Edited from the Encyclopedia of World Cricket by Roy Morgan
Cricket was observed being played in the Netherlands in the 1780s by an English traveller during a visit to Scheveningen. Since Thomas Hope, a merchant from Amsterdam also noted that cricket was an important recreational activity of the Dutch community in Rome in the 1790s, it seems reasonable to infer that the game must have been established in the Netherlands by the late 18th century, at least among a small group of the population.
It is likely that the game was introduced by English traders and by Dutch merchants who travelled to England. Take-up must have been limited, however, because the next reference to cricket is not until 1845 when the game was recorded as being played by pupils at a boarding school at Noorthey. In the following year, cricket was recorded at the University of Utrecht where it was played mainly by students from South Africa. The first cricket club in The Netherlands was formed at Noorthey in 1857.
The growth of cricket remained slow until the mid-1870s after which many clubs were formed in the space of a few years. Generally they were from aristocratic families with English connections through family or trade. The Anglicising influence was particularly important because it meant that cricket was imported along with its Victorian values of fair play, amateurism and exclusivity.
The Utile Dulci club at Deventer was formed in 1875. This was followed in 1878 by the Haagsche Cricket Club and in 1881 by Rood en Wit in Haarlem. By 1888 there were 18 clubs in The Netherlands with some 300 players. Some were very exclusive and restricted membership to those educated at particular types of school. The clubs played cricket to their own rules which did not always correspond to those of the MCC. In Deventer, for example, it was considered unfair to score runs by hitting the ball behind the wicket. In 1881, Uxbridge CC made the first visit to the Netherlands by an overseas side and beat a representative Dutch XXII by an innings and 45 runs.
It was clear that some central coordination was required. In 1883, the Nederlandsche Cricket Bond was founded. In 1958, it was granted the royal title, Koninklijke, by Queen Juliana, and became the KNCB. When responsibility for English cricket was transferred from the MCC to the Test and County Cricket Board in 1977, the KNCB became the oldest of the surviving national cricket bodies.
At the time the NCB was formed, standards were low. Most of the bowling was underarm and matches were played on any reasonably level piece of ground that could be found. Wickets were rarely prepared and therefore extremely rough and dangerous. In 1899, in order to raise standards, the NCB employed an English coach, Arthur Bentley, who came from Newton Abbott in Devonshire and had visited The Netherlands with the Newton Blues in 1886. Under his tuition, modern bowling methods were introduced and batting and fielding standards rose.
Between 1890 and 1894,the highest batting average in the Dutch cricket season went from 12.45 to 43.44 with a corresponding rise in the best bowling average from 2.57 to 5.47. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s, regular visits were made by club sides from England. These clubs provided models of dress, behaviour and style of play which the Dutch sides tried to emulate. The national team also played matches against Clingendaal, a side comprising resident or visiting Englishmen which lasted through the 1880s and 1890s.
In August 1891 the NCB sent a team, the Gentlemen of Holland, to play five matches against club sides in Yorkshire - the first cricketing country outside of the British Empire to tour England. A second tour was made in 1894 to the London area and Kent. By the time the third tour was made in 1901, Dutch cricket had improved considerably.
Serious Loss of Players
Ironically, just as the standard of the national side was reaching that of the best English club sides, cricket was having a problem of maintaining and recruiting players. Many of the young people who had joined clubs after leaving school found that their work did not allow sufficient time for sport. Those in the diplomatic service and in commerce found themselves posted to the Dutch East Indies and Surinam.
Further, as the Dutch sided with the Boers during the wars in South Africa, fewer young people were attracted to a game so strongly associated with Britain. The exclusivity of the clubs hampered recruitment. When Rood en Wit set up a junior section to attract cricketers between the ages of 12 and 16, they were forced to abandon the venture by other clubs because of fears that it would lead to the admission of the lower classes. By the end of the 1890s, cricket had decreased in popularity, even among the elite, and was restricted to a very small `leisured' class. Many of the top schools had ceased to teach the game.
Despite the problems, the NCB continued to grow the international programme. The MCC visited The Netherlands in 1902 and tours were made to England in 1901 and 1906. International matches against Belgium started in 1905. These continued, with an interruption for the First World War, until 1937. At first the 1914-18 war saw the virtual demise of cricket in the Netherlands as many players were recruited into the armed forces. However, by 1915, thousands of British soldiers were stranded in the country. Some of the best British players joined Dutch clubs and in 1918 the officers from Scheveningen entered two teams in the Dutch League, playing under the title of `Prisoners of War'.
When the British troops returned home at the end of the war, the NCB acted quickly to ensure that the best Dutch cricketers gained experience against good class amateur opposition from overseas. The MCC and Free Foresters became frequent visitors. Another outcome was the founding in 1921 of De Flamingo's, a touring club with membership by invitation. It attracted the best Dutch cricketers so that when it went on its frequent tours to England or played the MCC at home, its side was equivalent to the Dutch national XI. De Flamingo's also undertook tours in The Netherlands and organised an annual youth tournament.
As a result of these developments, cricket underwent a revival with many new clubs being formed and others restarted between 1924 and 1929. Although, cricket remained a sport of the elite, there was an increase in the number of people wanting to participate in a leisured pursuit upholding amateurism and sportsmanship.
Women, too, wanted to be part of the scene. The first women's club was formed in Haarlem in 1930. By 1934, there were two more clubs in the country. Despite receiving no encouragement from male cricketers, the players and officials of these pioneer clubs formed the Nederlandse Dames Cricket Bond in 1934. No more than four or five clubs were affiliated to the NDCB in any year prior to 1939 but there was sufficient enthusiasm for a short season of inter-club fixtures to be organised.
Golden Age of Dutch Cricket
Some Dutch cricket historians consider the 1930s to be the Golden Age of Dutch cricket. Standards were higher than before the First World War and there were some players who were probably close to English first-class standard.
That cricket survived the German occupation of the country between May 1940 and May 1945 was remarkable and due entirely to the enthusiasm of the players. Many grounds were requisitioned, transport by private cars was banned and train travel became increasingly restrictive and often prohibited at weekends. When the headquarters of the main sports dealers in Rotterdam was bombed, there was a national shortage of equipment. Despite these obstacles, the NCB was able to organise as many as 300 matches a year, mostly between local clubs.
At the end of the War, many matches were played between local sides and the British troops. In 1945, the first post-war international was played against an army side raised by Brian Valentine which the Dutch won by 158 runs. A repeat match was played in 1946, again won by the Dutch. A `Save Dutch Cricket' fund organised in England by Sir Pelham Warner led to a gift to the NCB of some 200 bats and 100 balls.
Although cricket remained a minority sport, the Dutch clubs increasingly opened their membership to the growing middle class who also formed their own clubs. The number of teams participating in the Dutch League grew from 58 in 1946 to 97 in 1958 and 135 in 1968. The matches against the Free Foresters and the MCC were resumed as were the tours made by De Flamingo's. In addition, beginning with the South Africans in 1951, many of the test-playing nations visited The Netherlands either at the end or in the middle of their tours of England. Usually the tourists won easily but in 1964 the Dutch surprised the Australians, winning the match by three wickets.
In 1955, the first of what became known as the series of `continental Tests' was played against Denmark. These continued until 1981 after which they were replaced one-day internationals. The matches against Ireland which started in 1970 and Scotland, in 1979, suffered the same fate, as Dutch international cricket moved entirely to one-day games. The 1980s also saw an increase in the number of foreign-born players in the national side, mostly qualifying by residence or by taking Dutch citizenship. Although these players helped to raise the standard of the national side, they also increased its average age and reduced the opportunities for younger cricketers.
The mid-1980s saw some of the leading Dutch players choose cricket as their profession with the English first-class counties. The first to do so was Paul-Jan Bakker, a bowler of fast-medium pace, who played regularly for Hampshire between 1986 and 1992. The most successful of the Dutch players on the English county circuit was Roland Lefebvre, a useful right-hand bat and a miserly medium-fast bowler, who played regularly for Somerset (1990-1992) and Glamorgan (1993-1995). Both Bakker and Lefebvre endeavoured to make themselves available for the Netherlands when required and, for several years, Lefebvre was the captain of the national team. In contrast, those who followed, notably Adrianus van Troost (Somerset) and Bas Zuiderent (Sussex), opted to play for their chosen counties rather than for their country whenever a conflict of interest arose. Surprisingly, whenever they played for The Netherlands, neither achieved much.
The period from 1986 to 2001 was the most successful in Dutch cricket history. They reached the final of the ICC Trophy in 1986 and 1990 but lost both times to Zimbabwe. The KNCB increased the number of international matches played each year and embarked on varied tours. At home, the Dutch recorded victories in one-day matches against the West Indians (1991), a strong England XI (1993) and the South Africans (1994). In 1995, the Netherlands entered the English domestic one-day knock-out competition. The best year was 1999 when they beat Cambridgeshire, the Lancashire Board XI and Durham, their first victory over a first-class county, before losing to Kent in the fourth round. They qualified for the 1996 World Cup but were outclassed.
Dutch cricket made a major advance in facilities in 1996 with the establishment of grass wickets at Deventer and Amstelveen. This allowed the KNCB to host one of the matches in the 1999 World Cup. The Dutch won the European Championships in 1996, 1998 and 2000 and then went on to win the ICC Trophy in Canada in 2001, beating Namibia in a memorable final to qualify for the final stages of the World Cup for the second time.
The 1980s and 1990s saw advances in women's cricket. Although the women's cricket league resumed in 1949, the NDCB were forced to abandon it in 1958. Instead, a centralised women's academy was established where promising players could receive coaching. By the 1970s there were sufficient numbers of players for some of the leading clubs to form women's sections. The women's league restarted in 1976. The first international match was played in 1984, but the team has not been very successful with only occasional victories over Denmark, Japan, Pakistan and Scotland. Since the mid 1990s, the level of activity has increased.
Since 2001, the record of the Dutch men's side has been patchy. In the 2003 World Cup, the side struggled to make runs and take wickets against test-class opposition though they did have the satisfaction of recording their first win at this stage of the competition, beating Namibia by 64 runs. Results in the ICC Trophy, the European Championships and the ICC Intercontinental Cup, show that the Dutch have fallen behind Ireland and Scotland in the European rankings. They were reduced to fifth place in the 2005 ICC Trophy but this was enough to qualify for the final stages of the 2007 World Cup, the first associate country to reach this level for a third time.
Edited from the Encyclopedia of World Cricket by Roy Morgan, published by SportsBooks Limited
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