Notes from a Dutch adventure
Sport produces a spectrum of emotions: joy, hope, expectation, disappointment, anxiety, embarrassment. In a global competition, those feelings are distilled to their most intense. Cricket's Associates only experience this on rare occasions. The 2014 World T20 gave Netherlands the opportunity to immerse themselves in the big time. Their coach, Anton Roux, called it "by far the best tournament that I have been involved in". This is his team's journey seen through his eyes.
We kicked off the tour in Dubai and I began with a presentation that asked: When you think of Dutch cricket what springs to mind? For me, it is two things: the colour orange and the victory against England.
My message was that at the end of this World T20, if you ask people what they think about Dutch cricket, they must think about something new. I wanted us to create something extra special that people could remember us by.
The first game
This was a revenge match for us because we didn't do too well against UAE in the qualifiers in New Zealand earlier in the year. The pressure in those qualifiers is almost bigger than a World Cup, because there is a lot of funding riding on those games, and doing badly there really affected us.
We did not qualify for the 2015 World Cup and we lost ODI status, so we wanted to do much better in Bangladesh. We based the bulk of our preparation around getting ready for the first game. We played five games in Dubai, three under lights, to prepare for the UAE match. We beat them convincingly, as we had planned.
Defeat against Zimbabwe
When Associates play Full Members, I feel one of the ways to put up a good show is in the field. We really did ourselves proud in that department. Peter Borren was outstanding in the way he managed the players, and Tom Cooper played a more responsible role with the bat, but we still thought we were about 15 runs short.
Before the tournament we had worked on putting together 12 key performance indicators and we worked out that if we could win 45% to 50% of those and push the game as far as possible, anything could happen. Pressure is a wonderful thing. That's what we did with this game. We dragged it out.
Last-ball defeats are always tough to take. You feel like you should have won. It's so easy to reflect and find that extra run or extra ball. But from a coaching and spectators point of view, I thought that game was a really good showing on the world stage.
I don't have team chats after the game, because either we are celebrating a good win, or there are a lot of emotions involved if we've lost, but I felt it important for me to say something to the team after that game. It's easy to feel down and out when you lose close games. I was very happy by how close we took it and I wanted to remind the guys there was another game left. It was a clear, simple message of forgetting that match as soon as possible and refocusing.
Getting ready for Ireland
In tournaments like these, I don't get much sleep because I do a lot of preparatory work. I was up until about 4am or 5am, going through footage and game plans ahead of our team discussion in the morning. Sometimes the video analyst and I would order coffee or tea from room service while we worked, and when it was delivered and the waiter saw we were watching cricket, he would join us. So there we were, three people watching cricket clips in the early hours of the morning.
I got up at 6:30 and wrote a personal note to each player, trying to motivate them as much as I could. It contained some personal stuff and some stuff about what they had achieved in the past. It was about getting the guys to believe that they could win.
To Peter Borren, I wrote, "Keep going and do whatever you've has been doing so far," and then I added, "PS: You are opening the batting."
The big game
Up until the 13th over in the field, we'd played good cricket but then we conceded heavily. After the Irish innings, the boys went straight into the change room. I took a bit longer because I felt a bit aggrieved by the way we had gone about our business. It reminded me of a game against Kenya in New Zealand earlier in the year, where nothing we tried went our way. I had to gather my thoughts and slowly made my way into the change room.
Once I got there, the team song was on, pumping, and the boys were getting ready to go. Stephan Myburgh said, "We've come here to qualify", so I knew he was going to go for it from ball one.
The one thing we said was that we would go hard for the first six overs and see where we were and reassess. When we broke the world record for most runs in a Powerplay, I knew we were on track to cause a big upset.
If we had to play that game here in Holland in front of 20 people and their dogs, I don't think it would have been possible. But that was a sellout crowd of 15,000 and the DJ booth was pumping. I got the 13th man, Vivian Kingma, next to me and we wrote down on a white board how many balls left and the runs we needed.
There are two shots I remember: Ben Cooper's six off Kevin O'Brien, and Wesley Barresi's to finish the game. I think that ball is still travelling. Everyone was so caught up in the moment that no one measured the distance of that last six. That was a monster.
After this game, we got into our huddle and sang the team song as loud as we could. The walls were reverberating. Our sponsor sponsored us some time in the bar, and quite a few of the Dutch supporters came back to the hotel. All the people that were there from the embassy had never watched a game of cricket in their lives before. Our guys told them they should never watch another game again because they'd just seen the greatest chase in T20 history.
Heading to the Super 10s
We were on one of the first flights out of Sylhet to Chittagong, so our focus had to switch quite quickly. I had a good individual chat with each player and I wanted to find out what they wanted to achieve. We came up with team goals as well, and a blueprint of how we wanted to play.
Facing teams like Sri Lanka and South Africa was not only daunting but a good challenge to see where we are on the world stage. I also have New Zealand as my outside favourites to win the 2015 World Cup - they are an extremely good limited-overs side - so potentially we had three winners in our pool. That was amazing. Take nothing away from England, but we didn't see them as big a threat.
We also knew we were not only playing for ourselves but for our brothers in the Associate world, and we wanted to do them proud as well.
When we were based in Chittagong for the warm-up phase we had a group of net bowlers who bowled to us all the time, and when we left I gave them all Dutch shirts. When we came back, they came to bowl at us in those shirts. We thought that was quite cool. And we heard they were wearing their Dutch shirts when they were bowling to South Africa and New Zealand as well.
Thirty-nine all out
At hurricane speed everything was moving in. It was important to bring ourselves down from that high to a level where we knew we had to compete again. The only thing I was focused on was to bring the boys to a place where they had to refocus their minds.
We knew that in Sri Lanka we were up against some of the best T20 players in the world. It's not as though we went into the game with lights in our eyes, but it didn't go well. Myburgh went after a short ball and had it gone two or three metres either way, it could have been six and it could have been a different game. But that wicket triggered a few quick wickets and Sri Lanka were ruthless.
When we were bowled out for 39 we were extremely embarrassed. I didn't have to say much because the writing was on the scoreboard.
After that game there was a lot of response from back home. It was harsh stuff. But one of my mates tweeted me saying, there are not many teams who have broken two world records in the space of 48 hours. That was pretty funny and I used that as the stepping stone of my chat.
I took the players separately to the top of the grandstands and we had a good look at the ground from up there. I told them: we've taken Dutch cricket to a very high level and we can feel proud of ourselves already, and that what happened against Sri Lanka was a one-off thing. It was up to us to pick ourselves up.
The game South Africa didn't win
It got to a stage where everyone was sitting on the side of the field and we thought we were going to win. I don't know if the moment was too big for us. But that game, South Africa did not win. We lost it. That was the hard thing to take.
To lose that game the way we did was heartbreaking. It's all about who handles the pressure a little bit better. South Africa have been in those situations a lot more than we have on the world stage, and they came out trumps. If we played the game again and we were in the same position, nine times out of ten we would win.
Borren knew them quite well and had been working up towards the game just as much as I had for the South Africa game. I allowed him a little more rope for this game and allowed him to go about things the way he wanted to. We showed we had earned the right to be in the Super 10s. We were searching for the win and Peter kept saying: if we keep going, it's only a matter of time. We could also sense from the crowd that we were becoming a favourite. Everyone was building up the expectation and wanted us to get a victory.
Building up to England
South Africa had just beaten England and we staying in the same hotel as the South African team. The night before they left for the semi-final, Faf du Plessis and I had a few drinks in his room and we called in all the boys. We were sharing stories. Timm van der Gugten was sitting next to Dale Steyn. Guys were asking ten million questions to David Miller. Hashim Amla was amazing in the way he interacted with our guys. It was wonderful not only to talk cricket but also talk life.
The day before the England game, I gave the whole squad time off. That night, I ordered 30 pizzas from Pizza Hut and set up a big screen in the team room. We watched the DVD of our chase against Ireland. It was so good to relive the moments. It got us energised and motivated for the next day.
England : a sense of accomplishment
Before the match, I was asked whether I thought England would have one foot on the plane and I said I didn't care how they felt. I didn't care if they were uninterested or not. I cared about getting a victory on the world stage for us.
Beating them the way we did was very special. The two wins, in 2009 and now in 2014, were very different. In 2009, it was a shock and surprise, but the way we were playing in this tournament, it was only a matter of time. It was a sense of accomplishment for us.
Seeing the look on their faces afterwards gave us a lot of satisfaction. We celebrated in typical Dutch style and sang the team song. Some guys' voices were a bit croaky the next morning.
We were whisked off quickly again. Some guys were going back to the countries of their birth, some on holiday, so we all said goodbye in Dhaka. I left feeling proud of every person in that team. It shows that hard work and belief does pay off.
The best moments
One of our reserves, Tom Heggelman, had the responsibility of recording as much footage of us as he could with his goPro, and our analyst, Frank, is going to put that into a little movie for us. I'm sure those images will live with us for a long time. I'm grateful I gave him the opportunity to record footage, because TV footage doesn't always give you the sense of being in the team.
One day I put the guys in pairs and said each had to buy the other a gift to remember the World T20 by, and when they exchanged presents, they had to explain what they chose and why. There was a bit of thought that went into the gifts and speeches. Some guys even did Powerpoint presentations, with a bit of music. Myburgh bought Borren a very nice pen and told him he should use it to rewrite Dutch cricket history.
Maybe next time we can come back with two wins. A lot of it goes down to funding. This team is a family and they want to stick together for as long as possible. We're not done yet.