2023 Preview: Change at VRA, continuity at Excelsior

Rod Lyall 13/04/2023

With nearly two-thirds of the national titles between them since the turn of the millennium, neither VRA Amsterdam nor Excelsior ’20 Schiedam will have been happy with their mid-table position last year; Excelsior last won the championship in 2019, while VRA have to track back to 2011 for their last victory.

And there will be a massive hole in this season’s Topklasse: the one left by Peter Borren’s return to New Zealand over the winter.

With 8786 runs at an average of 36.16, 348 wickets at 25.24 and 194 catches in his 315 matches for VRA, Borren is literally irreplaceable, but he has left behind a legacy of some young players who have already proved their worth in the top flight and who will now need to fill as much of that gap as they can.

Leon Turmaine will take over the captaincy (a fourth area in which Borren will be missed), and he will be looking to international stars Vikram Singh, Aryan Dutt and Teja Nidamanuru (transferred from Punjab) to form the core of the side.

The squad will also be strengthened by the arrival of 24-year-old Australian allrounder Tyler van Luin, a left-handed batter and right-arm fast medium bowler who is one of the key players in the Queanbeyan side in the ACT first-grade competition, and who has also played in the ACT representative side.

Turmaine will be hoping that Singh and Shirase Rasool are able to open together more regularly than was the case last season, but with Van Luin and Nidamanuru to follow, along with Luke Scully, Jack Balbirnie and Dutt, the top order has a more solid look than it did last year.

It will be interesting to see how Van Luin is able to team up with left-armer Ashir Abid, one of the crop of youngsters fostered by Borren over recent seasons.

Singh, too, demonstrated in Johannesburg that he is capable of developing into a serious allrounder, and with the spin options of Dutt, Turmaine himself, Balbirnie, Nidamanuru and the 17-year-old Udit Nashier, captain of the national Under-18 side, the skipper will have plenty of bowling resources at his disposal.

Excelsior’s young guns who won them that 2019 title now have several more years’ Topklasse experience behind them, Roel Verhagen, Tim Etman and Rens van Troost having played more than 130 top flight matches apiece.

So has long-serving overseas Lorenzo Ingram, who has made 4962 runs for the club at 47.26 and taken 136 wickets at 18.77; it’s a fair bet that he will complete the double of 5000 runs and 150 wickets before stumps are drawn for the last time in August.

Captain Tom Heggelman also has double milestones in his sights, with 2980 runs at 16.37 and 189 wickets at 21.45 from his 273 games, and Tim Etman too only needs 25 runs to reach 3000.

Excelsior have lost Joost Kroesen to Sparta, but his younger brothers Gijs and Luuk are still in the squad, and there are two more younger brothers in the mix as well: left-arm seamer Niels Etman proved a more than useful new-ball exponent last year, while Stan van Troost will be looking to cement his place in the middle order.

Also missing from this season’s line-up is overseas Brett Hampton, but the Schiedammers have found a very promising successor in Michael Hart, a 24-year-old Western Australian who is yet another from the state to come to Thurlede, following in the footsteps of Wayne Andrews, Tim Zoehrer, Murray Goodwin and several more.

Hart has taken 330 first-grade wickets for his Subiaco-Floreat club with a best of seven for 47, and compiled over 3700 runs, and he is likely to make a significant contribution to the side’s challenge for a top-six spot.

So with Tim Etman and Verhagen to start, Ingram, Hart, Heggelman and either Luuk Kroesen or Stan van Troost, Excelsior will have a pretty impressive top six, while the seam attack of Niels Etman, Hart and Rens van Troost, backed up by the spin of Ingram and Umar Baker, will cause plenty of problems for opposing batters.

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