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April 19, 2007
Netherlands' former fast bowling coach Ian Pont has come up with a radical idea to shake up Dutch international cricket. He believes that the talent doesn't currently lie in the Dutch domestic leagues - with cricket ranked only 25th in popularity in the country - and so thinks anyone with a Dutch passport should be considered, regardless of whether they live in the country or not.
"As a strategy for the next five years, the Netherlands would be smart to bring in passport holders and blend them with local talent. Is that good for long-term development? No, but there is a big difference between the domestic league and international cricket."
But where these players are going to come from is a different matter. "There are South Africans, Kiwis and Aussie players holding Dutch passports who are excellent cricketers," he says. "Some are state players, or youth internationals. The Associate countries have all used players not originally from their own cricket development teams, as have England with players like Geraint Jones and Kevin Pieterson. If it's good enough for Test teams to absorb those cricketers into their own, then Dutch cricket should not feel ashamed to do the same."
Pont can't see any other short-term solution given the current limitations of Dutch domestic cricket: "The truth is it doesn't produce international players. Domestic cricket isn't strong enough to support the national side at the moment."
Nevertheless, he is positive about what he has seen on the international scene. "Dutch cricket is on an upslope - there are good young lads coming in. We've had three or four retire. You can't instantly replace Luuk van Troost and Tim de Leede."
van Troost stepped down as captain, a move which Pont thinks is inevitable after more than one hundred appearances for his country and time spent away from his family. "Luuk's career had to come to a close at some stage. He chose the World Cup as the place to do this. But I will not forget the brave decision he made to step down from the team for what would have been his final match against Scotland. He put the squad first and felt the side had a better chance of victory that way.
"This is the mark of the man. Perhaps there are other international captains who could look at Luuk and only admire the guts he showed in that decision. His friendly demeanour and excellent man management skills are part of the reason Dutch cricket is going forwards today."
Pont himself doesn't know if he will be working with Holland in the near future, after the head coach Peter Cantrell stepped down for personal reasons following some poor performances from the side at the World Cup. The Associates have been "out of their depth" in the tournament, he admits, but still thinks they should have their place. "A great experience, certainly, to be treated equally even though the Associate countries aren't good enough to win the World Cup."
But, like many, he believes that, structurally, the World Cup needs a rethink, with Ireland going through on the strength of one victory. "You would have to rethink that an Associate can go through after winning one match and that's what happened."
He would like to see ODIs played with the lower-ranked Test nations, although accepts that the decision of such a dominant country as Australia, for example, to refuse to host matches in an already-packed schedule.
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