The Netherlands captain hopes that local supporters will get behind his team because “we’re the underdogs”
At 7.30pm Bangladesh Standard Time on Monday (March 24) television screens will mysteriously flicker to life in outposts as far flung as Kathmandu and Kabul, Dublin and Dubai, and of course, Amsterdam. Irrespective of what the local time is, the cricket faithful in these parts will tune in, for the last of the remaining associate teams, the Netherlands, will do battle in the ICC World Twenty20 2014.
It was Afghanistan, which began the tournament as the darling of the lesser lights, and Nepal, which ended up stealing most hearts. In the middle, the UAE fought hard and Hong Kong stunned Bangladesh, but it was the Dutch that went the furthest, thanks to a stunning display against Ireland.
Peter Borren, captain of the Netherlands, knows that there was more than a game of cricket at stake when his team takes on Sri Lanka at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong. “For us, we’ve had a pretty tough few months. Having failed to qualify in New Zealand we’re not quite sure what the ICC are going to do moving forward, with our status, but also with associate cricket. We’re very proud of the fact that we’re representing the associates here now,” he said.
“We hope that we can do the associates proud. We know that we’re going to have the support of the other associates when we’re here. It’s an achievement in itself that we’re the only associate to have made it this far. It wasn’t easy. We’ve gone through two phases of qualifying and to emerge as the No. 1 associate is very satisfying.”
While the Netherlands was going to be up against much tougher opposition in Chittagong than in the qualifying phase, it was fully aware that raw courage could lift teams more than thought possible. “Having nothing to lose in Twenty20 can make you very dangerous,” said Borren. “We’ve got some players who can – in that situation where we have nothing to lose, like the other night – be dangerous. Hopefully we can put up a couple of good performances with that attitude.”
The Netherlands has been buoyed by the support it has received, not just from travelling fans, but also locals who have taken to the team. “Certainly in Sylhet, the support for us was amazing. We’re hoping that the local supporters, who are not necessarily supporting the opponents, will get behind us because we’re the underdogs and that’s the nature of sport sometimes,” said Borren. “The Bangladeshi people, their passion for cricket, the fact that they’re turning up and making a lot of noise has encouraged us to perform.”
Borren was also acutely aware that his team had four matches to make a case for itself. “When are we next going to get an opportunity like this? We’re not sure. Hopefully we do get more opportunities. This is a fantastic chance to leave a legacy for a team that has competed very well among the top associates in the last four years,” he said.
“I guess we had that memory from 2009 (beating England at Lord’s), which is fading now a little bit. It would be good to come here on the big stage – we made a bit of a splash against Ireland the other night – and we’d really like to knock over a full member over the next few games. We know we’re not in the 50-over World Cup and it may be a couple of years before we have the opportunity to play at this level. Knowing associate cricket and how competitive it is, it wasn’t an easy task to even get to Bangladesh in the first place. We need to take that opportunity.
“For the hard work that has been done over the last couple of years, we deserve to enjoy this, but also, hopefully, win a game or two. That will leave a nice, lasting legacy of some of the guys who have played for a long time for Holland. For some of us, this may be the last time at this level, so we’d like to leave this stage with the memory of orange shirts playing some good cricket.”
The Netherlands is savouring the chance before it, especially because there was a situation not too long ago when an early exit seemed the most likely outcome. “We were sort of hoping to be here. I’m glad that that’s eventuated. Otherwise we would have been back home in Holland. It took something pretty special in the end. When we went to the ground to play against Ireland, it wasn’t going to be quite as difficult as it ended up being. Zimbabwe thrashing the UAE as they did made our task quite a lot harder,” pointed out Borren.
“When we were preparing for the last game we did genuinely believe there was a chance of us making it here. By the time the game started the chance had become small, and by half-time in that game it had become even smaller. Although we decided that we were going to have a go at getting the runs in 14 overs, and the belief might have been there, it was definitely in the back of the head that we might be going home. We’re excited to be here.”
Now that they are here, the men in orange plan to make the most of it, and other teams better watch out.