Despite this, The Netherlands are firmly established in the upper echelons of Associate and Affiliate cricket, even if they've never pushed for Test recognition. The first of four World Cup appearances was in 1996, when stalwarts like Paul-Jan Bakker and Nolan Clarke finally got the chance to play against top international cricketers. They were past their best by then, and the team lost all their matches including the minnow-on-minnow scrap against the UAE. There were, though, bright spots. The most impressive of them was a vibrant innings by a teenage Bas Zuiderent against England, where his half-century combined with K-J van Noortwijk in a century partnership that briefly had England scared.
After missing out on one tournament, they found their first victory in 2003, where van Noortwijk and Feiko Kloppenburg both clobbered centuries against a feeble Namibia, and their second in 2007 when Scotland crumbled. The 2011 tournament was again something of a loss for the Dutch, winless like their first, as they were drawn in a difficult group with Ireland while Canada and Kenya (both far weaker) were obliterated time after time in the other group. The real inroads for the Dutch have come in Twenty20 cricket. In four games against Full Members, they have one two - one over Bangladesh and one, far more famously, over England in 2009. In both formats, the Oranje have a better than 50% record against their fellow Associates.
Ryan ten Doeschate is simply the best Associate cricketer. There's no two ways about it.
The Netherlands have a great deal of batting depth. Sadly, though, not all of it seems able to find its way into the side. Kervezee and ten Doeschate are both absent for their own reasons, which I will explore a little later. The main strength, harsh as it is to say, is that Dutch cricketers don't exactly need to be Dutch. Cricketers with Dutch lineage, like Tom Cooper, Michael Swart, Stephan Myburgh, Michael Rippon (who does look VERY Dutch) and Peter Borren have all entered the side from foreign lands, and while their commitment to the team is not in question, this does invite the criticism that the Dutch selectors have a fondness for "plastic Dutchmen".
Two words for this one: seam bowling. While Mudassar Bukhari's medium pace has found its role, the rest of the bowling line-up seems to be in a constant state of flux. Brad Kruger, Bernard Loots and Berend Westdijk all played in the 2011 World Cup, while Andrew Hoogstraten was their back-up, but hardly any of them have been seen or heard of before or since the tournament. The current incumbents seem to be Paul van Meekeren and Timm van der Gugten, with Ahsan Malik Jamil in the wings.
There is one obvious name for this: Ryan ten Doeshate. An ODI batting average (67) that is 43 more than his bowling average (24) speaks volumes as to the wealth of his talent. He is quite simply an enormous shark in a bog-standard pond. But, he has been absent from the Dutch team since the World Cup too. As a result, the new star man would have to be Tom Cooper. The Australian-Dutchman was ten Doeschate's partner when between them they had the highest combined batting average of any partnership in ODI history, and he is the main man in the Dutch run-scoring department.
The club scene in the Netherlands is not really as developed as that of Ireland, or the provincial system in Afghanistan. While the Topklasse provides a good level of competition, it is not exactly a pathway to International cricket; the North v South matches and a hypothetical pan-European league would really help. The Under-19s and other age group teams also seem to be strangely weak and invisible for such a prestigious ODI nation, which leads to the Netherlands being seen as a country that exclusively import talent.
The Netherlands are being shunted out of the Yorkshire Bank 40 at the end of the year, and the World Cup is soon to be pruned right the way back to just ten teams (A big round of applause for the ICC for ignoring one of the two words in the tournament's very name.) (Hint: it isn't "Cup.) there is little opportunity on the horizon for the Dutch. In a land where cricket already fights for significance next to football in the way that a speeding ticket fades in comparison to car theft, when exactly are Dutch children going to be able to get behind their country? Where are the prospects for a young Dutch cricketer?
So that's it for my review of Dutch cricket. While it may seem slightly scathing, I do in fact have a soft spot for Dutch cricket. In particular: Peter Seelaar, whose bowling I think is hugely underrated, and HVV Cricket Club, whose first eleven had to share the 1926 Topklasse title... with the HVV Cricket Club Second Eleven. This must surely be unique in any premier domestic competition? Next week, I will be looking at a former giant of the Associate game, Kenya. See you then.