If there were no real surprises in the Dutch World Cup squad announced last Thursday there was one genuine disappointment: the fact that Fred Klaassen had not recovered from injury in time to be selected.
The left-arm Kent pace bowler is an integral part of the Dutch attack when it is at full strength, as it will need to be for the demanding campaign in India, and coach Ryan Cook was fully prepared to acknowledge that he will be sorely missed.
That said, there are sufficient resources available for Durham’s Brandon Glover, Glamorgan’s Timm van der Gugten and Shane Snater of Essex, not to mention Voorburg’s Viv Kingma, to be omitted from the 15-man party, and even from the pair ‘travelling outside the official squad’, where Kyle Klein of HBS Craeyenhout has made the cut along with back-up wicketkeeper Noah Croes.
Klein’s elder brother Ryan, who took nine wickets at 25.44 in the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe in July, is included in the main party, along with allrounders Bas de Leede and Logan van Beek, who led the wicket-takers in that event with 15 and 12 respectively.
A four-man pace unit is completed by Gloucestershire’s Paul van Meekeren, whose 17 wickets were an important contribution to his side’s reaching the semi-finals of this season’s ECB One-Day Cup and who played a key role in the Dutch success in last year’s World T20 Cup in Australia.
With Vikram Singh potentially able to augment this part of the attack, whether all four pace men play will no doubt depend a good deal on local conditions at the seven grounds at which the Dutch will play their round-robin matches, and of course on how well they stand up to a punishing schedule.
If we look at the 17 ODIs the Netherlands have played over the past two years against sides they will be facing in India – and therefore excluding the West Indies and Zimbabwe – Van Beek leads the bowling figures with 12 wickets at 34.9, with De Leede behind him with eight wickets at 41.9.
This ignores, however, the degree to which players like De Leede have developed during the Super League campaign and the qualifier; at the same time, no-one can be under any illusions about the challenge of bowling to sides like Australia, India or England.
The same applies to the spinners, where Aryan Dutt’s 11 wickets against the five opponents who will be in India came at 44.8 apiece, although leg-spinner Saqib Zulfiqar, who bowled in only three of those matches, had five wickets at 24.00, four of them in the two qualifier games against Sri Lanka.
Shariz Ahmad has made a promising start to his international career, but like Dutt he is still only 20, and there may be legitimate questions about how well his diet of wrong’uns will stand up against batting of the highest quality.
But Edwards will be able to draw as well on the experience of Roelof van der Merwe, whose last ODI for the Netherlands was in November 2020 and who is more of a T20 specialist for Somerset as well these days, and on the off-spin of Colin Ackermann, who is certain to be a key figure at the top of the batting.
With Vikram Singh and Max O’Dowd presumably inked in as the opening combination and Edwards himself, whose 680 runs at 56.6 across those 15 matches included no fewer than seven half-centuries, likely to bat at six, there are three (or just possibly four) places available for the remaining top-order batters.
Ackermann and De Leede will certainly be two of them, which may mean that the choice is between Teja Nidamanuru, Wesley Barresi and newcomer Sybrand Engelbrecht for the remaining spot.
Nidamanuru, of course, is the only player to have posted two centuries for the side in the past two years, while Barresi showed with his half-century against Sri Lanka in the qualifier that he remains one of the most stylish batters in the side.
Recently qualified for the Netherlands, Engelbrecht averaged 45.33 with the bat in his 58 List A matches for Northerns, Cape Cobras and Western Province between 2008 and 2016, and has been scoring prolifically in Dutch domestic cricket since moving to Europe.
Here, too, the final selection will not be straightforward, and again local conditions will doubtless have an important influence of the balance of the side.
With Van Beek and Van der Merwe and/or Saqib Zulfiqar still to come, the Dutch line-up will bat deeper that it sometimes has in the past, while Van Meekeren showed in Australia that he is capable of adding some uninhibited hitting towards the end.
There must, of course, remain some doubt about whether this Netherlands side will be able to post the sort of totals that could cause their more elevated rivals problems, or whether the bowlers will be able to contain opposing batting line-ups, but Ryan Cook’s squad is probably the strongest that could have been assembled, and we know that whatever the results, he and Edwards are fully committed to showing that the Netherlands deserve to be playing in this company.
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