HOLLAND beat England in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 at Lord's fair and square. The result was a shock and they should not have been allowed to scramble two runs off the final ball, but their batting down the order was superior on the day.
Part of me rejoiced at this upset because Dutch cricket has been neglected and patronised by England's authorities and professional counties for too long. In fact, the indifference has been close to criminal.
Many people do not realise that club cricket has been played regularly in Holland for well over 100 years. The game was introduced by the British during the Napoleonic wars and took root. The Dutch Cricket Union was established in 1883. Yet how much progress has been made by England's near neighbour in all this time? Hardly any at all.
The Dutch did not lay their first turf pitches until 1997-- at Deventer and at their headquarters in Amstelveen. By 2008 this number had risen to only six such strips after more than a century on matting.
If England's counties had had their way, Dutch cricket would have made no advances at all. In 1995 Holland were allowed to compete in the NatWest Trophy, a knockout competition, but this lasted only 10 years before they were slung out. It was understandable that, with only one game guaranteed, they made little impact. After investment in turf pitches, the Dutch were hoping in vain for a chance to enter the Benson & Hedges Cup when several games against counties would be assured in the group stages.
In the current Friends Provident Trophy groups, Ireland and Scotland have been welcome 'outsiders' with the opportunity of competitive cricket against professional players. But Holland? No, not them.
Ali Bacher, while serving on an ICC development group in the late 1990s, pointed out the oddity of Holland benefiting so little as long-term neighbours of a major Test nation. He diplomatically stopped short of giving the ECB a real slating, but he made a plea for more support to be given to lesser nations. Privately he was saddened and a little angry at the English attitude. He said in an interview in The Independent
newspaper that cricket was under threat and had to broaden its appeal. "In Holland, for example, they've had cricket for 100 years but there are still only 5,000 players," he said. It was indeed amazing.
The counties remain happy to sign Dutchmen such as Ryan Ten Doeschate (Essex) and Alexei Kervezee (Worcestershire), the only two playing championship cricket in 2009. Their playing experience at this level should strengthen the Dutch national side, but England's First Class Forum simply must do more, even if flights to Schipol drain more of the much trumpeted Sky Television money.