Even as the VRA ground in Amstelveen is in the process of reverting to its normal condition as one of the prettiest club grounds in Europe, Dutch minds are inevitably turning to the next challenge of this extraordinarily packed summer, the T20 World Cup Qualifier B in Zimbabwe.
The opposition in that event may not be quite as imposing as the West Indies or England, or even the New Zealanders and Pakistanis who will visit the Netherlands in August, but they still need to be taken very seriously.
Unreliable as the ICC rankings system is, the fact that the seven Associates taking part in the tournament are currently grouped between 18th (the Netherlands) and 26th (the USA), with the three in the same group as the Dutch, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Uganda placed 19th, 24th and 25th respectively, suggests that we could be in for some tough encounters.
Hong Kong and Uganda, certainly have both performed well in this month’s Challenge League tournament in Kampala, and if Papua New Guinea have been starved of international cricket even by Associate standards in the aftermath of the pandemic, they beat the Netherlands in the preliminary stages of the 2019 global qualifier, before losing to them in the final.
On the other side of the draw, should the Dutch finish in the top two of their group, lie hosts Zimbabwe, Singapore, Jersey and the United States, and the most significant match of the tournament would be a semi-final against one of them which would decide whether they make it to the T20 World Cup in Australia.
And, of course, there is the Great Unknown of whether the Dutch will be able to put out anything approaching a full-strength squad in Bulawayo, given that the tournament is taking place in the middle of the English summer, or will again need to rely in large part on a talented but still inexperienced second string.
Of their quartet of county-contracted pace men, Fred Klaassen and Paul van Meekeren were available for only the last of the side’s six recent Super League matches, Shane Snater played against England but missed the West Indies series, while Timm van der Gugten was not available at all.
The Dutch have also been missing top-order batter Colin Ackermann and allrounder Roelof van der Merwe, the latter a crucial member of the side which won that 2019 qualifier.
Logan van Beek, though, is now an established member of the side, consistently taking the new ball against England, Bas de Leede – perhaps the quickest of all the pace attack – continues to develop as a useful all-rounder, Ryan Klein showed against the West Indies that he is a more than serviceable reserve, while Viv Kingma, despite continuing injury worries and a tendency to overstep, will be a strong contender for a place in the squad.
Were all eight to be available, indeed, the selectors would be faced with some interesting dilemmas as they consider the side to take to Zimbabwe.
The recent retirement of Pieter Seelaar notwithstanding, there are also some interesting choices to be made among the spinners, with two orthodox left-armers in Tim Pringle and Clayton Floyd, two leg-spinners in Philippe Boissevain and Shariz Ahmad, and one off-spinner in Aryan Dutt, all in contention.
Dutt generally performed well in the Super League series, his triple dismissal of West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran one of the talking points of the summer so far, while Pringle, picked as a replacement for Seelaar in the final two matches against England, demonstrated his skill in extremely difficult conditions.
Floyd, on the other hand, is a proven wicket-taker, and although Boissevain suffered heavily in the first, record-breaking match against England, he has bowled well enough in the past to suggest that he could be a key factor in Bulawayo; Shariz had a promising debut against the West Indies, but he is a classic example of the young player who could benefit if the KNCB had a proper A-team programme where he could build up greater experience.
It is, however, the batting which gives rise to the greatest concern.
The now-established opening pair of Vikram Singh and Max O’Dowd performed well against the West Indies, and although Singh had a less happy time against England, or more specifically against David Willey, both are likely to find the freedom offered by the shorter format suits their attacking style.
T20 is, of course, very different from the ODI format, but the Dutch will unquestionably need a top six or seven who can achieve strike rates far in excess of what they were able to achieve on the friendly batting tracks in Amstelveen, where nobody was able to score at better than a run a ball across the six games.
The return of Tom Cooper did give greater solidity, and he will no doubt play a more substantial role in this side than the finishing job he was called upon to do for the Brisbane Heat in last season’s Big Bash League, while De Leede and perhaps Teja Nidamanuru will need to shed their ODI shackles if the Netherlands are to post winning totals in Zimbabwe.
Another who may come back into contention is the hard-hitting Tonny Staal, who made way for Cooper in the squad against England but who is probably more suited to the T20 format than the 50-over game.
And there is a strong case for the inclusion of Wesley Barresi, one of the Netherlands’ most experienced batters, who has come out of retirement with his enthusiasm for the game fully restored, and who proved with a splendid 113 for HBS against Punjab Rotterdam recently that he has lost none of his skill in the meantime.
Now 38 and a veteran of 192 matches across all formats for his adopted country, Barresi made 799 runs in 41 T20I innings between 2012 and 2019 with a strike rate of 114.96, and his presence in the top four alongside Singh, O’Dowd and Cooper could give the Dutch the firepower they need to progress to Australia in October.
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