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Scott Edwards, Dutchman from Melbourne, is coming home for the World Cup

The Netherlands captain is looking forward to playing in front of friends and family in Geelong

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Scott Edwards scored three half-centuries in as many games against Rashid Khan's Afghanistan earlier this year, having practised sweeping and playing spin with BBL veteran Alex Ross  •  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Scott Edwards scored three half-centuries in as many games against Rashid Khan's Afghanistan earlier this year, having practised sweeping and playing spin with BBL veteran Alex Ross  •  Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

The T20 World Cup in Australia is a special homecoming of sorts for Scott Edwards.
The Netherlands captain grew up in Blackburn in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, just 25 minutes from the MCG. He went to Boxing Day Tests as a kid. He has seen Victoria, a state he represented at second XI level only last season, play Sheffield Shield cricket at the ground. The MCG is the home of the Richmond Tigers, whom he supports in the Australian Football League. He has also played for Richmond Cricket Club for nine years and won a Ryder Medal as the best player in Victorian Premier Cricket, a prestigious award won by the likes of Abdul Qadir, Carl Hooper and Paul Collingwood in the past.
The prospect of a practice match on the hallowed turf of the 'G had Edwards salivating. But beyond that, the chance to play in a World Cup in front of family and friends is a special moment for the wicketkeeper-batter: Netherlands' first three games are in Geelong just an hour west of Melbourne.
Any thoughts that Edwards is just an opportunistic Australian using a Dutch passport to play in a home World Cup are way wide of the mark. The untarnished Australian accent suggests one thing, the tattoo of the Netherlands cricket logo on his ankle quite another.
Edwards is a proud Netherlands cricketer, fully invested in leaving a legacy on Dutch cricket. His journey to becoming a Netherlands international and the team's captain is somewhat accidental even by his own admission. But his commitment to the cause of Dutch cricket cannot be questioned.
"I've been working with a couple of the other guys in the Dutch team to get a players' association sorted, which has been a pretty cool experience," Edwards says. "Hopefully a few years down the line, when I've stopped playing cricket, we'll have set something up where there's a stable players association for the guys that are coming through the Dutch set-up."
His ties to the Netherlands are stronger than they look on paper. His father Don, mother Cathy, older brother Chris and grandfather Graham are all fully fledged Australians. But his grandmother Tineke van der Wolk is from the Hague. Edwards currently lives in Rotterdam and has a great-uncle and a cousin once removed in Leiden, south-west of Amsterdam, who he is in regular contact with.
Graham Edwards, originally from Whyalla in South Australia, worked as an engineer and was sent by his company to the Hague, where he met Tineke. The pair eventually settled in Melbourne.
Edwards himself was born in Tonga, when his father Don, also an engineer, was on a two-year work posting there. Two generations of his family living and working abroad may in part explain why Edwards never held a tunnel-visioned goal of playing international cricket for Australia.
"When I was young at Blackburn South [Cricket Club], all I wanted to do was play for the first team," he says. "When you do well there, you think, 'Maybe I can play premier cricket.' Then you go play premier twos [at Richmond] and think, 'I want to be playing ones with guys like Dan [Christian].'"
Edwards had not even played first grade at Richmond when he took a gap year in 2015 to go to Rotterdam to play with Dutch club side Excelsior as an 18-year-old. He showed enough promise that the Dutch national team kept an eye on him, but nothing more came of it.
In 2016, he began a two-year apprenticeship as an electrician in Melbourne and played first grade for Richmond. Then, out of the blue at the end of 2017, he got a call from the Netherlands coach, former Australia wicketkeeper Ryan Campbell.
"I got a call from Cambo saying that one of the keepers had gone down with a hernia and they needed a back-up keeper for a tour," Edwards says.
"I'd obviously had a little bit of contact and the plan was after the apprenticeship to go back to the Netherlands. But it's an opportunity that you don't really pass up on. So I went across for that and then spoke with him afterwards and he asked, 'Are you going to commit?' I was pretty keen to give it a go and live in the Netherlands, and I haven't looked back since."
Just like that, Edwards went from being a club cricketer to an international. He debuted for Netherlands in a first-class game against Namibia in 2017, and played his first T20I in 2018, against Ireland.
Edwards confesses he is a self-made cricketer. He didn't receive much formal technical coaching in his youth. He grew up playing on synthetic pitches and had to find a method to score off the back foot because of the bounce. He found a way to become a busy and inventive player, intent on manipulating the field rather than bludgeoning the ball.
"I learned to make runs my way and then almost had to learn the technique afterwards," he says.
His keeping too is self-taught and looks slightly different to most Australian keepers given he is a little taller than the typical wicketkeeper. Campbell helped him learn the "process of keeping" as he had so little formal coaching.
Like many Netherlands players, Edwards had to learn international cricket on the run, but it's a challenge he relishes.
"It sort of gets thrown on you, because everyone who debuts for the Netherlands has quite often just come from playing club cricket," he says. "There's no state level or that intersection between club cricket and international, so you've just got to find your feet, which is a bit unique, but it's actually pretty cool as well."
Edwards' game took a giant stride forward this year as Netherlands stepped up in class against international teams in the ODI Super League. He produced scores of 68, 86 and 54 in a three-game ODI series against Afghanistan in Doha and played Rashid Khan as well as anyone has in world cricket. He admits, though, that his Australian connections came in handy, having lived with BBL veteran Alex Ross in Rotterdam when Ross spent a northern summer playing club cricket in the Netherlands.
"He's [Ross] obviously well known for his sweeping and how he plays spin," Edwards says. "I worked with him a lot on that and sort of built my game a little bit around being a good player of spin.
"I spoke to Rossy and a couple of guys that have faced [Rashid] in the Big Bash just to get some pointers on it. Obviously, being a keeper, I tend to pick bowlers and pick legspinners, okay. He's obviously extremely hard to get away, but I felt like I could compete against him and sort of get through."
Edwards acquitted himself superbly against England in his first series as captain and then again against Pakistan. He believes such examinations will hold him and his team in good stead heading into the World Cup in Australia, where some in his group aren't as experienced as others.
"Our guys are generally quite good at adapting to the conditions," he says. "For instance, this summer we'd gone from playing on an artificial mat on the Saturday to the Tuesday playing against [Pakistan quick] Haris Rauf on a bit of a spicy turf wicket.
"I think it almost works in our favour a lot of the times that we don't traditionally play on flat wickets. We don't play on spinning wickets all the time. It's just about adapting and playing our game style depending on what we get presented."
Edwards plans on being adaptable in his captaincy in the tournament, and he continues to learn on the job as one of Netherlands' youngest ever captains at 26. He has former captain Pieter Seelaar on speed dial, having watched him closely as vice-captain for two years. He will also lean heavily on the experience of Tom Cooper - who has captained in the BBL - and Colin Ackermann in his side.
Netherlands have also added some heavy hitters in their backroom staff. Campbell will be with the group as a consultant, following a heart attack last May, while Ryan Cook has taken over as coach and has formed a good bond with Edwards.
"Both are very good coaches in their own right," Edwards says. "[Cook] has done a lot of work with me on the leadership side, which has been very helpful."
Cook also worked with Gary Kirsten and Christian at Hobart Hurricanes, and both have come on board as assistants for the World Cup. Christian, who played with Edwards at Richmond, brings a wealth of T20 and BBL knowledge to a group that has been planning meticulously for this tournament.
"[We thought] it'd be nice to have someone involved that could teach us a little bit about the conditions and he was the first man on the list," Edwards said. "He's world-class and it's been great."
Netherlands are as well prepared as they have ever been heading into the World Cup. Ahead of the 2021 tournament they played only two practice games on spinning wickets in the UAE and got badly exposed. This time around they have played eight matches in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne in the lead-up. Edwards says they learned some valuable lessons from last year's disappointment and will be approaching this event with a different mindset.
"As bad a tournament as it was, it was actually quite enlightening in how we want to play. I think last year we probably had a little bit of a goal-based focus, where we thought we have to make the Super 12s. Whereas this time, similar to the qualifiers, we're a lot more process-driven around one game."
It is a mindset modelled after their young captain. His entire career has been one game at a time, one opportunity at a time, and relishing whatever challenge is thrown his way.
And like his beloved Richmond Tigers, he'll be hoping the Dutch Lions can roar down under.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo