Netherlands go from WT20 bliss back to limbo
The Dutch delight has dissipated. Peter Borren and his men have returned home to an uncertain cricketing landscape and they are not the only ones unsure of what comes next. The game's administrators will only decide on the structure for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup, and by implication the furture of the World Cricket League (WCL) Championship, at either the ICC's April or June meetings - that means at least another few months in limbo.
The WCL, which was played alongside the first-class Intercontinental Cup, featured the top eight Associate and Affiliate teams and provided the pathway to playing with the big boys. The teams that finished in the top two of the seven-round 50-overs competition automatically qualified for next year's World Cup. The others were given a second opportunity at a qualifier tournament in New Zealand in January, which filled the final two places at the World Cup.
Netherlands are not among the four non-Full Member teams that will play at the 2015 event, and for them that has wider implications than simply missing out on a major tournament. January's qualifier tournament also decided which teams were awarded ODI status for the next four years. The four teams who played in the semi-finals were given that honour. None of Netherlands, Canada or Kenya were among them. As a result, they relinquished their ODI status to UAE, Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, who were all in the semis.
As a result none of Netherlands, Canada or Kenya will receive the US$1 million provided to the countries who participate in the World Cup. That money comes from the ICC's High Performance Programme which, for the next nine months, will be focused on the World Cup and providing support to the countries that will compete there. "It's a pretty competitive process [to decide who gets that money]," Tim Anderson, the ICC's global development manager, told ESPNcricinfo. "And it's not to say that money is now gone, it is being received somewhere else."
Netherlands, Canada and Kenya will still receive funding from the ICC, like other Associates and Affiliates, but losing out on US$1 million is a major financial setback for them and they know it. "We shot ourselves in the foot in New Zealand. We're not really sure what the ICC are going to decide," Peter Borren said during the Dutch campaign at the World T20.
The ICC's decision can only be made by the board, who will meet to iron out the details of their revamp over the next three months. It may mean that Netherlands have to wait until qualification for the 2019 World Cup starts to try and regain their place among the top six Associates. But the ICC board could also decide on something completely different and one of the ideas being mooted is to play more bilateral series among the Associates and decide the World Cup places through a rankings system.
By the time that comes around, Netherlands will hope not to have lost too many players to full-time employment elsewhere. Currently, the board contracts players but Borren feared that could change because of a lack of funds. "We might not have much cricket on the radar and we may have to go and find a job," he said.
What Netherlands have for now is a sponsor in ABN-AMRO - a bank - and a new tournament to look forward to, albeit a franchise one; on Tuesday, Cricket Scotland and the Dutch board announced a new joint venture: the North Sea Pro Series. The event will feature four franchise teams from the two countries, which will play in a 50-overs and 20-overs tournament between May and June.
It will be financially supported by the ICC's Targeted Assistance Performance Programme and the game's global body is pleased with the initiative shown by the two countries. "We always encourage our members to play among each other whenever they can, so something like this is great for development," Anderson said.
For the two countries, the event will compensate for neither participating in English domestic cricket this summer, as they have done in the past. "With no Scottish or Dutch involvement in English domestic competitions this year, this partnership is an ideal opportunity for us to stand on our own two feet and begin to develop a strong domestic professional competition for our best cricketers," Andy Tennant, Cricket Scotland's performance director, said.
The Dutch also hope it can help prepare their players for bigger challenges. "These matches, together with our own Hurricanes v Seafarers games in-country, will go a long way in bridging the gap between club cricket and the international game," Richard Cox, Netherlands' CEO, said. But in what form they will play the international game is yet to be decided.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent