January 27, 2003

Netherlands' bowling capable of springing surprises

The Dutch will be delighted to be back at the World Cup after missing out in 1999 in England. They'd performed well in 1996, and failing to qualify in Malaysia was a major setback. They made no such mistake in Toronto, winning the tournament, while seeming to be the classiest of the Associate members. They lost just once in the tournament, to Namibia, but extracted revenge in the final, with a thrilling last-ball win.

The World Cup squad shows a number of changes from the successful ICCT team, designed in part to bring younger players into the team. Van Oosterom, Zulfiqar Ahmed, Bradley, Gokke and Asim Khan fail to find a place, replaced by Grandia, van Bunge, Schiferli, Smits, Staham and Zuiderent. Zulfiqar Ahmed and Asim Khan, long-standing national team players were left out because of concerns over age and fitness. Results following the ICC Trophy have been somewhat disappointing. In the Six Nations tournament in Namibia, they suffered defeats to Namibia, Zimbabwe A, Kenya, and Sri Lanka A, the only victory coming at the expense of Canada by just 13 runs. One of the few bright spots was the performance of Schiferli the team's top run-scorer; he also claimed seven wickets. At the European Cricket Championships they finished a disappointing fourth behind the ECB XI, Ireland and Scotland. Given the chance to test their skill at the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka, they struggled against top-quality opposition, the batting in particular failing to meet the challenge of international bowling.

The experienced Roland Lefebvre will lead the team. Although it has been seven years since he played his last first-class match, he is still a more-than-useful seam bowler, and has a first-class century to his name. He was outstanding in the ICC trophy, taking 20 wickets at an average of 11. He will turn 40 the day before the opening ceremony, and perhaps age may finally start to catch up with him in this tournament.

He'll be supported in the attack by the left-arm fast medium of van Troost, and right-arm seamers de Leede and Schiferli. Jacob-Jan Esmeijer is an impressive slow left-armer, who keeps a good length and line. Young off-spinner Adeel Raja was blooded in the Champions Trophy, and may be asked to provide spin support.

The batting will be strengthened by the return of Bas Zuiderent. Zuiderent made a strong impression when he made an accomplished half-century against England in the 1996 World Cup whilst still a teenager. He chose to miss the ICC Trophy to concentrate on trying to establish a place in the Sussex team, making his maiden first-class hundred in 2001. He however played only one first-class match in 2002, and the World Cup will be an opportunity to remind Sussex and others of his undoubted talent. Klaas-Jan Van Noortwijk averaged 42 in the 1996 World Cup, and his experience will come in useful. Youngster Daan van Bunge opened the batting at the Champions Trophy, and although he struggled, he is a talent worth persevering with.

The team is full of all-round ability, with Tim de Leede, Schiferli , Esmeijer, and van Troost all capable with the bat. Vice-captain Scholte is a tidy keeper and useful bat.

In 1996, the Dutch impressed against England, but failed to win a match, losing against fellow-associate UAE. In 2002, they are drawn with England, Australia, India, Pakistan, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Their final match will be against Namibia, and realistically provides their best chance of a first world Cup victory. In the other matches, they will be battling to avoid embarrassment, but in the right conditions their bowling attack might just surprise an over-confident team.

6th in group (beating Namibia)

Players to watch:
Bas Zuiderent, Roland Lefebvre