolstered by the addition of Daniel Christian, former Australian all-rounder and a T20 globetrotter, and Gary Kirsten, former South African cricketer and coach who famously served as India’s head coach in their 2011 World Cup glory.
Campbell credited the World Cup Super League fixtures at home over the summer against the West Indies, England and Pakistan as a crucial opportunity to develop players and increase the depth of the player pool.
‘We had to change the team but it is the development of the team that has driven that,’ Campbell said. ‘You look at Bas de Leede and you understand what a difference a year makes. He is now mentally and physically stronger. He believes in himself and that’s what the Super League has done for us: help our youngsters go to a different level.’
‘We have to expose our youngsters knowing that when we play the big teams, we won’t have our county-contracted players. That was the mentality behind it all and when we had everyone available for selection, obviously we go through a very clear process of who should be in and who should be out. The fact is that our county players are still our best players. It shows the depth we have and it’s an exciting time for Dutch cricket moving forward.’
Netherlands squad: Scott Edwards (c), Colin Ackermann, Shariz Ahmad, Logan van Beek, Tom Cooper, Brandon Glover, Timm van der Gugten, Fred Klaassen, Bas de Leede, Paul van Meekeren, Roelof van der Merwe, Stephan Myburgh, Teja Nidamanuru, Max O’Dowd, Tim Pringle, Vikram Singh
v UAE (16 October), Kardinia Park, Geelong at 19:00 Local time
v Namibia (18 October), Kardinia Park, Geelong at 15:00 Local time
v Sri Lanka (20 October), Kardinia Park, Geelong at 15:00 Local time
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