FILE PHOTO: The Netherlands' Pieter Seelaar celebrates taking the wicket of India's Yusuf Pathan during their ICC Cricket World Cup match in New Delhi March 9, 2011. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
March 22, 2022
By Joel Dubber
(Reuters) – Although nearly four centuries have passed since Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered New Zealand, his adventurous spirit lives on in a new generation of pioneers from the Netherlands – only this time they are traveling for a game of cricket.
For the first time, New Zealand will host a team from beyond the elite world of test-playing nations for an international tour, arranging a one-off Twenty20 with the Dutch on Friday and three one-day internationals between March 29 and April 4.
“This opportunity is arguably once in a lifetime,” Netherlands captain Pieter Seelaar, 34, told Reuters.
“I’ve been playing (since 2005) and never even experienced anything that remotely resembles something like this.”
World championship events run by the International Cricket Council (ICC) are usually the only occasions when minnow teams like the Netherlands receive high-level exposure.
Their engagement by New Zealand marks the first time a country in cricket’s Anglosphere has hosted a second-tier team for a multi-format tour.
Among the game’s other long-established territories, only the West Indies have similarly extended tours for developing sides before, hosting Ireland (2014) and Afghanistan (2017) across white-ball formats before they attained full test status.
“There’s no incentive for full members to get associates over and play a series against them,” Seelaar said, lamenting the ICC’s decision last year to end the home-and-away ODI Super League after the current cycle.
His side is the only non-test nation in the 13-team competition.
“I think our younger players in the squad don’t quite realise how special it is that they’re going to be part of this series.
“To combat New Zealand in their own conditions, it doesn’t get any better as a cricketer does it?”
PATH TO PROFESSIONALISM
The Dutch, who have made four appearances in both the ODI and T20 World Cups, achieved their greatest success in the shortest format when they humiliated England at Lord’s in 2009 – and again five years later in Chittagong.
Despite cricket not being popular locally, the Netherlands have continually developed homegrown talent and cannily enticed foreign players to bolster their lineup.
South Africa-born all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate played 33 ODIs for the Netherlands between 2006 and 2011, scoring 1541 runs at an eye-popping average of 67.
Dutch cricket’s growth can be attributed to their team’s inclusion in England’s domestic one-day competition, an association which lasted between the 1990s and 2010s.
“We improved a lot as cricketers because we got to play on the county grounds, on the professional surfaces, and have access to incredible facilities,” Seelaar said.
He recalled the county experience helped his team grow in confidence and opened the door for individuals to become English county professionals on Kolpak contracts.
Britain’s departure from the European Union in 2020 all but closed that door because Dutch players are no longer classified as locals.
“In the Netherlands, we have five or six guys under contract, on a very modest salary,” the left-arm spinner said.
“(Most players) still have to earn money outside of the professional game playing for Holland, so they either have to coach or actually have an office job on the side.”
New Zealand have assembled a strong squad for retiring batsman Ross Taylor’s swansong, but will miss some white-ball regulars due to lucrative Indian Premier League commitments.
The juxtaposition is evident to Seelaar, who acknowledges that high-profile opportunities for his men can offer both exposure and distraction.
“These days, where there’s T20 leagues everywhere around the world, doing well at perfectly the right time could get you a deal very quickly,” he said.
“It would be on some players’ minds, which I would prefer it not to be.”
(Reporting by Joel Dubber in Perth; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)