Rod Lyall 18/04/2023
After the anticlimax of last season’s grand final defeat Voorburg go into the new season without their former captain Bas de Leede, but champions HCC face much bigger changes as they set about defending their title.
De Leede, of course, has moved to Durham to join Ryan Campbell’s squad, but his loss will be at least partially balanced by the advent of 19-year-old South African Michael Levitt, and the return of Noah Croes, not to mention the arrival of Ryan Klein from HBS.
Levitt, who began his Dutch season with two centuries over the Easter weekend, made 795 runs for Stanmore in the Middlesex Premier League last year and, as a Dutch passport holder, may be of considerable interest to the national coaches.
As for Croes, he last played for Voorburg in 2019, when he made over 500 runs in the club’s first season back in the Topklasse, but since then he has become a regular in Melbourne University’s first-grade side as well as playing for Didsbury in the Cheshire Premier League in England.
Klein will join a pace attack which already includes fellow Dutch international Viv Kingma, although Logan van Beek will be resting in New Zealand for the first part of the season, perhaps creating room for another recruit, promising youngster Mees van Vliet, who has transferred from ACC, while Voorburg also have plenty of seam cover in their stalwarts Stef Mulder and Ali Ahmed Qasim.
The side will be captained by Sybrand Engelbrecht, who will be part of a batting line-up which includes another Dutch international in opener Musa Ahmad, as well as Levitt and fellow South African Karl Nieuwoudt, along with wicketkeeper Mohit Hingorani.
Having fallen at the final hurdle in each of the last two seasons – gallingly, after leading from gun almost to the tape last year – Voorburg will be hoping that this squad will be good enough to take them to their second championship, their first and only triumph to date having been in 2001.
A rather different dynamic is at work at De Diepput, where it is probable that fewer than half of last year’s championship team will represent the Lions this season: Reinier Bijloos and Olivier Klaus have retired, Damian Crowley and Yash Patel will be unavailable, Felix Bennett will be playing in England, and the club has recently been informed that Tim Pringle will be resting an injury for the whole of this New Zealand winter.
That being so, HCC will be enormously relieved that they have secured the return of Jonathan Vandiar, who demonstrated in his ten matches for Punjab last year that he has lost none of his destructive power: he averaged 83, and added three centuries to the five he scored during his spell at De Diepput in 2016-17, and he now has 2360 runs at an average of 67.43.
De Diepput’s proportions are even more bijou than those at ‘t Zomercomplex, especially square of the wicket, and Vandiar can be expected to take full advantage.
Patel’s absence will be covered by the arrival of Ratha Alphonse from relegated Kampong Utrecht, while Adriaan Verbeek will join HCC from ACC.
Also new to the defending champions will be South Africans Daniel Crowley, the younger brother of Damian, and 18-year-old Phillip Opperman.
But HCC are likely to rely even more than they have in the past on skipper Boris Gorlee, his predecessor in that role Tonny Staal, allrounder Hidde Overdijk, and left-arm spinner Clayton Floyd, all of whom have some experience in the national side.
Henrico Venter will doubtless support Overdijk in the seam attack, where he will need a new opening partner with the retiral of Bijloos, and Floris de Lange may get more opportunities in the first team with the changing of the guard.
The same goes for Overdijk’s younger brother Jan-Wieger, and a trio of Trijzelaars, Daniël, Justin and Piet-Jan, while there may be opportunities as well for young Teun Kloppenburg, son of former international Feiko.
But one more thing is certain: 2023 will be a season of rebuilding at De Diepput as the club celebrates 145 years of its existence.