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Sue de Groot

Dutch courage

So the Netherlands missed out at the football. Oh well, there's always cricket

Sue de Groot

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Adeel Raja celebrates one of his two wickets against Canada, Netherlands v Canada, ICC WCL Division 1, Rotterdam, July 5 2010
The Netherlands: calm and phlegmatic (except for the excitable ones who're not) © Getty Images
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I woke up on Monday morning thinking that it was a beautiful day in Johannesburg. Freezing, yes, but sunny and full of birdsong and all those good things. And then I remembered. No more FIFA World Cup. It was all over. I drove to work and saw the same multitude of multicoloured flags, still bravely flapping from car windows and electric-fence posts and even, in a few isolated cases, from flagpoles, and I felt very sad. The players have gone home, the vuvuzelas have been put to better use as funnels through which to siphon petrol, the cup has gone to Spain, and there will be no more mass gatherings in streets and pubs and lounges, no more shouting of "Off side!" and "Get up, you idiot, you're not really hurt!" It's over.

Which means that we can all get back to that other game with 11 players in a team, which is really where we should have been all along. If there was anyone more depressed than I was on Monday morning, it was every player on the Dutch team, and their coach, and their manager, and their families, and all their fans, and all the makers of clogs and orange apparel. No one expects the Spanish opposition, but there they were, brave toreadors charging the orange onslaught and winning.

Let the conquistadors have their day, I say. We're unlikely to see them in a cricket World Cup final anytime soon. Unlike, possibly, the Dutch. I have to clutch at straws here, because I was the one wearing an orange duster on my head on Sunday night (it was the only orange thing I had) and shouting "Go Holland!" - for which I was chastised by another Dutch supporter, who told me that calling the Netherlands Holland is like calling India Bangalore. I wasn't sure what to make of that, so I downed my beer, waved my duster and kept shouting.

I've never been to the Netherlands, but my paternal grandparents came from those parts and one must be loyal. My other side is Irish, and they weren't at the soccer tournament, and everyone knows why, so I didn't shed any tears over the ignominy that called itself a French team.

But back to the Dutch: my uncle Max, now in his eighties and still causing trouble, flew bombers for the Dutch air force during World War II. After the war he was posted to a place they called Dutch East India at the time, and which he doesn't really like to talk about, given that they weren't officially supposed to be there. In between sorties, he and his fellow Dutch pilots would play cricket on the runway, and if any uncontrolled fool hit the ball into the steaming jungle alongside, it was declared an innings.

 
 
Now, there are many great works of literature that pretend not to be about cricket and actually are. Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past is clearly a ball-by-ball account of a marathon game. Let anyone who has ever read the whole thing argue with me. Shakespeare's King Lear is about trying to pick a team. Macbeth is about one guy trying to get the other out
 

It isn't surprising why the Dutch love cricket. There's lots of flat land to play it on and there are lots of wooden clogs that can be beaten flat and refashioned into bats and stumps. Also, if I may stereotype for a second, the Dutch seem mostly to have that calm, phlegmatic disposition so suited to the game.

I've just read Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill, who sounds like an Irishman but isn't. His book is set in New York and on the cover it says it's about cricket. Now, there are many great works of literature that pretend not to be about cricket and actually are. Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past is clearly a ball-by-ball account of a marathon game. Let anyone who has ever read the whole thing argue with me. Shakespeare's King Lear is about trying to pick a team. Macbeth is about one guy trying to get the other out. James Joyce's Ulysses is an epic tale about a lost man's day-long attempt to get to the field.

Netherland, however, says it's about cricket and isn't. It is a rather beautiful book, with some lovely observations about cricket ("There are a few thousand Dutch cricketers and they go about their game with the seriousness and organisation that characterises all of Dutch sport") and the protagonist plays a few scrappy weekend games with a bunch of West Indians, and enjoys himself a bit, but mostly they barbecue and philosophise and try to get their lives to mean something. Cricket, however, even though it isn't played centre stage, is a healing force in this story.

That's my point, really. If I and the Dutch football team and supporters want to feel better about a world in which there will be no football World Cup for four years, let us turn to cricket for succour and nourishment. One of my favourite writers on Page 2 is Rene van Oorschot, who, like many of us in the past two months, forsook his true love for a ball that gets kicked. By now he is probably back at his keyboard, mopping up the last errant tears with an orange duster discarded by some fair-weather fan. But he and all those from the lowlands should lift up their hearts, because you never know, one day the Netherlands might be overlords of cricket. If Spain can win the FIFA World Cup, anything's possible.

RSS FeedSue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter

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Comments: 11 
Posted by katochnr on (July 18, 2010, 15:08 GMT)

ah that was quite nicely written

Posted by robheinen on (July 16, 2010, 13:15 GMT)

@rko_rules. Indeed I am dutch. Cricket in Holland is being played by some 5 - 6000 people, half of them being expats. Almost all of the people I queried about their knowledge of the rules/laws after the introductory remarks of: 'O you play cricket do you?' & 'I don't know a thing about it.' turn out to know almost all the important basics about cricket. However, as I said, cricket is played in summer and in summer we are on holidays, which is 'obviously' more important. On the other hand cricket facilities are getting better and better. There are three venues in the country where international matches can be played. The matches being played currently are domestic matches and matches between Holland - as an English county - and one of the English counties.

Posted by robheinen on (July 16, 2010, 13:09 GMT)

@Scgboy & Jim1207. I wasn't gonna say anything but it seems to turn into a thread on the finals of the football world cup, so I have may say { the moderator allowing for it }. It's a pity that the winning goal is scored after an off side situation that hasn't been signalled by the linesman. It's the second time in a final where this happens. Funny enough on both occasions Holland lost that final. Maybe it will produce another article on match fixing.

Posted by absk on (July 16, 2010, 5:57 GMT)

Sue, you got a nacky sense of humor. Nice article as always. :)

Posted by Scgboy on (July 16, 2010, 2:57 GMT)

Jim2017 I understand the sentiment , but its not 100% true.Individuals ( not matter how talented ) can only help win for the team , but only if others put up there hands as well. just ask Brian lara and co.

Plus to be fair ,the Netherlands were playing very rough and if i may add a bit of dirty foot ball to shut down Spain.So you can't blame the ref for that one.(Though he was i admit a bit free with the yellow cards there.- handing them out like lollies he was )

As for shoddy umpire descriptions, ...mmm Pakistani umpires anyone?

Posted by rko_rules on (July 15, 2010, 21:24 GMT)

Hi robheinen, you seems to be from Netherlands. Can u tell me what is the status of Cricket over there, in your country? Just tell me, the inside of it, i mean do people over there really have any interest in Cricket and people over there are aware of cricket rules or how it is played??

Posted by Jim1207 on (July 15, 2010, 19:25 GMT)

in Soccer, any team can win matches by a series of fouls, inept refereeing and in a moment of intelligence but with lot of hard work and running. It's not so in cricket, it is a mind game combined with team effort and individual brilliance at the time of crisis. World cups in cricket are won by legends and not by anyone!

Posted by theswami on (July 15, 2010, 14:13 GMT)

Waiting for an Ajax cricket factory .........

Posted by robheinen on (July 15, 2010, 11:04 GMT)

Thanks for the encouragement, Sue. I bet you that it would hardly take any time at all to get even the truely dutch born players up to the standard to be world beaters at cricket. So why, may you ask, isn't this the case? We're athletic, we stand an average over 6' and we're healthy. That's not the point. The one sole reason why the we lag on the world stage is the following. Each and every summer we hook up our house at the back of our car and drive to.....well.....any place will do, as long as it is not our own crowded little country. This factor leaves only the diehards at home to play cricket. And as we all know the diehards are not necessarily the ones that conquer the world, although they themselves may think so.

Posted by   on (July 15, 2010, 7:46 GMT)

"...one day the Netherlands might be overlords of cricket."

Let's truly hope so - not just to agree with this article, but as a sign that cricket is popular beyond its traditional boundaries. Given (a lot of) time, more teams at the top level might mean the vice-like grip of India/Australia/South Africa on the World Cup/#1 Test ranking will eventually be loosened.

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Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.

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Sue de Groot Sue de Groot is a Johannesburg-based journalist, columnist and television scriptwriter. Formerly managing editor of men's magazine Directions, features writer for Femina and assistant editor of Cosmopolitan, she is now features editor of Food & Home Entertaining. She wrote the "Wicket Maiden" column for the Wisden Cricketer SA until that magazine's sad demise, and tries to restrict herself to writing about life's six highest pleasures: food, gardening, books, films, cats and cricket.
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