Troubled Netherlands buoyed by World T20 showing
Anton Roux, Netherlands' interim coach, believes his side can take plenty of encouragement from their performances at the World T20, even though doubt surrounds his own position and the future of Dutch cricket.
Netherlands missed out on qualification for the 2015 World Cup, as well the financial incentives that would have brought, and consequently lost their ODI status, potentially making it harder to arrange fixtures. Roux stepped up to take charge of the team after Peter Drinnen left towards the end of last year and does not yet know about whether he will be asked to do the job permanently. However, ahead of Netherlands' last World T20 fixture, he was more focussed on the fact that his team had made a positive mark at the tournament.
"There's a lot of uncertainty but coming into this tournament I didn't want to think too far ahead for myself but more importantly for these guys," he said. "From a cricketing point of view, this has been one of the best tournaments I've been involved with, playing in front of sold-out crowds every night, games going down to the wire, the atmosphere being absolutely amazing and coupled with some extremely good cricket, that's all you can ask for.
"To think about what the future holds, for me personally or the Dutch team, we'll cross that bridge when we get back home. All we focused on was doing well with the cricket and I think we've done that."
Netherlands made history with the fastest T20 chase in the first round to qualify ahead of Ireland as the only Associate in the Super 10 stage, knocking out Zimbabwe in the process. They were then bowled out for 39 by Sri Lanka, this time setting a record low, but then fell narrowly short of beating South Africa before pushing New Zealand hard on Saturday. Those performances have restored confidence after a backlash to being skittled by Sri Lanka.
"It's more the boys wanted to prove a point to themselves than to the public, because the cricketing public back home, after the 39 against Sri Lanka, it was just ridiculous what they were saying," Roux said. "I think we've proved a point to ourselves that we can definitely compete at this level and that to me is just an awesome victory for us, how the boys changed it around and got themselves motivated and fought all the way to the end, that's huge."
Netherlands have been on the road for five weeks, including a pre-tournament training camp in Dubai, and have experienced the full gamut of emotions during their World T20 campaign. Roux said they began their preparations by watching highlights of the famous 2009 win at Lord's over England, who they will play in their final Group 1 game on Monday.
Both teams have been eliminated from the semi-final equations but Netherlands will be aiming to add to their scrapbook of the 2014 tournament. Even if they lose, Roux will depart with a sense of satisfaction. "One of the things that was discussed was trying to rewrite and do our own memories on this trip," he said. "The Irish game was a world record on its own, so I think we've achieved what we wanted to achieve."
England have endured a long and trying winter themselves and may present a less motivated opponent than Sri Lanka, South Africa and New Zealand. Netherlands underwent a light training session on Sunday morning and Roux said it was important his players were able to relax and focus on their own performances as they look for one last hurrah in Bangladesh before returning home to see the tulips in spring.
"I think the challenge is not so much worrying about what England are feeling. There's also a lot of drained bodies and tired minds in our camp, which is why today's session was optional, to get our guys refreshed. In this group alone, apart from our game against Sri Lanka, all the games have gone pretty much down to the wire. That's emotionally taxing, more than anything physical, so [the challenge is] to keep the guys nice and fresh and ready for that big upset again, because I'm sure it won't be a walk in the park. It's going to be a fight to the death - so hopefully we'll be up for it."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here