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March 15, 2014
Netherlands cricket is at a crossroads. There is distinct fear about what the future holds after they failed to qualify for the 2015 World Cup and, with that, lost their one-day international status. This World T20 could mark the beginning of a new era, or the start of a regression of the sport in the country.
Peter Borren, the Netherlands captain, gave a stark summation after missing out on the World Cup. "It's hard to underestimate the impact it's going to have. It's going to be massive," he told the Press newspaper in New Zealand. "We don't know exactly what the consequences are, but I'm pretty sure it's not going to be good."
This week, however, the team must concentrate on trying to earn a spot in second phase of the World T20 otherwise a snowball effect could develop. It is the first time they have reached the tournament since 2009 in England.
Their technical director Jeroen Smits has stepped down recently and they still have an interim coach in position. To qualify out of their group, which also includes Ireland and Zimbabwe, would be quite some feat.
The one encouraging bit of news for them, amidst all this, is the last-minute inclusion of Tom Cooper, in place of Tim Gruijters, who has a lower back injury. Cooper, who boasts considerable experience in Australian domestic cricket, will add much-needed heft to Netherlands' top order.
Left-arm Pieter Seelaar counted Kevin Pietersen and Sachin Tendulkar among his wickets at the 2011 World Cup. He is now a senior figure in the bowling attack and holds an impressive T20 economy rate of 6.21. Timm van der Gugten missed the World T20 Qualifier and the 50-over World Cup Qualifier in January but he's been a big contributor for Netherlands in the times where he has played for them so he's a considerable boost to their squad, hadn't played for Netherlands since August and has experience playing first-class cricket for New South Wales.
Michael Rippon is one of a rare breed: the left-arm chinaman bowler. He has recovered from a "crisis of confidence" last year which terminated his season with Sussex in May and has been a regular part of the Netherlands team over the last few months. He has played in three warm-up matches for the World T20, which suggests he is central to the plans, and although one wicket in six T20Is does not instil huge confidence, batsmen do not see much of his type of bowling.
Ryan ten Doeschate has not been involved in Dutch cricket since the 2011 and his absence leaves the top order lacking star quality. The pressure knowing how much rests on this tournament, in terms of keeping themselves in touch with the top Associates, could also weight heavily on Netherlands.
World T20 history
Netherlands' most famous moment, not just in T20 but of their cricket history, came on the opening day of the 2009 event in England when they stunned the hosts with a last-ball victory at Lord's. Since then, however, life has been tougher and they failed to qualify for either the 2010 tournament in West Indies or 2012 in Sri Lanka.
Their preparation has been poor, with two warm-up defeats against Hong Kong (the first in Abu Dhabi by a massive 85 runs, when they were shot out for 73) either side of a loss to Afghanistan. The second defeat to Hong Kong led Borren to say he was "p**sed off" with how the side was batting.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough