Contrary to popular perception, The Netherlands have a rich cricketing history. The locals were introduced to the sport by British soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century. However many other sports, notably football, have surpassed cricket in popularity among the Dutch. Today, there are around 6.000 cricketers in the country. Understandably, only the hardcore fans follow the game keenly.
So, when the Netherlands created history by reaching the Super 10s of the ICC World Twenty20 a few days ago, their achievement went largely unnoticed. For the record, Peter Borren & Co. had smashed the living daylights out of Ireland by making short work of a 190-run target. Such was the savagery on display that they clobbered a jaw-dropping 19 sixes under lights. Their run-rate was an unbelievable 13.95.
Former cricketer Ed van Nierop, who manages the current team, could not hide his excitement when dna caught up with him. "Obviously it is a big thing for us. We could not qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Australia & New Zealand so this is very big deal," he said. "We were unlucky against Zimbabwe. The match had gone down to the wire and we lost in the last over. So, when we met Ireland, we had to do something out of the box and achieve the target in 14.2 overs (to qualify on the basis of a better run-rate). Our batsmen went in and punished every ball to finish the job in 13.5 overs and now we are in Super 10," he added.
According to van Nierop, making it to the Super 10s means a lot to the players. "(In terms of popularity), the sport is ranked 36th in The Netherlands. Even though we entered the second round of this highly-competitive tournament, our achievement was just dismissed in very small columns of the media back home. Believe it or not, but the match wasn't even shown live. It was really disappointing," he said.
So how is the game played there? "We have a proper club culture where professionals from other countries come and play with the homegrown cricketers. Playing with professionals obviously helps our guys," he added. The Netherlands team comprises professionals and students. "We have some professionals who play in leagues in the UK and Australia. Tom Cooper is an example. Some others are students. Then there are cricketers who are into catering and coaching as well. The money is not big, but we are happy to have ABN Amro as our sponsor. Apart from them, we receive funding from the ICC. Our boys don't make so much money. It is not a professional outfit but still we try to run it like one," said Nierop.
Prior to the start of the tournament, there was a huge controversy over Cooper replacing Tim Gruitjers, the latter claiming he was not injured but forced to give up his place. "That was disappointing. It was stupid of the boy who wanted to be there in the team despite being injured. He went on YouTube to display his emotions. It definitely hurt the team environment, but we did not let it affect us," he said.