Bertus de Jong 01-07-2020
As the Netherlands slowly emerges from Coronavirus lockdown the KNCB have confirmed that Topklasse cricket can resume this coming weekend, albeit subject to certain restrictions and protocols to protect the health of players, officials and spectators (details of which are expected to be made public within the next few days), and without the prospect of relegation or an official national title to contend for.
The restrictions imposed by the Dutch government to combat the spread of COVID-19 have prevented any inter-club cricket thus far in the 2020 season, though individual clubs had begun to organise ad-hoc intra-club matches in the past few weeks.
Beginning from Sunday, however, the regular competition will continue effectively unchanged from the original schedule with regular matches being played on Sundays, treating the first half of the season as essentially written off. The initially planned 10-team double round robin format which would have seen each club play their nine rivals home and away can be fairly simply cut in half, such that each fixture will now be played either at home or away, though with only eight rounds left in the current schedule space will have to be found for one additional round to complete a nine-match per team calendar, the traditional free weekend at the end of July the obvious option.
Despite the ambition to run a “full-half” all-play-all competition, however, the 2020 season will not be accorded the status of a national championship and, as was already decided early in the year as the likely impact of the pandemic became apparent, there will be no promotion and relegation between the Topklasse and Hoofdklasse or any of the lower leagues this season. With significant international travel restrictions still in place, most Topklasse sides will be missing their overseas players, whilst a number of Dutch national team players who typically play abroad during the Dutch winter also remain outside the country, meaning several teams will be severely under-strength.
A handful of clubs are understood to have lobbied for the Topklasse itself to be replaced with a short-format league, but it seems the advocates of 50-over cricket won out in the end. Given the likely reliance of many clubs on their youth players, the value of the longer format for development was a significant consideration.
“Keeping the development of younger players in mind (longer bowling spells, more time in the middle, building an innings) played a role in the decision making, especially since most clubs are without overseas players/coaches and will rely more havily on their youth players. The national coaches/captain have also been consulted and expressed the same opinion.” -a KNCB spokesperson told Tkcricket.
It is as yet unclear when and in what form Twenty20 cricket will resume, but the board are optimistic that some form of T20 competition can be arrange. “The exact format and number of teams is not clear yet, but we’re aiming for a TK/HK T20 on Friday evenings or Saturday afternoons, with a regional based poule phase and finals day.”
Provisional fixtures for the first round of Topklasse games on Sunday July 5th are as follows. Live coverage, as always, only on Tkcricket.
ACC vs HCC at het Loopveld
VOC vs VCC at Hazelaarweg
Excelsior vs Sparta at Thurlede
HBS vs Punjab at Craeyenhout
Dosti vs VRA at Drieburg