Rod Lyall and Bertus de Jong 04-07-2020
This may be the first year since 1945 that there will be no Dutch national champion, but that doesn’t mean that clubs won’t be keen to finish as high on the Topklasse table as possible, and that last season’s top five won’t be doing their level best to hold on those positions.
‘Level best’ is, of course, the operative term, since Covid-19, the closing of the borders and the virtual collapse of international air travel have combined to reverse the effects of the successful challenge to the KNCB’s attempt to limit the number of overseas players in the top divisions of Dutch cricket.
Like Punjab Rotterdam, Voorburg and some others, Dosti Amsterdam will clearly feel the effects of these changes, and will be forced to rely more on the contribution of locally-based players.
At its core the Sportpark Drieburg club has a seasoned group of experienced Topklasse players, not least key all-rounder Anees Davids, South African-born but now a Dutch citizen and one of the most dangerous contributors in the competition with both bat and ball.
But Davids will need more consistent support with the bat from the openers, skipper Vinoo Tewarie and wicketkeeper Rahil Ahmed, while spinner Mahesh Hans has recently demonstrated that his work on his batting is bearing fruit and is likely to assume a greater role in a middle order which otherwise seems pretty threadbare.
In the attack, seamer Masood Wahid bowled some very effective spells in 2019 and he, too, is likely to play a more significant part in the absence of the likes of Taruwar Kohli, while the same applies to spinner Asief Hoseinbaks.
The big question for Dosti, though, will be the ability of a number of fringe players who have had their chances in the side without ever really establishing themselves: Shadaab Ghori, Rishal Varma, Raj Verma and Arjun Atwarie, not forgetting the youthful Arghem Khan.
If two or three of this group step up to the challenge, it could have positive consequences not only for this season, but also for Dosti into the future.
HBS Craeyenhout likewise will need some former fringe players to step up as they head into the abbreviated season missing a number of big names. The absence of last year’s overseas Zac Elkin and Zak Gibson leaves a gap to fill both in terms of runs and wickets, exacerbated by the retirement of Berend Wesdijk – who took 31 wickets at 17 for the Crows last season.
Also missing will be Sharn Gomes, who has departed for the UK and there is also some uncertainty regarding how much of a role Wesley Barresi will play this season, potentially leaving HBS without their three top scorers from last season as well as their lead wicket-taker, and with Farshad Khan also understood to have taken retirement HBS will be missing more than half their first choice XI from 2019.
The arrival of former KwaZulu-Natal bat (and sometime South Africa hockey international) Tim Drummond will likely go some way toward bolstering an otherwise brittle-looking batting card, though the extent of his availability is also in question.
The Crows will be looking to skipper Toby Visee to score big as well as fast, while all-rounder Navjit Singh, as the only sure surviving middle order bat form last season, will also have a significant role to play. Ferdi Vink will likely move up the order whilst Wessel Coster will assume the role of leader of the pace attack, with Julian de Mey the key figure in the slow-bowling department.
Visee was downbeat about the teams’ambitions and sceptical of the format, but nonetheless positive about getting back into the action. “It’s obviously good to be playing any kind of cricket again, though we would have preferred a T20 competition, if only because it might have helped with player availability. A lot of the guys have other commitments now and especially some of the younger guys who have been without work for a while will have other priorities. We’ve just had intra-squad games by way of preparation, but we’ll look to get as much out of the season as we can, some of the guys from the seconds will be getting a chance and hopefully we can win a few games.”
Not much is known about what is happening at ACC, beyond the fact that the Loopveld club has lost the services of its three remaining Zulfiqars (who have decamped to Punjab) and of Shirase Rasool (now with VRA).
Without overseas players into the bargain, that will throw huge responsibility onto the shoulders of the club’s (even) younger brigade, along with Anis Raza, Devanshu Arya and Chris Knoll.
The most successful of the youngsters up to now has been seamer Aryan Kumar, while others who may now have a more significant role are Jamieson Mulready, Areeb Shoaib, Shreyas Potdar, Ammar Zaidi, Beau de Boekhorst, and perhaps Mees van Vliet.
This latter group never had more than a walk-on part in a side dominated by the Zulfiqars and the overseas players, but the club has at least ensured that they have tasted the demands of Topklasse cricket.
It would also not be surprising if some of ACC’s old hands, like Bas van der Heyde and Rehan Younis, who made occasional first-team appearances last year, played more regularly in this very unusual season.
Conversely HCC, despite the absence of Adam Wiffen, his planned replacement Zac Worden, and last seasons’ stand-out performer Bryce Street, look in decent shape ahead of the 2020 season. Skipper Tonny Staal will himself be under a degree of pressure to perform consistently in the absence of his overseas bats, but the experience of Itagi at the top of the order will offer some reassurance, as will the continued development of the young Boris Gorlee coming in behind him, who has looked in fine form during intra-squad training games with the national set-up. Gorlee is joined by another promising youngster in the form of Musa Nadeem (formerly of Goen Wit), whilst VCC’s spin all-rounder Clayton Floyd has also come over to HCC for the coming season.
Another new face will be Italian international Damian Crowely, who joins HCC having emigrated to the Netherlands. A top-order bat and useful left-arm spinner, Crowley will doubtless add some welcome experience to the top order. The departure of Ali Ahmed nonetheless leaves the pace attack looking a little underpowered, and HCC will hope Netherlands occasional Hidde Overdijk is fit and firing throughwhat remains of the Summer. Stall will also look to Regulars Douwe Walhain and Ollie Klaus to contribute more consistently with bat and ball, but is also positive about the introduction of some younger prospects.
“We will try and get our young guys in as well. I think this will be a great learning curve for youngsters like Boris Gorlee, Ditmar Hennop and Felix Vecchi.” Staal told Tkcricket. “We have trained since we were allowed and have been playing loads of intra-club games against each other. I would say this has been one of our better season preparations so far and I think it will show when we get going.”
Reigning champions Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will have to wait until next season to mount an official title defence, but will nonetheless be looking to continue their winning ways. They will be without Brenton Parchment, who remains in the Caribbean, and Tim Etman, who has departed for Australia. First team regular David Woutersen is also understood to be injured at present, but the core of the 2019 champion side remains intact.
Crucially, the evergreen Lorenzo Ingram is in-country, haviing made the trip early to take up his coaching duties. The spinning all-rounder led the Schiedammers in both runs and wickets in 2019 and will remain indispensible if they are to come out on top again in their centennial year. Skipper Tom Heggelman himself will likewise be key to their hopes both with bat and ball, with Sohail Bhatti and Rens van Troost rounding out the seam attack.
Filling in for the absentees will be an assortment of Ingram’s young charges from the youth programme, with young bat Luuk Kroesen expected to join Joost and Gijs as a regular fixture in the senior side. Heggelman is cautiously optimistic about his team’s hopes of topping the table again, and confident they’ll be as well prepared as any.
Before the Corona lockdown we had trained a couple of times at VOC and a selection of the team have been working on fitness at the Perfect Performance Sport Center (PPSC), one of our sponsors. After lockdown we resumed training as soon as it was permitted, and in the run up to the season we’ve been training twice a week as well as doing Wednesday fitness sessions at PPSC. The first three weeks we didn’t have training games, but we now have a 40-over game and a T20 under our belts.”
“We’ll be playing every game to win and look to continue the momentum from previous years, albeit with a team that will look a bit different. As is known we think it’s important that team mostly comprises Excelsior-produced players, and we’ll be using the coming games to give some of the youth Topklasse experience. We’ve a large group of youngsters coming through, and while it’s maybe a bit early to say they’ll make an immediate impact, but we’ll be looking to offer them a platform to perform and contribute for the club, our first team and hopefully for Dutch cricket.”