Almost two years into his role as the Dutch national women’s coach, Shane Deitz is pleased with the progress his team has made, but is by no means complacent about the size of the task ahead.
‘People maybe don’t see what the girls have achieved,’ he says, ‘but the improvement in their skills levels has been tremendous, and that’s been our main focus so far.
‘We’re putting it all together in short bursts in our matches, but the next step is to apply those skills consistently across a complete game, whether it’s an ODI or a T20 match.’
Deitz was no stranger to Dutch cricket when he took the job in February 2021, just as the country was beginning to emerge from the Covid pandemic: he played as a pro for the Den Haag clubs HCC and HBS in 2007 and 2008, and returned to the latter for half a season in 2013.
Altogether he made 2117 runs in the Dutch top flight at an average of 60.49 and – although he was primarily a wicketkeeper in his first-class career with South Australia – took 47 wickets at 19.38.
For South Australia he compiled 3753 runs at 30.76, the highest of his five centuries 154 against NSW in Adelaide in 2005/06.
After retiring his coaching career took him to New Zealand, Bangladesh and Vanuatu, for whom he played five matches in the Cricket World Cup Challenge League in 2019, before his return to the Netherlands to become the country’s first full-time women’s coach.
Now he’s working six days a week with his 24-strong national squad, running indoor sessions in Rotterdam, Den Haag and Amsterdam with small groups of players.
‘The ideal coach to player ratio for a high performance programme is one coach to four players,’ Deitz says, ‘I try to only have a maximum of six for a session; that enables the girls to fit in two sessions each a week, which they have to combine with work, study and a social life.’
Time with the players is one of the biggest challenges he faces in a country where women’s cricket has always been a part-time activity; after all, it’s not so long ago that national team players were expected to pay their own contribution to allow them to play for their national team.
‘Our new sponsorship deal with SISAR will make a big difference,’ the coach acknowledges, ‘but the players still have to juggle cricket with all their other commitments, and unfortunately the load sometimes proves too great.’
Deitz is highly encouraged, however, that six of his players – Sterre Kalis, Babette de Leede, Heather Siegers, Iris Zwilling, Robine Rijke and Frédérique Overdijk – have been including in the forthcoming auction for the Women’s IPL, which he sees as a just reward for the hard work they have put in over the past two years.
The standard of women’s club cricket, too, remains one of the problem areas, although Deitz acknowledges that there has been a significant improvement.
But with only nine Dutch clubs fielding a women’s team and fewer than 150 players taking part in the KNCB competitions, there are inevitably huge differences in ability, skill and commitment between, and indeed within, teams.
‘The better players need to be challenged more consistently,’ Deitz observes, ‘while the recreational players need to be able to go on enjoying their cricket as well.
‘You have to define what the purpose of your club set-up is, whether it’s pure enjoyment, recreation, tough competition or building high performance, and then you need to tailor your structures to ensure that everyone is able to get what they want out of the game.’
He is pleased with last season’s experiment of the Under-19 squad playing in the T20 competition, taking on the club sides in Friday-evening matches, but he would like to go much further in supplementing the regular programme of club cricket.
‘This season we’ll be launching a three-team Super League,’ he says, ‘to give the national team more experience of playing at a level above that of the Hoofdklasse, but I would hope to see that expand to four teams eventually, and to be extended into age-group cricket as well.’
Deitz believes that regional teams at under-18, under-15 and possibly even under-12 level could not only build on the work which is already being done within the Dutch Lionesses programme, but could also give a new impetus to the recruitment of girls into the clubs’ youth programmes.
‘In an ideal world I would like to see each regional team with a head coach and a development officer,’ he argues, ‘so that the work the clubs are doing with their youth programmes can be supported both by reaching out to new catchment areas and by giving more talented young players the opportunity to develop their skills through regional training and competition.’
The third big challenge Deitz and his squad face is playing more international cricket against better opposition.
Asked who he would like to see his team taking on, he doesn’t hesitate: ‘India!’ he immediately replies.
‘It’s a big ask, but you have to pit yourself against the best, and I would love to take this team to India, perhaps to play against state teams and maybe even India A.’
After taking the bold step of a tough visit to Chiang Mai in Thailand last year the Dutch squad are ready to take on new challenges, and they face a busy summer, possibly taking on Thailand, Scotland and Ireland before culminating in the European qualifier for the T20 World Cup in Spain in September.
But their coach is thinking well beyond that, to a more sustainable women’s cricket set-up for the Netherlands which will enable this team and its successors to compete successfully on the world stage.
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