Of all the things Peter Borren, the Netherlands captain, has had to catch recently, a tape recorder probably wasn't one of them. When one such device was casually flung across the table he was seated at, moments before his press conference in Delhi began, his eyes widened, a solid red blush crept over his face and he spoke before he could think. "Oh s**t, that caught me by surprise," he said, with a nervous laugh.
The journalists giggled with him, the tape recorder tosser apologised with a small raise of his hand, perhaps a little embarrassed for having done something so casual and the press conference began. Most people spoke to Borren like he was an old friend, catching up on social concerns, like whether people recognise the Dutch cricketers when they walk around street (No, they don't and according to Borren they may not even recognise Sachin Tendulkar) and the soccer craze in Europe.
It's these more personal interactions that make the Associates so valuable in major tournaments. They remind most that there are cricketers beyond the Dhonis, Muralitharans, Kallises and Pontings, who are considered ultra-human some of the time. There are cricketers who juggle a full-time job, a family and their passion for playing the sport and when they get picked for the national side, their balancing act only becomes more delicate. Their challenges are completely different to those of the full-member teams, who have the luxury of only thinking about the game, and that's what makes them so interesting.
"We are not a fully professional outfit but we have a core group of guys who live and work in Holland," Borren said. "It can be a disadvantage that we don't work together all the time but given the sacrifices that the guys make to be out here, with some of them working 40-hour weeks and having families, it's a strength as well. We've given up a lot to be here so we are quite tight as a unit."
Even though the Dutch Cricket Association has 16 players on incremental contracts, the team only actually works together for a few months of the year. Coach Peter Drinnen said the players spent the past seven weeks preparing for this tournament and they usually get that much time together in a regular year before some head off to the English domestic limited-overs competition, the CB40, and others return to their day jobs. He describes their preparation as a "rollercoaster" which they hop and off in their attempt to develop the sport.
Despite their intermittent training schedule, Drinnen finds no problem keeping the team's eyes on the ball when it matters. "It's not difficult at all to motivate them. It's more of a management thing for me, especially time management. They've got families and loved ones to see and so I have to help them to get the best out of their training. Motivation is not a problem because this is a big environment."
The Dutch certainly thrive off performing on the big stage, and they showed that against England in their World Cup opener, where they posted a competitive 292 for 6. Although England won comfortably in the end, the fight in the minnows was there for all to see and it is set to continue as the tournament goes on."We are here to cause surprises and if people think that's it a surprise that we competed, that's not good enough for us. We're here to get results on the board," Borren said.
West Indies are the next team they face and, judging by the decline that team has found themselves in, it should be almost an even contest. "We've had time to reflect on what was a reasonably good performance against England and we are looking forward to the game." They may be being a bit harsh on themselves to call their previous showing only "reasonable" but it reflects their seriousness to keep improving and give a respectable account of themselves at this tournament. "The other night we may not have got it quite right with the ball," Drinnen said.
After watching the match between South Africa and the West Indies, Drinnen said Netherlands "will consider" using more spinners. Offspinner Tom Cooper and left-arm spinner Peieter Seelaar played against England and they have another offspinner, Adeel Raja, waiting in the wings. Borren would also like to a few others contributing with the bat. Ryan ten Doeschate's century was the major contribution to their score against England and Borren said the rest of team can learn from "how he paced it and took advantage of the Powerplay."
It's this type of fine tuning that they want to get right that shows that the Dutch are sincere about their ambition to keep improving, not only for themselves but to increase the popularity of cricket in their home country. "The better we do, the more awareness there is about the sport." So focused are they on growing the game that they don't even seem too bothered by whether or not their performances will change the ICC's mind about the number of teams in the next World Cup. "2015 is still four years away and we have a job to do here," Borren said.