Controversy over Cooper replacing Gruijters for Netherlands
Controversy has broken out over Tom Cooper's induction into the Netherlands World T20 squad as a replacement for the injured Tim Gruijters. In a video statement issued on Sunday night, Gruijters claimed that he was not injured and alleged that the team's coaching staff "basically cheated" to bring Cooper into the squad in his place.
Ed Van Nierop, the Netherlands manager, responded by saying Gruijters was speaking out of disappointment at missing out on a world tournament and was "under pressure" from his family after returning home.
The issue broke out hours before Netherlands started their World T20 campaign against UAE - a match they won by six wickets with Cooper playing a key role - and the Netherlands board later issued a statement saying it will be investigating the matter. The ICC later said the correct process had been followed and that the matter was closed.
"The KNCB followed that procedure by obtaining independent medical advice confirming an injury to Tim Gruitjers before requesting a replacement player," the ICC statement said. "We are satisfied that the KNCB acted within the ICC's tournament rules during this process."
Gruijters left for Netherlands on March 15 and Cooper joined the squad early on March 16. Cooper plays for South Australia, which narrowly missed out on making the Sheffield Shield final after the last stage of round-robin games ended on March 14, thereby making Cooper available for Netherlands duty.
Gruijters had made his allegations through a filmed statement, posted on YouTube. "I would have played in the Dutch cricket team had it not been for the fact that the Dutch coaching staff decided to bend the rules, act against the spirit of cricket and basically cheat," he said. "Let me give you the facts.
"Fact number one: on Thursday the 13th of March, Tom Cooper became unexpectedly available for the Dutch team after narrowly missing out on the Sheffield Shield final. Tom Cooper is probably the best batsman eligible to play for the Netherlands.
"Fact two: on the same day some teammates and I had talked about Tom's availability. We all agreed that no one was injured so it would be impossible for Tom Cooper to play.
"Fact three: the next morning, the 14th of March, the coaching staff called me to their room. They told me that I would be in the first XI had Tom Cooper not been available. 'We need someone to be injured,' they said. 'We need you to have a scan so that we can get the ICC's approval.'
"Fact four: I was forced and bullied into having a scan. The scan showed I have a bad back. No surprise there. I have had a bad back for years, just like others have had bad shoulders and bad knees. Like all sportsmen, I have learned to deal with the limitations and the pain. In fact, my back is better than it has been in a while. I think I am in the best form possible for this tournament."
In response, Nierop said Gruijters' fitness was being tracked from the start of the month, and that there had been issues with his back for some time. "There were doubts about his mobility from early March," Nierop said. "I was present at the MRI scan and even the medical staff said that he was in really bad pain. There were clear, visible issues in his lower back. And we will be playing three matches in five days.
"Our new High Performance Manager, Roland Lefebvre, said this boy cannot move and we should monitor it. He has been monitored ever since we set foot on Emirates soil [earlier this month for training]. The medical staff said we should have him tested. The MRI at Chittagong Hospital was done by independent doctors and we went by their advice. We have followed all due procedures."
Nierop said Gruijters' scan and Cooper's concurrent availability were only coincidental. "You have to understand that in Netherlands cricket, we cannot pick 15 super players off the shelf for an event like this. We have a very limited number of players. We could not have replaced him as simply as that. It is just that his injury replacement coincided with the availability of Tom Cooper."
When asked whether there would be any action taken against Gruijters for his outburst, Nierop said he would leave that to the Netherlands cricket board to decide. The board admitted it had two different versions of the incident and so would be investigating it.
"The account of Tim Gruijters himself regarding the course of events differs from the account of the team management in Bangladesh. Those present there are coach Anton Roux, KNCB technical director Roland Lefebvre, physiotherapist Jan Stappenbelt and team manager Ed van Nierop," it said in a statement. "The KNCB board has as a result of the current controversy initiated an investigation and shall take evidence from all the relevant parties in order to gain understanding of the course of events."