Already marked by discord and ill-feeling, the climax of the Dutch Topklasse season took another extraordinary turn on Saturday evening with the announcement by VOC Rotterdam that they were withdrawing from Sunday’s rescheduled match against HCC.
The match was originally abandoned on 15 August after HCC walked off in protest against an allegedly racist remark made by a VOC player against the HCC wicketkeeper, and the points were awarded to VOC. But this was overturned by the KNCB’s Appeals Committee on Friday, and the game was ordered to be replayed.
In a statement issued on Saturday evening the VOC Board declared:
VOC supports the Spirit of Cricket and rejects every attack upon it. On that basis VOC has resolved, with pain in our cricketing heart, not to take the field tomorrow against HCC. We see that the emotions have repeatedly risen so high that [playing] such a loaded match in the short term appears to be unwise. We consider the risk of further escalation to be great, and cricket in the Netherlands does not deserve that.
Our player has, before any adversarial hearing, been enormously damaged by public imputations and judgements. We see that he is deeply affected by this. As a club and as a team we stand with him in solidarity, however much we also regret the course of events. We accept the probable consequence that HCC will be declared the winner of the match scheduled for Sunday, 22 August. We hope furthermore that this will contribute to a positive conclusion to the cricket season.
In response the KNCB announced:
This evening at 9:15 the KNCB was informed by the Board of VOC that their first team would, for sufficient reasons, not take part in this rescheduled Topklasse match.
The KNCB will in the coming days launch an investigation into how and why this decision was taken, and will then consider the consequences.
It is understood that in the past week the VOC player in question was the subject of sustained attacks on social media. The case has also received attention in the Dutch mainstream media.
VOC’s withdrawal seems certain to mean that the Topklasse play-offs will be contested by Punjab Rotterdam, Voorburg, HCC and VRA Amsterdam, although the draw for the semi-finals has not yet been confirmed.
The finalisation of the league table is bedevilled by the conflict between two separate documents governing the competition, but if the KNCB is consistent in ruling that the Competition Rules [Competitiereglement] take precedence for these purposes over the Playing Conditions for the top divisions, then HCC will finish second on the table and will play leaders Punjab, while Voorburg (third) will play VRA.
Confirmation of these fixtures will presumably come in the near future, although in the present climate any ruling on the matter is likely to be controversial.
One thing, however, is clear. The events of the past week have drawn attention to a pressing need for two measures: a thorough overhaul of the rules and playing conditions governing the KNCB’s domestic competitions, and a fundamental investigation of the cultural problems facing Dutch cricket.
If the KNCB is serious about its aspirations to grow the game and to achieve Full membership of the ICC, it must first ensure that its own house is in order with regard to its management of the competitions, and address the deep-lying tensions within the cricket community.
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