It may seem strange, given that they are defending co-champions and for many they are among the favourites to qualify for Australia, but the Netherlands go into this week’s qualifying tournament on the back of a disappointing warm-up series in Oman and with just three wins in their last 13 T20 Internationals.
A good deal of that record is, of course, attributable to coach Ryan Campbell’s declared policy of giving everyone who might have been in contention to play in the Emirates a chance to prove their credentials, and only to draw on his top, county-contracted stars for the most important games.
That policy, faithfully pursued, has seen 25 players, including four debutants, wear the dayglo orange in 16 T20 Internationals this year, and it will only be this week, when Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate rejoins the squad, that Campbell will finally be in a position to put his best side onto the field.
And at full strength – assuming that tall left-hand batsman Ben Cooper recovers from an ankle injury in time – the Dutch certainly have the capacity, on paper at least, to go all the way, not only to qualify but to be in the mix to take the title.
The batting, with Ten Doeschate slotting into the middle order, probably at the expense of young Tonny Staal, has the potential to victimise all but the strongest opposing attacks, and will be keen to put behind them their ignominious effort against Oman last week, when they lost five key wickets in eleven deliveries and were dismissed for 94.
In the mercurial Tobias Visée, whose strike rate in T20Is this year is currently 163.08, and Max O’Dowd, who has hit 484 runs in the same period at an average of 32.27, the Netherlands has found another outstanding opening pairing, with Cooper (391 runs at 43.44 and a strike rate in excess of 140), experienced newcomer Colin Ackermann and Ten Doeschate to follow.
Ackermann was still feeling his way into the side in Oman and Ten Doeschate hasn’t played for the Dutch since February, but both were in great form in this season’s English domestic T20 competition – Ten Doeschate leading his side to the trophy – and will relish their chance on what are likely to be relatively flat Emirati tracks.
Campbell’s heart must have been gladdened by the sight of Roelof van der Merwe, pushed up to three by Cooper’s injury, hitting a beautifully-judged half-century against Hong Kong on Thursday, since he has been in poor form with the bat in T20s for both Somerset and the Netherlands.
And with wicketkeeper Scott Edwards and skipper Pieter Seelaar both capable of piling on quick runs the Dutch have batting strength in depth and an order which, injuries apart, almost selects itself.
It is, perhaps, in the bowling department where the bigger decisions will have to be made.The squad includes five quicker bowlers, with Brandon Glover and Paul van Meekeren, both of whom have taken a dozen wickets in T20Is this year, decidedly the quickest; newcomer Glover, too, has the best economy rate of the quintet at 7.69.
He bowled with great hostility in Oman, and has almost certainly sealed his place in the starting eleven, possibly alongside Fred Klaassen, whose left-arm action brings variety to the attack.
That leaves one place available, to be settled among Van Meekeren, Shane Snater, Timm van der Gugten,a late arrival in Oman for personal reasons and perhaps the most likely to sit out the opening games, and young leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain.
Kept out of the Oman series by back trouble, Boissevain is rated highly by Campbell, and although his record in his four T20Is to date is modest, he demonstrated his potential against county sides when the Dutch made a short English tour in July, and he is likely to get his chance at some point during the tournament.
He will, of course, be competing with three other spinners: skipper Seelaar, now the Netherlands’ leading wicket-taker in the format and also the leader this year with 15, Van der Merwe, and Akkermann, whose seven for 18 for Leicestershire against Warwickshire in August is the best return for any bowler in any T20 match.
The Netherlands’ first four matches, against Kenya, Namibia, Singapore and Papua New Guinea, are all at the main ground at the ICC Cricket Academy, with the remaining group games, against Bermuda and Scotland, scheduled for the Dubai Stadium.
Kenya, Namibia and PNG are all familiar opponents, but the Dutch last played Bermuda in 2013, while their only international against Singapore in any format was in the 2001 ICC Trophy in Canada, which they won by nine wickets and went on to win the Trophy.
Dutch cricket supporters will be hoping that that is an omen.