Board floats changes to Topklasse

Rod Lyall 23/01/20

There are disturbing indications that the KNCB Board may be contemplating a curtailment of the 50-over men’s national championship in order to make more room for more Twenty20 matches.

These fears are inspired by an e-mail sent to all clubs last week by competitions co-ordinator Bart Kroesen, proposing significant changes to the programme from as early as the 2020 season.

The mail outlines a radically restructured T20 Cup, intended to address the widely-accepted problems with the existing format: the widespread lack of interest in the Friday-evening group matches, clubs’ difficulties in putting out full-strength sides for these games, and the disparities in strength between the four regionally-based groups.

Under the new proposals there would be four five-team pools, with a ballot largely based on last season’s 50-over rankings to determine their composition.

Since these groups could comprise teams as far apart as Deventer and Schiedam it would obviously be impractical to play the matches on Friday evenings, and Kroesen therefore proposes that the Cup be played on Saturday afternoons in July and August.

Clubs were given eight days, that is until Thursday, 23 January, to respond to this idea.

Although one might think this timescale was unreasonably short, especially in the middle of January, these proposals seem in themselves to offer a clear improvement in the T20 competition.

The sting, however, comes in the tail.

Clubs were in fact asked to choose between three options: the status quo, the proposed new-look T20 Cup, and a much more radical scheme, whereby the Top- and Hoofdklasse (the two top 50-over divisions) would be cut, ‘for example’ to a nine-match home-or-away first phase in place of the present 18-game home-and-away round robin, followed by play-offs among the top four and bottom six and a final.

This is presented as a way of avoiding double weekends with a T20 match on a Saturday and a 50-over league match on the Sunday, but its implications go much further.

We know from the Board’s consultation with the clubs back in September that there is anxiety about how the domestic competitions can be reconciled with an increasingly demanding national team schedule, not to mention the looming prospect of a month-long Euroslam T20 tournament.

So far-reaching are these challenges that the Board has established a Taskforce to consider all aspects of the future structure of the competitions.

Yet rather than waiting for that Taskforce to bring forward its recommendations – a process which is admittedly taking an inordinately long time – it appears that the Board has now decided to press ahead with a partial restructuring of its own.

The new-look T20 Cup may in itself be desirable, but a fundamental shift away from 50-over cricket towards a greater diet of T20 is another matter entirely.

It would do an injustice to the national team’s success in the ODI format, but much more important, it would ignore the importance of longer formats in the development of young cricketers, and it would threaten the longer-term future of the clubs, for whom the 50-over game is vitally important.

Coaches agree that an unrelieved emphasis upon T20 is bad for player development: if you haven’t learned the basic techniques in the longer formats you are, in most cases, unprepared for the much greater demands of T20.

Not everyone can be a David Warner, and young Dutch-produced players already find it difficult enough to make the transition to the international stage: there are many reasons why the national team contains so many players who learned their cricket elsewhere, but one of them is that they had the benefit from a young age of playing two-day club cricket.

So if the trend is to be less longer-format cricket in the Netherlands and more T20 the Board may as well come clean and abandon its declared objective of a national side with a greater proportion of home-produced players.

It’s easy to overestimate the attractions of T20: played at a level below that of the very best it can be a pretty hollow spectacle, and even in Australia there are signs that its appeal is waning.

Figures published this week show that attendances at the Big Bash have been declining for the past three seasons, even as the number of matches has increased, and this season are bumping along at barely 60% of the peak year 2016-17.

It may be that the suggestion of a reduced national championship is just a trial balloon, or an attempt to get the T20 Cup restructuring accepted by making it appear the less radical proposal, but we must hope that the good sense of the clubs will have made clear that it’s a non-starter.

And the Board should in any case do what it set out to do nearly a year ago: wait for the recommendations of its Taskforce and then come up with a comprehensive plan for the future of the Dutch domestic game.

The very model of a modern competition?

Rod Lyall 23/09/19

What do we want the top divisions of the Dutch domestic competition to do?

Ideally, they should be a testing ground for the best young local cricketers, offering highly-competitive match situations and providing a showcase for the Dutch game.

That is, of course, an extremely idealistic view: for the clubs, the objective is to win the national championship – or at the very least, not to be relegated – and, wherever possible, to make a profit over the bar.

So there is inevitably a tension, between giving their young players a chance to shine and strengthening their squad by bringing in potential match-winners from overseas or from other clubs.

There’s a great deal of pious talk about the need to develop home-produced players, but when it comes down to it there are few clubs who would not give a key role to a star bowler or batter rather than invest in a young player who may or may not immediately be worth his place in the side.

And that was exacerbated this year by the collapse of the KNCB’s attempts to regulate the number of overseas players clubs are able to fly in for part or all of the season.

The main argument deployed in 2016 to justify the re-expansion of the top divisions to ten teams was that if the threat of relegation were reduced, with one team in ten facing the drop rather than one in eight, clubs would be more willing to pursue a proper development policy, giving promising young players their chance.

In my view at the time, the first part of the argument weighed much more heavily in the minds of club administrators than the second, and that has been proved right by subsequent events: there were actually more young Dutch players playing in the eight-team Topklasse in 2015 than in the ten-team competition this year – or, for that matter, in 2018, before the open-door policy on overseas players.

The truth is that some clubs were mostly interested in creating a cushion between themselves and the relegation zone by bringing in a couple of clubs who were weaker than they were, while others, lower down the rankings, could see that in three ten-team divisions they would have a better chance of moving into a higher bracket.

Still leaving the vexed question of the national team’s commitments and their impact upon the competition out of account for the moment, we return to the two objectives with which we began: which structure produces the best cricket, and which best fosters the emergence of talented young Dutch cricketers?

And it turns out that they are, in fact, closely related.

I remain convinced that there are simply not enough Dutch players of any age available to sustain ten competitive sides in the top flight.

Just take the statistics from the season just past: of the 45 batsmen in the Topklasse who achieved an average of 20.00 or better, 20 came from overseas, leaving 25 Dutch players who managed that basic level, and while the bowlers, as usual, did rather better – 32 of the 46 who had an average below 30.00 were Dutch – that still means that, throwing in a wicketkeeper for good measure, there was an average of three or four players per team who were essentially making up the numbers.

It will probably be argued in reply that this year’s Topklasse was the most competitive for years, and with four sides in contention for the title for the first dozen rounds or so and the relegation battle going down to the final round, that is undoubtedly true.

But did that indicate that the quality of Topklasse cricket has risen since the expansion to ten teams, or does it reflect a levelling down effect?

Even with the advent of an expanded cohort of overseas players this year, much of the cricket played was frankly disappointing, with several sides relying to an excessive degree on the performances of a small number of big-name players.

And that is surely linked to the relative paucity of youngsters who are pushing their way into their clubs’ first teams.

There are, of course, some notable exceptions: VRA’s Vikram Singh, who made his international debut last week, is a case in point, as are, to a somewhat lesser extent, ACC’s Shirase Rasool and Aryan Kumar.

But you can count such examples on your fingers, and as long as the present situation prevails that is unlikely to change.

There are numerous reasons for our being where we are: too few clubs have a coherent youth policy or even a youth section at all; the level of youth coaching Is at best uneven; the collapse of the under-19 competition and the current difficulties of the under-17 one mean that the opportunities for young players to develop their game against their peers are becoming ever more scarce.

In a healthy cricket environment, clubs’ second teams would be full of highly-motivated youngsters making runs and taking wickets and forcing themselves onto the selectors’ attention.

That is, however, hardly anywhere the case, and as what should be pathways disappear into the undergrowth the demotivating effects lead to more and more talented young players simply giving up.

That’s what’s so interesting about the Board’ idea of creating a separate development competition for the leading clubs’ second teams: if the clubs were to embrace this as a key part of their youth strategy (and I concede that’s a big if), the combination of a few experienced players as mentors and a bunch of talented youngsters could be the seedbed for stronger, home-produced first teams in three or five years’ time.

Along with that, though, there is a strong argument for reverting to a Topklasse comprising the best eight sides facing strong opponents almost every week, with the next best taking part in an equally hard-fought Hoofdklasse.

That would be a fair, realistic reflection of where Dutch cricket now is, with fewer than 2000 senior male cricketers of all ages playing at all levels, and it would give us the best chance of achieving that other objective of a national side in which Dutch-produced players are able to earn their place on their merits.

Scorecard | HCC vs Sparta | 25.08.19

Sparta I Vs HCC I
1-Innings Match Played At Sportpark Bermweg, Capelle a/d IJssel, 25-Aug-2019, Topklasse
HCC I Win by 36 runs
Round 18
Toss won by HCC I
Umpires HM Butt – E Ruchtie
Scorers AO Smelt – K Pattiselanno
Home Side Sparta I
Points Awarded HCC I 2, Sparta I 0
HCC I 1st Innings 237/8 Closed (Overs 50)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
AJ Staal* c AT Fletcher b M Bukhari 0 2 0 0
AO Wiffen lbw b AT Fletcher 64 99 2 0
BE Street c AF Buurman b JM Snoep 7 19 0 0
BHG Gorlee lbw b M Singh 34 65 2 0
BR Itagi c A Raza b JM Snoep 51 57 1 3
HC Overdijk c AF Buurman b AT Fletcher 12 23 0 0
MW Hay c MB Hoornweg b JM Snoep 3 6 0 0
DL Walhain not out 26 16 1 1
AA Qasim lbw b AT Fletcher 0 2 0 0
OO Klaus not out 18 11 2 0
LJF Lagas+ dnb
extras (b1 lb7 w14 nb0) 22
TOTAL 8 wickets for 237
1-1(AJ Staal) 2-19(BE Street) 3-90(BHG Gorlee) 4-174(AO Wiffen) 5-176(BR Itagi) 6-187(MW Hay) 7-197(HC Overdijk) 8-197(AA Qasim) /td>
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
M Bukhari 8 1 39 1 1
JM Snoep 10 1 40 3 5
MB Hoornweg 4 0 19 0 1
U Saleem 8 0 33 0 3
M Singh 10 0 39 1
AT Fletcher 10 0 59 3 4
Sparta I 1st Innings 201/10 All Out (Overs 48.1)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
AT Fletcher lbw b BE Street 8 16 1 0
RS Tasawar Iqbal lbw b AA Qasim 5 27 0 0
TIM de Kok c BE Street b MW Hay 29 55 3 0
M Bukhari c DL Walhain b BR Itagi 103 120 9 2
AF Buurman+ c DL Walhain b OO Klaus 19 30 3 0
A Raza b BE Street 15 15 2 0
M Singh c OO Klaus b BR Itagi 10 22 0 0
N Ibrahimkhil c BE Street b BR Itagi 0 1 0 0
U Saleem b BE Street 0 1 0 0
MB Hoornweg c LJF Lagas b BE Street 0 1 0 0
JM Snoep* not out 1 1 0 0
extras (b4 lb2 w4 nb1) 11
TOTAL 10 wickets for 201
1-11(AT Fletcher) 2-19(RS Tasawar Iqbal) 3-91(TIM de Kok) 4-125(AF Buurman) 5-148(A Raza) 6-192(M Singh) 7-193(N Ibrahimkhil) 8-194(U Saleem) 9-195(MB Hoornweg) 10-201(M Bukhari)/td>
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
AA Qasim 10 1 43 1
BE Street 9 1 30 4 1
OO Klaus 10 1 44 1
MW Hay 10 3 33 1
BR Itagi 9.1 0 45 3 2

Scorecard | ACC vs Dosti | 25.08.19

ACC I Vs Dosti United I
1-Innings Match Played At Het Loopveld West, 25-Aug-2019, Topklasse
ACC I Win by 35 runs
Round 18
Toss won by ACC I
Umpires J Hilhorst – FLA van Lent
Scorers DC Schinkel – R Seetal
Home Side ACC I
Points Awarded ACC I 2, Dosti United I 0
ACC I 1st Innings 196/10 All Out (Overs 49.4)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
JM Mulready+ b S Zakhil 13 45 0 0
RU Zulfiqar c VS Tewarie b M Hans 18 46 1 0
SM Zulfiqar* c K Diwan b A Davids 67 71 4 4
SR Rasool b K Diwan 36 48 3 3
SA Zulfiqar b K Diwan 31 40 0 1
BL Barends c VS Tewarie b S Zakhil 10 17 0 0
CM Knoll b S Zakhil 0 1 0 0
BM te Boekhorst c S Zakhil b K Diwan 10 26 0 0
RA Kumar lbw b K Diwan 0 1 0 0
M van Vliet run out VAB Tewarie/RI Ahmed 0 1 0 0
D Arya not out 1 1 0 0
extras (b1 lb0 w9 nb0) 10
TOTAL 10 wickets for 196
1-27(RU Zulfiqar) 2-42(JM Mulready) 3-119(SR Rasool) 4-147(SM Zulfiqar) 5-164(BL Barends) 6-164(CM Knoll) 7-187(BM te Boekhorst) 8-188(RA Kumar) 9-188(M van Vliet) 10-196(SA Zulfiqar)
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
K Diwan 9.4 1 15 4
M Hans 10 0 36 1 1
Asief Hoseinbaks 10 0 44 0
S Zakhil 7 0 29 3 1
VS Tewarie 6 0 39 0 1
A Davids 7 0 32 1 1
Dosti United I 1st Innings 161/10 All Out (Overs 39.1)
Batsman Fieldsman Bowler Runs Bls 4s 6s
RI Ahmed+ c RU Zulfiqar b BL Barends 59 64 8 0
VAB Tewarie* lbw b SM Zulfiqar 28 43 5 0
M Hans c M van Vliet b SM Zulfiqar 0 9 0 0
S Zakhil b BL Barends 0 5 0 0
A Davids b BL Barends 0 2 0 0
VS Tewarie lbw b BL Barends 0 2 0 0
K Diwan c SR Rasool b SA Zulfiqar 26 33 0 6
S Ghori c RU Zulfiqar b SM Zulfiqar 5 13 1 0
Asief Hoseinbaks c BM te Boekhorst b SA Zulfiqar 6 35 1 0
Arief Hoseinbaks c&b D Arya 16 23 2 0
AV Atwarie not out 0 6 0 0
extras (b2 lb0 w19 nb0) 21
TOTAL 10 wickets for 161
1-84(VAB Tewarie) 2-90(M Hans) 3-92(S Zakhil) 4-100(A Davids) 5-101(VS Tewarie) 6-102(RI Ahmed) 7-111(S Ghori) 8-142(K Diwan) 9-144(Asief Hoseinbaks) 10-161(Arief Hoseinbaks)/td>
Bowler Overs Maid Runs Wkts wd nb
BL Barends 10 1 34 4 3
RA Kumar 5 0 21 0 6
D Arya 5.1 0 32 1 1
M van Vliet 2 0 19 0 1
SM Zulfiqar 10 1 29 3 1
SA Zulfiqar 7 1 24 2 2

Gallery | Excelsior vs VRA | 25.08.19

Excelsior ’20 Schiedam vs VRA at Thurlede – 25.08.19
scorecard | as it happened

Quick Haag relegated after defeat at Westvliet

Rod Lyall 26/08/19

While Topklasse champions Excelsior ’20 performed their lap of honour at Thurlede on Sunday, most of the interest outside Schiedam centred on Capelle aan den Ijssel and Voorburg, where Sparta 1888 and Quick Haag were fighting to avoid relegation.

Having lost the toss at Sportpark Bermweg, Sparta made a great start against HCC, removing Tonny Staal and, crucially, Bryce Street with just 19 runs on the board.

But Adam Wiffen and Boris Gorlee restored HCC’s fortunes with a third-wicket stand of 71, and after Gorlee departed for 34 Wiffen (64) and Bharat Itagi (51) carried the total on to 174.

Even so, it looked as if HCC might struggle to get past 200 until Douwe Walhain and Olivier Klaus added a brisk 40 for the ninth wicket to get their side up to 237 for eight, a pretty imposing target at the Bermweg.

Martijn Snoep took three for 40 for Sparta, including the key wickets of Street and Itagi, while Andrew Fletcher claimed three for 59.

Sparta needed a solid start in reply, but Street and Ali Ahmed Qasim quickly accounted for the openers, and it was left to Tim de Kok and Mudassar Bukhari to work the side back into the game with a third-wicket stand of 72.

Once De Kok departed for 29, however, only Bukhari stood firm, taking 67 deliveries to reach his half-century as partners came and went.

The asking rate had been creeping upwards, but Bukhari now accelerated the scoring as the wickets continued to fall, Street taking four for 30 and Itagi three for 45.

Bukhari reached his century, the fourth of his career in the top flight and his first for Sparta, with nine wickets down, and when he was last out, caught by Walhain off Itagi’s bowling for 103, Sparta were still 36 short of HCC’s total.

By that time, however, it had become apparent that the relegation threat had disappeared, thanks to Quick Haag’s defeat by Voorburg at Westvliet.

The home side had reserved one of their more convincing batting performances of the season for their final game, reaching 175 for two before collapsing to 210 for nine.

Noah Croes led the way, sharing stands of 80 for the first wicket with Tom de Grooth (41) and 91 for the third with Nic Smit (46) before, with partners and overs rapidly disappearing, he was run out for 97 just one over from the end, looking to retain the strike and give himself a chance of reaching his second Topklasse century.

Quick were handicapped by the withdrawal from their attack of Prathamesh Dake, suffering from a hamstring injury, after he had bowled only three and a half overs, and it was Jeroen Brand who was the main wicket-taker with three for 43.

Jay Bista took two for 22 in ten extremely tight overs while Edgar Schiferli, back in the top flight for the first time this season, bowled a double wicket maiden at the end.

Brandon Glover and Viv Kingma produced hostile spells when Quick replied – the latter’s marred by a succession of no-balls – and even Jay Bista was unable to get his side off to its usual commanding start.

Glover eventually had him caught behind for 34, and although Geert Maarten Mol (31) and Brand (26) almost doubled the total in a fourth-wicket partnership, once Philippe Boissevain and Nic Smit came into the attack Quick seemed to have no answer.

Boissevain finished with four for 20 and Smit three for 16 as Quick were dismissed for 143, a result which ensured that they would be playing in the Hoofdklasse next season.

Far removed from any anxieties about relegation, Excelsior ‘20 completed their campaign with a 59-run victory over VRA Amsterdam at Thurlede.

The Amsterdam side had, of course, spent the first half of the season in the wooden spoon position themselves, but a rally thereafter had taken them to safety.

Sunday saw their opponents stage a rally of their own, when having been reduced to 112 for six, they were able to almost double their total thanks to a somewhat improbable stand of 90 between Sohail Bhatti, promoted to number six and celebrating the occasion with a maiden half-century, and David Woutersen, who made 32.

Bhatti was eventually dismissed by Brandon Graber for 54, but it was Ben Cooper who was VRA’s most successful bowler with three for 51.

VRA were never really in the hunt as they tried to chase down Excelsior’s 221 for nine, and although Vikram Singh made 28, Cooper 35 and Peter Borren 40, they were dismissed for 162, Lorenzo Ingram taking three for 19 for the champions.

There was another rally and another maiden demi-centurion at Hazelaarweg, where VOC Rotterdam’s tail staged a considerably more remarkable comeback against HBS Craeyenhout.

Berend Westdijk, Zak Gibson and Julian de Mey had combined to reduce the Rotterdam side, who had perhaps celebrated their previous day’s T20 Cup final victory over the same opponents a little too thoroughly, to 92 for eight, but then Bobby Hanif, in company first with Corey Rutgers and then with David Mullett, managed to get them up to 183 before Sharn Gomes removed him for a defiant 56.

Hanif then removed danger-man Tobias Visée for just three, but although two wickets for Ramdas Upadhyaya had HBS briefly in trouble at 37 for three, a fourth-wicket partnership of 138 between Zac Elkin (77 not out from 66 deliveries) and Gomes (71 from 55) took the Craeyenhout side to within nine runs of victory, and they completed the six-wicket win with more than 25 overs to spare.

At Het Loopveld ACC retained third place on the table by beating Dosti United by 35 runs.

Saqib Zulfiqar top-scored with 67, sharing a third-wicket stand of 77 with Shirase Rasool (36) and then brother Sikander held the middle and lower order together as Kuldeep Diwan cemented his position as the league’s leading wicket-taker with four for 15, bringing his tally for the season to 36 in just 14 games, and Saber Zakhil chipped in with three for 29 as ACC were dismissed for 196.

Rahil Ahmed and Vinoo Tewarie gave Dosti a great start with an opening stand of 84, but once Tewarie was trapped in front by Saqib Zulfiqar the innings again subsided alarmingly.

Four ducks, three of them the work of Brady Barends, saw Dosti slump to 101 for five, and when Ahmed became Barends’ fourth victim and departed for 58, it was left to Diwan (26) and Arief Hoseinbaks (16) to carry on the battle.

The side was eventually dismissed for 161, Barends finishing with four for 34 and Saqib Zulfiqar claiming three for 29.

Gallery | Quick vs Sparta | 18.08.19

Quick Haag vs Sparta 1888 at Nieuw Hanenburg – 18/08/19
scorecard | as it happened