Topklasse Team of the Year 2022

Bertus de Jong & Rod Lyall 04/10/22

BdJ: While the TK-TOTY teamsheet this year doesn’t quite come with one of the openers pre-printed as it did for the last couple of seasons, one might say Tonny Staal’s name has been helpfully pencilled in for us at the top already. HCC’s former skipper amassed 767 runs at an average of 48 at a healthy strike rate just a shade under 81, his contributions at the top of the order despite the lack of a dependable regular opening partner being instrumental to HCC’s successful title run. A stand-out innings of 143 off 144 against Excelsior in their first phase 2 clash key to HCC’s second-place finish and double-shot at a place in the final. The choice for second opener is perhaps less clear cut, largely because season stop-scorer Tayo Walbrugh did not consistently play that role for HBS, yet though Walbrugh occasionally dropped down to three for the Crows, even on the handful of occasions he’s not opened the batting he might as well have done, generally finding himself in the middle after a few balls regardless. Walbrugh’s tally of 844 runs at an average little over 60 certainly warrants a place somewhere in the top three, but the chief reason to push him down to three would be to make room for VOC’s Max O’Dowd, whose 669 runs from just 13 matches helped keep the Bloodhounds clear of danger this season, and indeed had he and opening partner Scott Edwards not been preoccupied with the national team’s  frenetic schedule VOC’s 2022 might have looked quite different. Similarly Voorburg’s Andre Malan would be a strong contender here had he played a whole season, having taken to Dutch conditions rather better than his more celebrated brother. Malan racked up 395 runs at an average of 65.8 and a strike rate of 110 from the eight games he played, and one suspects if he comes back for a full season he’ll be getting more than an honourable mention.

RL: Staal and Walbrugh were certainly top of my list, but O’Dowd wasn’t far away, and a top three of Staal, O’Dowd and Walbrugh makes perfect sense to me. One might think this is a bit rough on HCC’s Zac Worden, whose admirable consistency brought him 782 runs at 52.13 without his reaching three figures; nine half-centuries in 17 innings was a pretty remarkable effort and contributed significantly to HCC being anywhere near contention for the grand final, although a strike rate of a tad below 60 is a point against him. Others worthy of an honourable mention include Voorburg’s Musa Ahmad and Kampong’s overseas Cole Briggs, the latter too often having to try to hold a fragile batting line-up together.

RL: If we’re repeating last year’s decision to restrict ourselves to two overseas players, then Jonathan Vandiar of Punjab must surely have a decent claim to join Walbrugh in the side: it’s true he only played ten matches, but his tally of 581 runs at 83 with a strike-rate of 95 and including three centuries and two fifties in only eight innings was unquestionably one of the outstanding individual efforts of the season, and it brought some solidity to a Punjab side which fired a good deal below its championship-winning form of last season. There certainly has to be a spot for Voorburg’s skipper Bas de Leede, whose 627 runs came at 48.23 and again did not include a hundred, although he made seven half-centuries. Nor should we forget his 16 wickets at 22.50. Among the wicketkeeper-batters who might tuck into the middle order there’s a strong case for Scott Edwards (VOC), who filled this role successfully in national colours and who did make over 500 runs at an average of almost 50, and he should probably be preferred to either ACC’s Robin Smith or the mercurial but inconsistent Ali Raza of Sparta, who did top the keeping table along with Excelsior’s Roel Verhagen. That brings me to six, but it’s not entirely for sentimental reasons that I want to make a case for VRA captain Peter Borren, who bade farewell to the Topklasse with 377 runs at a strike rate of almost 92 and 15 wickets at an average of 21: as a captain and as a role model he has been a giant in the Dutch game, and I’d unquestionably have him leading this side.

BdJ: Walbrugh’s overseas status is of course not as clear-cut as it once was of course given his rumoured aspirations to orange, and there’s a couple of reasons it might be tempting to fudge things a little on that front. First among them is Delano Potgieter, who was a big reason VCC looked nigh-unbeatable early in the season. 17 wickets at an unmatched average of 10.94 and 259 runs at 43 across his ten matches make him one of the summer’s most impressive acquisitions, despite his status as a short-stay. Excelsior too picked their overseas wisely, Brett Hampton bagging 21 wickets and kicking in some decisive knocks down the order, and Lorenzo Ingram again proving his worth with 647 rns at 59 despite a comparatively quiet season with the ball. Failing overseas rule-bending, a case might also be made for Wesley Barresi whose 626 runs at 48 for HBS kept the Crows in contention deep into the season. As m’collegue observes, however, there are good reasons to argue for Borren’s inclusion beyond valedictory nostalgia and a vague feeling that we’ve unjustly overlooked him in the past. While Borren would be a shoe-in for team of the decade, he has admittedly had a merely adequate personal season by his own standards. As captain, however, he saw VRA through a season that many speculated would be a relegation battle – without any overseas and denied the services of Quirijn Gunning, Eric Szwarczynski and Ben Cooper –  and took what was essentially a youth team with hangers-on into the championship group.

BdJ: Of Borren’s young charges, Aryan Dutt stood out in the slow-bowling department, taking 24 wickets at 16 in the Topklasse when not bagging likes of Nicholas Pooran or Babar Azan in orange. Fellow teenaged spinner Shariz Ahmad likewise managed to fit in an excellent domestic season around his international commitments, taking 31 wickets at 17 for VCC, and when it comes to spin options it’s hard to look past the two 19 year-old break-outs. That said, HCC’s Clayton Floyd has a winners’ medal to go along with his 25 wickets, while Alex Roy’s efforts in Kampong’s doomed campaign were among the few positives in the Utrecht side’s ill-fated top-flight return. Salland’s German spin pair Venkat Ganesan and Elam Bharathi are also worth a mention here, though it’s perhaps hard to make a case for either individually (if only because there’s little to choose) they did take 42 wickets at 17.5 between them, and their contribution to Salland’s survival is difficult to overstate.

RL: To take the quicker bowlers first, Roy is certainly a strong contender with his 23 wickets at 20.48. So too is ACC’s Mees van Vliet, who had the best strike rate of all the front-line bowlers and who led the wicket-taking table for much of the season, only pipped by Hidde Overdijk as HCC played three extra games in the finals series. With 38 wickets at 16.18 Overdijk surely has to be included, and to have him coming in at eight would also give the batting additional depth. Others deserving serious consideration include Ahsan Malik of Sparta, who often kept his side in contention by securing the early breakthrough, Excelsior’s new-ball combination of Niels Etman and the evergreen Tom Heggelman, and Ryan Klein of HBS. With De Leede and Borren in the side and Overdijk getting a shout as well, I’m left with a difficult choice between Roy and Van Vliet, and I’m happy in the end to go along with m’colleague’s nomination of the former. In the spin department it is indeed a choice of two from off-spinner Dutt, the leg-breaks (or more accurately, wrong’uns) of Shariz, and the left-arm spin of Floyd. Seemingly under-rated at international level, Floyd is a proven wicket-taker, but in another very close call I too would give the last two places to Dutt and Shariz.

So there you have it, TKcricket’s Team of the Year:

Staal (HCC), O’Dowd (VOC), Walbrugh (HBS), De Leede (Voorburg), Vandiar (Punjab), †Edwards (VOC), *Borren (VRA), Overdijk (HCC), Roy (Kampong), Dutt (VRA), Shariz (Voorburg).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s