'The pressure is on South Africa' - van Troost
Luuk van Troost, the Netherlands captain, believes his team will be playing in a pressure-free environment when they take on the World No. 1s, South Africa, in their opening fixture of the World Cup at St Kitts on Friday. And, having seen how the South Africans floundered in their warm-up match against Ireland at, his team will be gunning for victory.
"There's no pressure at all for us, we are the underdogs," said van Troost, after heavy rain had wiped out his team's final practice session at Warner Park. "The pressure is on South Africa. We saw what Ireland did against South Africa, they bowled them for 190, and we beat Ireland in Kenya in our last game, so there's no reason why we can't do that. The pressure is on them, not on us.
"Our first target is to win the game," added van Troost. "That's why we are here. Maybe during the game we will have to reassess that, but if we bowl first and keep them under 300 we will give ourselves a chance. We want to show the international cricket world that we can play cricket, so if we play to our abilities we can play a good match tomorrow."
van Troost believed that the strengths of his team were in the batting and fielding departments. "In the last World Cup we bowled India out for 200 [sic 204], so we can do that with any team. We might struggle with our batting, especially against real pace and world-class spinners, because we don't have that experience. But if we do get that experience, we're sure that we will do much better in the future."
He did, however, single out one of his batsmen for special mention - Darron Reekers, who clobbered an 82-ball hundred in their victory over Ireland at Nairobi in February. "Darron Reekers is a big hitter - he's in form, he doesn't care if the keeper is standing up or sitting back, he just goes after the bowlers. It's a slow track which is good for us, the slower the better.
"Our first goal at this tournament is to win against Scotland. That is very important to us. At the last World Cup we beat Namibia and it was a good feeling. But against South Africa and Australia we've got a chance. If you don't give yourself a chance, there's no use coming to this tournament. You have to back yourself."
van Troost felt his squad was better prepared than the team that played in the 2003 tournament, thanks to the recent World Cricket League in Kenya, where all six of the Associate nations were in action. "We need more games like we played in Kenya," he said. "That's so important for us. We saw during that tournament, we didn't play well at first but then we got better the more we played. We just missed out against Scotland off the last ball. If we'd won that match we would have been at the Twenty20 World Cup as well."
"We've got more promising youngsters and we hope they too can sign contracts for counties," said van Troost, citing the example of his teenaged middle-order prospect, Alexei Kervezee, who has recently been picked up by Worcestershire. "But it's a pity we have been left out of the [former] C&G Trophy because Scotland and Ireland are in and I don't understand that. After all, London-Amsterdam is closer then London-Dublin so I see no reason why we are not in it."
Eloquent and outspoken, van Troost realises that this fortnight represents a rare window of opportunity for Dutch cricket. "Cricket is not big in Holland," he said. "We only have 7000 players, and we are amateurs. It's not big in the press in our country, although last week there were some stories in the papers, which is good for us. It's [usually] all soccer, soccer and soccer, then some hockey and other sports.
Cricket is not even in the top ten for sport," he continued. "It's a pity we don't have cricket on television. We used to get BBC [coverage] but now Sky has all the rights, so we can't get it. It's a pity, because it was a boost for cricket. But if we do well in this tournament, then we will get more and more exposure which is important."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo