Perfect endings are rare in sport, as Ryan ten Doeschate might well reflect. He signed off from an 18-year professional career by sitting in the dugout at a near-empty Sharjah, watching his Netherlands team-mates stumble to 44 all out against Sri Lanka after opting to sit out of a dead rubber at the end of the T20 World Cup's preliminary group stage.
The Netherlands had gone into the tournament with a strong squad and high hopes but lost all three games and headed home early; ten Doeschate faced a single ball, pinned lbw as the second victim in Curtis Campher's four-in-four, and did not bowl. "I had got nothing going at Essex last season and was in a really bad place," ten Doeschate recalls.
"I explained that to Cambo [coach Ryan Campbell] and the guys did everything they could to help: I really felt like I was up and running again. Then I got hit on the pad against Ireland, slipped down the order against Namibia and by the time the Sri Lanka game came around, we were already out so it was an opportunity to give someone else a chance."
It was a disappointing end, but ten Doeschate's second wave as a Netherlands player had surpassed his expectations. After returning to orange kit in 2017, he was part of squads that secured spots in the ongoing ODI Super League and last year's T20 World Cup by winning the World Cricket League and the 2019 qualifiers respectively. "I really felt like I was part of something," he says.
It was exciting for them to play against Sachin Tendulkar and take photos, have bats signed, which I didn't really get. Maybe I got that wrong as well: if I had the chance again, I would approach it differently
Ten Doeschate on the 2011 World Cup campaign
The first half of his international career, from 2005 to 2011, played a key role in building ten Doeschate's profile. His ODI batting average, exactly 67, is still the highest ever (minimum 30 innings); he scrambled back to the non-striker's end for a second run when Stuart Broad's famous overthrow gave the Netherlands their most famous win on the opening night of the 2009 World T20; his 307 runs at the 2011 World Cup remain (by a distance) the most by a Netherlands batter at a World Cup.
And yet, ten Doeschate looks back on that stage of his career with regret. "I was very ambitious," he says. "I had big goals for those guys and I wanted to be professional then and maybe that was an unfair expectation of guys who were working in full-time jobs. It was exciting for them to play against Sachin Tendulkar and take photos, have bats signed, which I didn't really get. Maybe I got that wrong as well: if I had the chance again, I would approach it differently.
"The England win was so much fun, certainly the biggest victory we had and in isolation, it was an absolutely great night. It was one of the first major upsets for Dutch cricket, on the first night of the World Cup. But we didn't get out of that group: England beat Pakistan, and we lost badly to Pakistan and went out on net run-rate.
"I've always focused on where you're moving to: for me, getting out of that group ahead of Ireland and Namibia [at last year's T20 World Cup] would have been a far bigger achievement than beating England at Lord's. At the end of the day, that was just a bit of fun which didn't mean anything. Maybe that was where I got it wrong in terms of my attitude: I did appreciate it, but I always wanted more; I wanted success in a bigger context."
After the 2011 World Cup, ten Doeschate put his international career on hold, a hiatus that lasted six-and-a-half years before Campbell brought him back into the fold. "I didn't agree with how things were run, what was being expected of me, how I was treated," he says. "The next series was during the English summer and I had goals that I wanted to achieve with Essex. It wasn't even a close call.
"Personally, the first half was far more successful than the second half, but the second half was far more enjoyable. The changes that they'd made in that period where I was away, making it a bit more professional. I remember meeting Cambo in Hong Kong and he said: 'Here's what we're trying to do. You'll really like it, just give it a chance.' And he was right - I did."
Now Kent's batting coach, ten Doeschate was a consultant coach on the Netherlands' curtailed tour to South Africa last year and while open to similar roles in the off-season, he is not actively involved with the current squad. He was encouraged by the recent series against West Indies despite their 3-0 defeat - he covered the tour as a commentator for talkSPORT - and believes that there is plenty of young talent coming through.
"Without exaggerating, the West Indies series was one of the best that Holland have ever been involved in: they had no county players available but pushed them really hard in two of those three games, and really should have won one of them. It should be an absolute walk in the park for England but it would be a result for Holland to push them and get close; with the Super League ending, it's not all about the results and they'll be looking ahead to the T20 World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe in July.
"There's some serious talent: Vik Singh, Shariz Nadeem, Aryan Dutt, Musa Nadeem - if you can get these guys to become bankers at associate level, that's a good result. We've not seen the best of Bas de Leede either: I think he's got all the attributes of being a proper allrounder. The lack of exposure in the way he plays shows at times because he's often out in the same way, but in terms of technique and shots, he's as good as any young player in England."
The absence of county-contracted players during the home summer is a source of frustration for Dutch supporters, not least because the ICC's "mandatory release" policy dictates that the KNCB should be able to pick them. In practice, "it's a pretty worthless mandate," ten Doeschate says. "I know from my experience that if the Dutch had tried to enforce that, I'd have said: 'OK, then I'll just retire from international cricket.' There has to be a bit more give-and-take from both sides.
"It's tricky: you look at someone like Rashid Khan - they are obviously very different circumstances, but he can afford to miss six games for Sussex or leave tournaments early. The Afghans are very good in that sense: their players are always available. Maybe because they've achieved more, maybe there's a bit more purpose, maybe the set-up is a bit more professional and the set-up is designed in that way - I don't know what the answer is but it can be done."