Peter Borren, the Netherlands captain, was a shattered man after his team's 215- run defeat to the West Indies on Monday. He arrived at his post-match press conference looking exhausted, more emotionally than physically, and he offered no excuses for the batting line-up being shot out for 115 after the bowlers conceded 330.
He's had two days to let that disappointment marinate in his mind and now he has answers for why it happened. "It is very difficult coming into a competition to play Full-member teams when we haven't for a long while," Borren said in Mohali. "We don't play at this level enough and we played fantastically against England and poorly against West Indies and that's the second and third ODIs against Full members we've had in two years."
It's this lack of consistency of high-level competition that Borren says undoes the Associates at global tournaments, and it would do the same to any team, minnow or not, that wasn't continually playing some of the others. "How do you think a Full member would go if they didn't play other full members for four years and then had to come into this World Cup?," he asked the journalist who questioned why the Dutch had gone from a team that was competitive against England and rolled over against West Indies.
The opportunities for them to compete against Full-Member countries come rarely, with Netherlands only playing against one, Bangladesh, in their last 28 ODIs before this World Cup. They have never played a series against a Full member and spend most of their team competing against Afghanistan, Kenya, Canada and Ireland. While the Full members must abide by the ICC's Future Tours Programme, Borren says they make little effort to visit the Associates outside of that. "The same countries that say we shouldn't be at World Cups are the same ones that don't play us between World Cups and that's difficult."
Major tournaments present them with the chance to play more than one Full Member in a space of a few weeks and even though upsets are only occasional, Borren thinks the experience comes from simply being a part of the event. "I think we learn a lot," he said. "Some people say we don't learn much, but I disagree. We struggle to learn from playing a lot of games against the same teams. We need to play at higher levels at times to learn a bit more."
That's why, according to Borren, despite knowing that they may be in for a pounding, the Associate teams look forward to testing themselves against Full Members and judging whether or not they have improved. "It's exciting to play against the world's best players. It's a real big challenge and something to look forward to."
Results have become almost secondary to the Associate cause, especially as the tournament draws on and they've already registered a few losses. It's the small milestones, like batting out a full 50 overs, scoring a few more runs than the last time, conceding fewer boundaries and taking the tough catches, that start to matter. Borren calls it, "playing to our own standard," and he feels Netherlands "haven't reached or even come close to that" in their first two games.
Their bowling has been their biggest downfall. "We lost [against England] because we didn't bowl the right areas and we didn't do again against West Indies. I was not happy after the England game because I thought we could have bowled in better areas." Most of the team practices on artificial turf at home but that's not an excuse for Borren who wants a better showing from the bowlers.
Borren also wants more from all of his batsmen, and not just ten Doeschate. Although he called the performance against England "close to what we can do with the bat," he still thinks there is room for improvement. That innings was largely the work of ten Doeschate and Borren wants to see the rest of the batsmen "spending time at the crease and building partnerships."
The Dutch have had just three days to strategise about how they are going to improve almost all elements of their game. It may too little time to realistically think all the changes will be possible, but for Borren, it's been just enough time to be hungry enough to want to play for pride. "After what was a disappointing performance we can put it right tomorrow."