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'Netherlands cricket is here and it's here to push back,' says coach Campbell

"The history of the Netherlands has shown that we step up on the biggest stage."

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
Stephan Myburgh celebrates with captain Pieter Seelaar after the fall of a wicket, Scotland vs Netherlands, T20 World Cup 2021 warm-ups, Abu Dhabi, October 12, 2021

'We may be here to make up the group, but let me tell you, we've got a bit of bite about us' - Ryan Campbell  •  ICC via Getty

Netherlands don't want to be known as "one-off wonders" who occasionally knock over a Full Member at the World Cup and then retreat to the margins of the game. They want "to go up against the big boys," in the words of their coach, Ryan Campbell, "and show to the world that Netherlands cricket is here and it's here to push back".
Campbell, who played for Australia in the 2000s and then turned out for Hong Kong at the 2016 World T20 before taking charge of the Dutch a year later, was speaking ahead of his side's T20 World Cup opener against Ireland in Abu Dhabi. In a group that also features former T20 world champions Sri Lanka and in-form Namibia, getting off to a winning start may be crucial to Netherlands' pursuit of a spot in the Super 12s.
The build-up to their first match was briefly sidetracked by questions for Netherlands' captain, Pieter Seelaar, about whether he had meant to cast doubt on Sri Lanka's status as favourites to go through earlier in the week.
"Yeah, actually I got misquoted there, because obviously Sri Lanka is the best team in this group," Seelaar said. "And I did say that they should go through. The only thing I meant was that us three - Ireland, ourselves and Namibia - will give them the hardest time possible. And I didn't mean to say that Sri Lanka is not going to go through. I'm just going to say we're going to make it as tough because I think Sri Lanka needs to go through as a Full Member and an established cricket nation and we are, especially us and Namibia, upcoming cricket nations who want their spot, and they need that spot, and that's the difference.
"What I really want to make clear is that I wasn't being disrespectful to Sri Lanka. Obviously, you know, with social media nowadays there's been a bit of banter, which is fine, and there have been comments that are not right. But I never meant to disrespect Sri Lanka."
On the subject of the pecking order in Group A, Campbell stepped in to suggest that Sri Lanka and Ireland, as Test nations, should make the running. But he warned that Netherlands and Namibia have "got a bit of bite about us" should the other two be off their game - something Ireland already know, having been beaten by the Dutch at the T20 World Cup in 2014 and 2016.
At the 2014 tournament, Netherlands also landed a punch on England, with victory during the Super 10 stage in Chittagong - having memorably beaten the same opponent in the opening game of the 2009 World T20 at Lord's. But Campbell said the "greatest Netherlands squad ever assembled" had aspirations to make a more lasting impact on world cricket.
"We have two Full Members in our group and of course they should go through, they're the ones that are the best 12 teams in the world, with all the cash and all the players. So us little fellas like the Netherlands and Namibia, we may be here to make up the group, but let me tell you, we've got a bit of bite about us. So I think if either of those teams don't show up they're in a lot of trouble.
"We've shown that against Ireland a number of times, the history of the Netherlands has shown that we step up on the biggest stage. But again we have our own pressures. We want to be known as one of the great teams around the world, we don't want to be just an Associate team. We are now in the Super League compete against the best 12 teams in the world, we want to be competing with that.
"History says we win one game against England every now and again in a World Cup, but we don't want to be just known as a one-off wonder, we want to compete with everyone. So I think the pressure is also on us because we want to be in the final 12, and we want to go up against the big boys, we want to show to the world that Netherlands cricket is here and it's here to push back. Rightly or wrongly, I put a tag on this squad as probably the greatest that we've ever assembled in the Netherlands, and with that comes its own pressures and it puts pressure on myself, but that's the belief I have in the squad."
Despite the difference in status between the teams - Ireland became Full Members in 2017 - Netherlands have won seven of the last 10 T20s between the teams, and reached the T20 World Cup after winning the Qualifier in 2019, with Campbell suggesting the teams were evenly matched. "Are we the underdogs? Probably not."
Ireland's coach, Graham Ford, even went as far as to suggest it would be the Dutch who have a "big advantage", due to the number of players still regularly involved in the English county system and during the Hundred - an avenue now closed to the Irish, who must be registered as overseas signings. But he echoed Campbell's comments about how competitive the group could be, with Ireland looking to reach the second stage of the tournament for the first time since 2009. Sri Lanka be warned.
"With any of the teams it's about how you go on the day," Ford said. "Let's hope we turn it on on the day against these guys [Netherlands] but it's a very tough tournament and some very good teams, and we respect their abilities. Every game is a must-win game for us. So you go out with the same intent, the same determination. I don't think over all these years I've been involved in cricket, we'd have gone out saying, 'well, it doesn't matter if we lose tomorrow'."

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick