The majority’s 2nd team this Autumn, Netherlands will enter this year’s World Cup as the sole non-test playing nation. Starting the decade on a high with a series win over Ireland, the Dutch couldn’t convert the high-rise expectations of cricketing fans, losing 20 out of their next 21 matches, which included a throbbing in their first match of the ICC 2023 World Cup Qualifiers. Complimenting this poor form was the fact that the Netherlands were also missing premier stars such as Tom Cooper and Fred Klaasen due to County commitments. Given the circumstances, very few considered them as contenders for the next round, however after inspiring performances fueled by stellar All-round shows, the Netherlands have made a return to the flagship event, following a 12-year exile.
Retaining 11 out of the 15 members of the Squad who took part in the qualifiers, the Netherlands contingent possesses a string of notable omissions, the primary reason being injuries. Premier pacers such as Van Der Gugten and Fred Klaasen have been sidelined due to injuries, with the former being named as a standby by coach Cook. Another notable pacer exclusion was that of Brandon Glover. Although his ODI performances have been bleak, he was the pick of the Dutch bowler’s last summer in Australia and given the Dutch have only 4 fast-bowling options in the squad, one would have expected the management to have shown more trust in the sheer pace of Glover.
However, the most notable embargo was that of star batter Tom Cooper. There had been speculations that the Dutch starman had been planning an international retirement, however, Coach Cook has clearly mentioned that Cooper wasn’t selected on the grounds of “lack of recent competitive cricket”. Cooper did miss the qualifiers but 4 out of the 15 members in the current squad were not present over there, and Cooper had been in terrific form prior to that, top-scoring in the closely fought 3-0 loss to Pakistan.
Nevertheless, the Dutch fans would be happy to see the returning faces of experienced campaigners such as Van Der Merwe, Van Meekeren and Ackermann and are also hopeful of the wildcard entry of Sybrand Engelbrecht. Best known for one of the best catches captured by the camera, the 35-year-old would most likely make his international debut in the World Cup, entering into the schemes of things only a month before the tournament.
- Multi-Dimensional Players: Having players who can impact the game through multiple facets isn’t a necessity but certainly a luxury which various champion sides have enjoyed over the years. Ben Stokes, Yuvraj Singh, and Shane Watson are some of the many players who have contributed to winning sides through both bat and ball and the Dutch are incorporating this very mantra into their playing XI. Bowlers such as Van Beek, Saqib Zulfiqar and Van Der Merwe are more than capable with the bat and provide the team with a very long tail, and batsmen such as Vikramjit Singh and Colin Ackermann can sneak in overs according to match situation and pitch conditions. The frontman of this band of players will be Bas De Leede, who has the 2nd highest ODI wickets in the squad, while primarily batting at number 4.
- Varied Spin Attack: Amongst their primary spinners, Netherlands possess 2 leg-break, 1 left-arm orthodox and 1 right-arm off-break bowler, complemented by some useful overs from Colin Ackermann. If Captain Edwards is up to his task, then such a varied spin battery will prove useful while encountering specific match-ups in the tournament.
- Inexperience of Indian conditions: With the squad’s majority of cricket coming in either the bouncy and lifeful pitches of South Africa or within small grounds in the Netherlands, the men from the west would find it tough to accommodate themselves in the dry pitches of India. For context, the only players from the Netherlands squad who have played international cricket in India are Wesley Barresi and Roelof van der Merwe. For the others, the only experience of Indian pitches going into the World Cup will be a week-long camp in Bangalore and a couple of warm-up matches.
- Clogging of batting position preferences: Nidamanuru, Ackermann, Barresi, Engelbrecht and De Leede all prefer batting in the middle order(3-5), thus posing a challenge to the Dutch coaching staff in assigning their roles. Moreover, the above sentence doesn’t contain the best player of spin in the team, Scott Edwards who usually essences the role of a finisher but management would be keen to give him a promotion so as to squeeze out his spin-playing ability.
- Discomfort against spin: The current Dutch batters clearly prefer pace over spin with respect to their recent outings. Spinners like Nawaz, W Masakadza and Theekshana have found success against them in matches where they were able to overcome strong pace batteries. Since 2020, the Netherlands’ batters/all-rounders named in the squad average 32.3 against pacers whereas the number against spinners goes way down to 25.9. It is specifically the righty off-spinners who trouble them the most. Batting mainstays such as Vikramjit Singh, Max O’Dowd, Bas De Leede and Colin Ackermann average less than 22 against off-spinners, individually.
Predicted Playing XI
- Max O’Dowd
- Vikramjit Singh
- Wesley Barresi
- Bas De Leede
- Colin Ackermann
- Anil Nidamanuru
- Scott Edwards (C) (wk)
- Roelof Van Der Merwe
- Saqib Zulfiqar
- Logan Van Beek
- Paul Van Meekeran
Due to the presence of a multi-utility yet rigid quality of the squad, there are numerous permutations and combinations applicable to the XI.
- To start off, there’s the case of Sybrand Engelbrecht. Having played his last professional game 7 years ago, Engelbrecht was fast-tracked into the squad after solid batting performances against Guernsey. Since he has been included over batsmen such as Michael Levitt and Noah Croes who were part of the qualifier squad, it’s certain that the management has plans set for the 35-year-old, however, it’s going to be some task to fit him inside the starting XI. As already mentioned, the Netherlands have no shortage of batsmen in the middle and lower order, batsmen who have proved themselves over the past 2 years. Thus we believe Engelbercht will be benched in the opening encounter against Pakistan.
- Next is the question of the batting order. As stated amongst one of the team’s potential weaknesses, Netherlands have a surplus of batsmen occupying the middle/lower order, thus making it tough to predict the order in which they will be sent into the field but we have tried our best. However one shouldn’t be surprised to encounter frequent promotions and chops-and-changes around the batting lineup.
- There’s also the topic of overall team balance and which spin combination Scott Edwards and Co would back for the tournament. 3 out of the 4 players left out of our XI are bowlers. Given the unreal batting depth of the team, shown by the fact that Van Beek is most likely to occupy the no. 10 position, management may very well drop one of the specialist batsmen for an extra bowler, most likely for the 20-year-old leggie, Shariz Ahmed who was the pick of the bowlers in the recently concluded series against Guernsey.
The Flying Dutchmen have been given a tough draw when it comes to the amalgam of stadiums and opponents. As discussed above the Netherlands’ batting unit often finds itself in trouble while facing quality spin and the schedule only amplifies this. The Dutch are scheduled to face Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, two premier spin attacks at the Ekana Stadium, Lucknow. Ekana was a sweet haven for bowlers in the 2023 IPL, especially for the spinners.
The average 1st innings score at Ekana in IPL 2023 stood at 143.2, the second lowest figure in this list being 167.7 at the Arun Jaitley Stadium. Clearly, bowlers dominated the batsmen over here, especially the spinners, possessing an economy of 6.5 at the venue.
Besides this, the Netherlands have appointments at all of the designated venues, but Ahmedabad, Chennai and Mumbai. They will face the sweet chin music sung by the South African pacers at the highest cricket stadium in the world, and have the task of containing two explosive batting sides in the form of England and India at Pune and Bengaluru respectively.
Players To Look Out For:
Captain Marvel: The Netherlands have picked two keepers in their 15-man squad. One of them finds himself at the centre stage, leading the pack whereas the other lurks within the shadow, having once been under the floodlights. There’s no doubt Scott Edwards has been the Netherlands’ premier batsman in the format for the last few years.
Since 2020, Edwards has the most runs, highest average, and 2nd highest strike rate amongst the squad members in ODIs. Moreover, he is by far the best player of spin in the team, averaging 53.42 against the slower bowlers along with a healthy strike rate of 97.86, since 2020. For context, Nidamanuru comes in 2nd in this list with an average of 33.25.
Possessing one of the lowest sweep shots in the game, with the bat almost brushing across the ground, the shot is Edward’s bread and butter against the spinners. Line isn’t an issue for him when it comes to employing his favoured weapon and if the field isn’t helpful, he might just go aerial or bring out the reverse sweep.
Usually coming lower down the order, Captain Edwards might need to rethink about his own batting position and take up extra responsibility, especially to breach the spinning maze of Ekana.
Battle-Scarred Journeyman: If on one end of the spectrum we have the youngest captain of the tournament Scott Edwards, then on the other end, we have Wesley Barresi, the oldest member of the squad.
Having already had a taste of the big stage by being part of the 2011 World Cup, Barresi’s experience will be vital for the team this autumn. Most probably employing the number 3 spot, Barresi would be crucial when it comes to taking the attack to the opposition, striking at 109.49 against spinners. In fact, Barresi is the interpolar of the team, finding it easier to play the spinners rather than the pacers.
The Dutch fans will be hoping that this keeper-duo does what they do best, clean out the spinning webs.
Foreign Wizard: Netherlands cricket has close relations with South Africa. Squad members such as Barresi, Ackermann and Ryan Klein were all born in South Africa. Another such player is Roelof Van Der Merwe, who in fact made his international debut for South Africa. With 321 T20 matches, Van Der Merwe is the only player along with Barresi to have played competitive cricket in India.
A crafty artsman, he has been in terrific form across various T20 leagues this year, picking up 45 wickets @15.8. Having the ability to bowl during all phases of the game, Roelof brings balance to the side, especially considering he can contribute with the bat, given his list-A batting average of 26.86.
It was tough to pick only the above 3 players under the heading of “Players to look out for” due to how well cohesive side Netherlands is.
The Netherlands have had 8 different man-of-the-match winners in their last 8 ODI victories. It’s very much possible that any of these 8 players could have replaced the above 3 competitors. We could have included the opening duo of Vikramjit-O’Dowd,(not to forget Vikramjit’s handy overs in the middle overs). One of Bas De Leede or Van Beek could have made it, with each putting on inspiring performances in the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers. Nidamanuru has made a case for him within a short period, and in fact was born in Gujarat, India. Then there is Colin Ackermann too, star of one of the biggest upsets in recent international cricket.
The Netherlands Cinderella story does not have a frontman that previous such stories of the cricketing world possessed. They don’t have a Shakib Al Hasan or a Rashid Khan, a figure around which neutral fans may polarise around, however, they have a side with promising talent on all fronts.
A side which comes into the 2023 World Cup with few expectations but many dreams.