Know Your Associates February 21, 2016

Beware the orange

Netherlands may have stiff opposition in their qualifying group, but their tournament record shows that they're no pushovers

Netherlands shared the Qualifiers trophy with Scotland in 2015 © ICC/Sportsfile

Netherlands were on the verge of slipping into Associate limbo a la Kenya and Canada after failing to make it past the group phase of the 2014 World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. However, reports of their demise were greatly exaggerated: they took down Ireland two months later to progress into the main draw of the World T20 in Bangladesh, before slaying England in a reprise of their 2009 World T20 heroics.

The revival in Bangladesh spurred success in other formats. Netherlands are at the top of the table after six matches in the 50-over World Cricket League Championship. After going winless for six seasons, they have won two in a row and are in second place behind Ireland in the four-day Intercontinental Cup, which will give the champion at the end of the competition in 2017 a chance to play the lowest-ranked Full Member for temporary Test status.

That they have remained a formidable force is in part due to their ability to restock the talent cupboard. Tom Cooper is the latest import to make himself unavailable for the Dutch - after prior passport qualifiers Dirk Nannes and Ryan ten Doeschate - but his absence has been negated by the arrival of Roelof van der Merwe, who after severing ties with South Africa made an immediate impact for Netherlands, serving a dual role as strike bowler and middle-order finisher.

Officially, this is Netherlands' third appearance at the World T20, but according to the wryly outspoken Peter Borren, they have yet to make the actual tournament. Instead, they must make it through a pre-qualifying round - featuring Bangladesh, Ireland and Oman in Dharamsala - to truly make it back. After storming past Ireland two years ago when the odds were stacked against them, it would not be a shock for Netherlands to get into the main draw again.

Road to the World T20
They suffered defeats to Afghanistan and Oman but defeated Scotland and UAE on the way to going 4-2 in Group B of the World T20 Qualifier. They beat Namibia by four wickets in a qualifying playoff to book a ticket to India, then downed Ireland by five wickets in Malahide for a spot in the final, before rain resulted in them sharing the title with co-finalists Scotland.

Will Ahsan Malik be as effective with his reworked action? © ICC/Getty

Since then, the only two T20Is Netherlands have played came on the back end of WCL Championship and Intercontinental Cup victories over the UAE. An 84-run win over UAE on February 3 was followed by a 37-run loss to Scotland two days later in Dubai. After a brief period back home, the squad left on February 18 for a two-week training camp in Bangalore ahead of their first match in Dharamsala on March 9 against Bangladesh.

At the helm
Peter Borren is capable of shifting gears in the middle order to cater to varying situations. A former New Zealand Under-19 player, he debuted for the Dutch almost immediately after completing his four-year residency requirement in 2006 at 22, and has been a permanent fixture in the side ever since, taking over the captaincy in 2010 following the retirement of Jeroen Smits. A shoulder injury that required surgery in the summer of 2014 caused Borren to cut back on his bowling, but he has been steadily increasing his load over the past six months.

Key stat
4 The number of Netherlands wins across two appearances in the World T20 are more than Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and Ireland, who all have three wins each in a combined 13 tournament appearances.

Leading men

Stephan Myburgh
The aggressive left-hander finished third overall at the 2014 World T20 with 224 runs, including three half-centuries. With Tom Cooper not in the squad, the team will need more consistency out of Myburgh, who has only made it past 10 once in his last five T20I innings.

Ben Cooper
The tall and lanky left-hander had limited opportunities to show his skills in the past when slotted lower down the order, but given a chance at No. 3 this past summer in a home series against Nepal, he cemented the role with a career-best 66, then ended as the team's leading scorer at the T20 Qualifier with 241 runs. He's a dependable catching presence in the field, particularly at long-on and long-off in the final overs.

Mudassar Bukhari
The medium-pacer has been in outstanding form recently, taking 6 for 24 in a WCL Championship game against UAE before following it up with 4 for 7 in a T20 win over the same opponents a week later. Bukhari has a sense of the big occasion: he was Man of the Match with 4 for 28 in the win over Ireland in Malahide last summer, and with 3 for 12 against England in Bangladesh.

Ben Cooper was the team's leading scorer at the qualifier, with 241 runs © ICC/Donald MacLeod

Burning question: Can Ahsan Malik get back to his best?
Malik was outstanding in the previous World T20 - the pinnacle being his 5 for 19 against South Africa - but was reported for a suspect action at the T20 Qualifier and has had a rough adjustment on his return to international cricket since being cleared in January. His variations, which kept batsmen off balance, made him a go-to option in the past, but if Malik can't rediscover his best then the captain may have to fill more overs himself to pick up the slack.

In their own words: Peter Borren
"No matter what happened in 2014, hopefully we still fly under the radar a little bit. For us to go through, to be perfectly honest, it would be an upset. I'm not saying necessarily that we shouldn't beat Ireland, because we've done it the last few times but I think Bangladesh ought to be favourites to go through in the group.

"I just want to see us play an exciting brand of cricket because when we get a little bit away from a carefree attitude in our cricket, we tend to not play quite as well.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna

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