Roelof van der Merwe
Netherlands’ Roelof van der Merwe celebrates the wicket of India’s Virat Kohli during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on November 12, 2023. The Dutch lost the match and exited the tournament with two wins and seven losses. Image Credit: AVI

The Netherlands left the Cricket World Cup with their heads held high. Two wins against the big boys are indeed a matter of pride for a team that came through the sieve of qualifiers, where the mighty West Indies stumbled.

Minnows, babes of the tournament and underdogs are among the epithets used to describe the Dutch, an Associate of the International Cricket Council. An Associate doesn’t have the privileges of a full member. There are no regular bilateral series, which is a major setback. Not many full members are keen to play matches, which robs them of international experience.

That was a problem for the Dutch coming into the World Cup. The Netherlands had to make do with a couple of games against the Karnataka state side. But none of that mattered as they played the World Cup with skill and enthusiasm, taking down South Africa and Bangladesh — both full ICC members.

The meltdown against India

The Dutch bowling was smashed to smithereens by the Indian batters on Sunday. The pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was unforgiving: no movement for the seamers and no turn for the spinners. The Indian bowlers too struggled. So the final league game is no true indicator of the Netherlands’ strength.

Yet the Dutch will have to take a long, hard look at their bowling as they prepare for the Twenty20 World Cup in the USA and the West Indies next year. They have leaked runs against the heavyweights with four 300-plus totals scored against them. Bowlers Bas de Leede, Paul van Meekren and Roelef van der Merwe did well, but that wasn’t enough to staunch the run deluge.

That wasn’t the case with batting, which has been top-notch with skipper Scott Edwards standing tall. Even when chasing 411 against India, the Dutch were unawed by the enormity of the task. That they managed 250 is a testament to their brave approach to batting, as Colin Ackerman and Sybrand Engelbrecht showed the way. Although they lost the plot midway, Anil Teja Nidamanuru struck some lusty blows against spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja.

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As they bade farewell to the Bengaluru crowd on Sunday, the Netherlands took plenty of positives from the World Cup. It has been a steep learning curve with seven losses, but they would savour the wins that give plenty of courage for matches in future.

Coach Ryan Cook, brother of former South African openers Jimmy and Stephen, is upbeat about Dutch cricket’s future. The Netherlands leave India a much better team after the World Cup, he told ESPN cricinfo. Cook also told the website there have been more inquiries to play matches with the Dutch. That’s a reflection of how far they have come in the tournament.

The Netherlands have some way to go before they become full ICC members. But they are on the right track. The World Cup is ample proof.