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Orange is the new pack: Netherlands add a bit of joy to pre-World Cup camp

A week-long training session in Alur gave the players a chance to meet fans and journalists alike, over dinner, drinks and plenty of laughs

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Team Netherlands were all smiles at a pre-World Cup event  •  Nordek

Team Netherlands were all smiles at a pre-World Cup event  •  Nordek

"I'm looking for Logan van Beek. Can you help me find him?" An organiser is frantically looking for the allrounder, who is like the best man at a wedding. Everyone wants him at the same time. "This is Logan speaking. How can I help you?," he replies as everyone breaks into a chuckle.
A few rows behind him, Bas de Leede is on an Instagram live, Scott Edwards, the captain, is signing jerseys, Teja Nidamanuru is discussing blockchain, bitcoins and startup ecosystems. On the stage, Vikramjit Singh is professing his fandom for Punjabi singer AP Dhillon, and Max O'Dowd, the team's vice-captain, is humming Losing it by Australian pop star Fisher.
"When that Super Over was about to begin, Losing it was playing in our dressing room; I can tell you now, I was definitely losing it then," O'Dowd says to a room full of laughter.
Head coach Ryan Cook chimes in, "Before the tournament, at the coaches' meeting, when the ICC was spelling out the playing regulations, I remember taking the Super Overs regulation with a pinch of salt. What was the probability of it happening? Not much. But when we got to it, with everything on the line, it was so tense. I remembered that moment from the meeting."
We're in Alur, in Bengaluru's outskirts, where Netherlands have camped for a week-long training camp ahead of the World Cup beginning October 5. The event is organised on behalf of Nordek, a UAE-based technology firm, that has come onboard as their team sponsor for the tournament. Events of this scale are generally reduced to being a dull PR exercise where players chit-chat among themselves and quietly make a beeline for the exit doors at the first available opportunity.
The Netherlands players, though, are soaking in the rare opportunity to meet and greet people, a few fans and journalists over dinner and drinks. It's unlike anything they're used to. It seems a culture shock to some that players from a national team can be so laidback and outgoing, happy to resonate the warmth they've received.
De Leede, like van Beek, is one of the favourites for the evening. He is busy signing memorabilia, posing for pictures, and generally talking to an array of cameras, one after the other, without losing his smile or focus. "Jeez, back home, we aren't even recognised," he says. "Phew, that's as much media as I've done, ever. Great fun, though."
Twenty-seven years ago, his father, Tim de Leede, came to India for his first World Cup. It's a wonderful story of a father-son duo playing their maiden World Cups in India across two different eras. While much has changed in India from the train and bus journeys to the airports, hotels and the cricket infrastructure, Tim passed through a chaotic-yet-charming experience of the subcontinent, whereas Bas comes to a country he calls "super passionate".
It has been just two nights in India so far for Bas, but he is already taken in by the warmth and, of course, the facilities to train and play in Alur. Netherlands have been hosted by the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), and three grounds at Alur are at their disposal, as are the indoor facilities.
In the outdoor area, surfaces of varying degrees of dryness have been prepared to help them train against spin. The sprawling facility, where cricket is on at every nook and corner in some form, has caught their imagination. One moment they are training, next they are dining with VVS Laxman and some of the next-in-line India players, who are also undergoing a camp prior to the Asian Games. It's an immersive experience like no other.
Netherlands are on a tight budget. Prior to their sponsor coming on board, they had invited applications for net bowlers to be part of the tour group for their week-long stay in Bengaluru. They received over 10,000 applicants from which they shortlisted just four players: a left-arm wristspinner, a fast bowler who can bowl over 140 kmph, a left-arm orthodox spinner and a left-arm seamer.
Among them, Hemant Kumar is an administrative officer at the Rajasthan High Court. He has previously been a net bowler for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. Left-arm wristspinner Lokesh Kumar does food delivery with an app-based service when he isn't playing fourth-division cricket in Chennai. Left-arm spinner Harsh Sharma hails from Haryana, and has previously been with RCB, while fast bowler Rajamani Prasad from Telangana has previously bowled for Chennai Super Kings.
"They will return to Bengaluru for their final league game against India on November 12. By then, they hope to have taken down "a few big scalps." For now, practice, fitness work and plenty of song, dance and cheer, like on Monday evening, will do"
All the four members are popular within the group for the variety and skillsets they bring, but importantly, the hours they spend bowling tirelessly as the squad trains in batches. They go from morning to evening, with short refreshment breaks, and have grown so comfortable with the squad that they are often referred to by their nicknames. Coach Cook presented them caps at a welcome ceremony prior to their camp. It highlights how close-knit the group is, pushing each other to bring out their best.
"We have a community of 6500 people who are passionate cricket-lovers, not more," O'Dowd says when asked of the interest surrounding their World Cup participation. "We're a country of 1.8 million, so you can see how small it is. Still, the kind of interest and appreciation we've received for getting this far has been immense. Hopefully it's just the start."
Prior to this event, Netherlands had just finished a warm-up game against Karnataka that went "not so well". It gave them a reality check as to the challenges they are bound to expect over the coming weeks. On Tuesday evening, a team dinner is on the cards as they plan to explore eateries in downtown Bengaluru before they turn in early for another warm-up on Wednesday. Their Bengaluru leg will end with a visit to the Netherlands High Commission in the city, before they fly off to Thiruvananthapuram for the World Cup warm-ups.
They will return to Bengaluru for their final league game against India on November 12. By then, they hope to have taken down "a few big scalps." For now, practice, fitness work and plenty of song, dance and cheer, like on Monday evening, will do.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo