Netherlands take chance to press case
With the chance of Associate nations competing at the next World Cup still hanging in the balance ahead of the ICC's meeting in Hong Kong during June, any chance they get to push their claims through performance is valuable. For Netherlands that opportunity has come in the Clydesdale Bank 40 competition, the English domestic 40-over event, and two victories followed by a one-run defeat in a magnificent chase against Middlesex at Lord's won't have done any harm.
Netherlands finished the recent World Cup without a victory but not without some credit. They pushed England mighty close in their opening game and gave India a few nervous moments. The biggest disappointment for them was defeat against fellow Associate nation, Ireland, but now those two sides are united in a battle to prove they are worthy of at least a chance to appear in 2015. These recent victories against Derbyshire and Yorkshire, and the brilliant effort to maintain an asking rate of nearly ten an over against Middlesex, should add to the squirming at the ICC headquarters in Dubai.
"More than anything it underlines the fact that Associates should be at the World Cup," Peter Borren, the Netherlands captain, told ESPNcricinfo. "I think one of the other captains said he wasn't sure how much we learnt from going to the World Cup, well, I think our performances so far showed we learnt a lot. There's obviously a place for Associate teams at the World Cup. It's very disappointing they even considered going that way and hopefully the decision can be revisited.
"It's a decision made by those who want ten Full Members and we don't get much of a say there," he added. "It's a shame because cricket in Holland, and Associate cricket in general, has certainly developed over the last four years. I think we played pretty well at the World Cup. It's a step backwards, but hopefully our cricket here can keep our name up there."
Clearly they are not facing international quality attacks in the county competition, but to counter that argument Netherlands are also without some key players. Ryan ten Doeschate, who scored two hundreds at the World Cup, is at the IPL (and will rejoin Essex afterwards) while Alexei Kervezee was down the road at Canterbury, guiding Worcestershire to victory over Kent. Tom Cooper, the former Australia Under-19 batsman, is now the mainstay of the order as he showed with his superb 100-ball 126 at Lord's.
To help plug the gap, Netherlands have looked towards Australia and brought in Michael Swart and Shane Mott. This isn't a side overflowing with Dutch talent, but there is some in the form of Tom de Grooth and Pieter Seelaar, the left-arm spinner, and if imports can make the team competitive which in turn encourages youngsters to take up the game in Holland, then it's worthwhile.
"We certainly aren't a one-man band and haven't been for a while," Borren said. "Ryan has played fantastically well for us but we've had plenty of other contributions over the last few years. Hopefully we are developing better cricketers, but it does take playing at the top level, getting more exposure, to encourage those kids to play who will hopefully one day play for Holland."
It is vital they have something to aim towards, and while an expanded World Twenty20 has been offered as a sop, that has the distinct feeling of palming off the Associates. They aren't asking for a rubber-stamped invite to Australia and New Zealand, but just the courtesy and honour of being able to compete for a spot. ESPNcricinfo understands that, unless can prove there is absolutely no room for a qualifying event in the international calendar, the Associates could have a strong legal case for the decision to be overturned.
"We just want the opportunity," Borren said. "We aren't a professional outfit but imagine if we were and if we played more cricket against the top teams. I can only see that cricket would grow and benefit so to me it's puzzling. I don't know what will happen. It's a big blow if we miss the World Cup. It's big for the Full Members, but they play a lot of decent cricket between themselves. For us the World Cup is the pinnacle."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo