Season Preview – part 1

Bertus de Jong and Rod Lyall 03-07-2020


Nothing is normal in the world we now find ourselves inhabiting, and even by normal standards this year’s abbreviated – and in a certain sense unofficial – Topklasse is difficult to predict.

The most obvious source of uncertainty, of course, is the absence of overseas players, with or without a Dutch passport, from the ranks of most teams. That means that those who are around, like Excelsior ‘20’s Lorenzo Ingram, may well be even more influential than usual.

But other than that, the 2020 competition will be an unusually clear indication of clubs’ strength in depth, and of emerging players’ true ability to make their mark.


logo punjabFew clubs will be more greatly affected by the situation than promoted side Punjab Rotterdam, whose Hoofdklasse win last year owed a great deal to a quintet of South Africans, led by former HCC coach Jonathan Vandiar.

The Rotterdammers will, however, be compensated for that loss by the acquisition of Saqib, Sikander and Rehmat Zulfiqar, who have joined family voortrekker Asad at the Zomercomplex.

With international opener Stef Myburgh also in the line-up Punjab will have a powerful, hard-hitting top five, while Sikander’s lively fast-medium bowling will complement long-serving captain Sulaiman Tariq in the attack.

Then there’s evergreen Muhammad Hafeez, still scoring runs and bamboozling batsmen, the utility players’ utility player Ashan Bamunusinghe, who can slot into the side in almost any capacity, a well as brothers Mohsin and Faizan Bajwa, and Punjab should be capable of giving any team in the competition a run for their money.


SpartaOver at the Bermweg in Capelle a/d Ijssel, Sparta 1888’s principal gain is the transfer of top-order batsman Lenert van Wyk from Excelsior ’20.

A former Boland, Cape Cobras and Free State player with 2000 first-class runs to his credit, Van Wyk appeared in four matches for the Schiedam club last season after taking a job in the Netherlands.

His arrival will compensate Sparta to some degree for the absence of overseas players, as well as the return of Tim de Kok to VOC.

New skipper Mudassar Bukhari will have a strong attack at his disposal, with Martijn Snoep, Manminder Singh and youngster Max Hoornweg joined by Punjab’s Mamoon Latif and the returning Faisal Iqbal.

Bukhari, of course, is a powerful force with both bat and ball, and with Ali Raza at the top of the order former international keeper Atse Buurman still valuable in the middle order as well as behind the stumps, and 16-year-old Prithvy Balwantsingh showing real promise with the bat, Sparta will be hoping for a better season than they managed in 2019.

Former skipper (and now Chairman) Snoep was upbeat about his club’s preparation and prospects despite the absent overseas players, “We’ve been training, had some intra-club and intra-squad games, and we also took the initiative to play in Belgium against Antwerp, we good contacts there and outdoor sports where allowed there. Missing Ter Braak en Hampton makes a big difference for obvious reasons. Still with an experienced team with Bukhari, Van Wyk, Ali Raza, Buurman, Manin Singh Myself and with Latif coming over from Punjab as well as Max Hoornweg who’s in the KNCB setup we feel we have a decent local squad to pick from, Faisal Iqbal back as well. New players Van Wyk, Latif, Iqbal and young players Maxi and 16-year old Prithvi Balwantsingh (who scored 28 of 20 against Antwerp) will get some games. Ivo Hoornweg (Max’s youngest brother) will get opportunities, hes a medium pacer. We’ll be looking to win every game and develop the team into a better one for next season.”


LogoVOCOne of the biggest disappointments of least season was the form of defending champions VOC Rotterdam, who slumped to eighth, and they will not be helped this time by the absence of international star Max O’Dowd and the (mostly) retired seamer Bobby Hanif.

They had hoped to have the services of international keeper-batsman Scott Edwards, but word is the Netherlands gloveman has run into difficulties securing permission to fly from Australia. Top-order batsman Corey Rutgers did manage to return to the Netherlands just before the borders closed however, and will have an increased role in the first team in O’Dowd’s absence.

His experience will be valuable support for skipper Pieter Seelaar, who is likely to find his bowling assumes even greater importance without not only Hanif but also Pierce Fletcher, Dirk van Baren and Ashiqullah Said.

On the other hand, there will be a good deal of interest in the progress of teenager Siebe van Wingerden, who made his Topklasse debut last season and who now has the opportunity to establish himself in the side.

Seelaar was understandably keen to downplay expectations somewhat ahead of the opening round, telling Tkcricket; Thursday will be our first and only practice of the year. When the season was cancelled earlier, there was hardly any commitment to training or practice games, that is was decided to pretty much cancel this year … Our ambition is to enjoy what is left of the cricket season. For some players it will be good to see how they will develop.”


logo VRAConversely VRA’s roster is comparatively unaffected by the continued travel restrictions, but nonetheless the Amsterdam club has seen more than a few departures over the winter, and will be fielding a somewhat new-look side this season. Pre-season talks with Adam Wiffen were eventually nixed in part due to the virus, Brandon Graber will not be returning and left arm quick Haseeb Gul is also understood to be seeking his fortune in England. Former skipper Emile van den Burg also departs for Nijmegen, while seamer Tom Long’s work commitments have taken him to Germany.

Veterans Adeel Raja and Eric Szwarczynski remain on the roster, though it’s unclear how regular a role the latter especially will play. Young Vikram Singh will consequently have to shoulder a greater share of responsibility at the top of the order, where he will likely open with Dutch international Ben Cooper. Skipper Peter Borren will likely also call upon Singh to contribute with ball in hand, alongside senior seamer Quirijn Gunning and offspinner Leon Turmaine, and indeed with the latter pair also likely to miss a couple of games owing to prior commitments, Singh’s reportedly much-improved bowling may prove crucial to his team’s considerable ambitions.

Despite the departures the VRA club look in better shape than many for the abridged season, with a bevy of promising youngsters expected to follow Singh into the senior side.

“We have a great bunch of u18s most if whom are in the Dutch u18 side.” Borren told Tkcricket,As well as Vikram Singh we have Udit Nashier, Zamaan Khan, Shirase Rasool, Luke Hartsink, Ashir Abid, Debrup Dasgupta. They are a group who has been together for a while and I’m looking forward to seeing them all getting opportunities to grow and learn at this level. Our ambition is to win the competition. I don’t think it is an unrealistic goal. Also exposing some young talented guys to a decent standard of cricket. These guys will all be future Topklasse stars, to get this chance to get used to that standard is a win in itself.”


VCCLikewise Voorburg CC will be looking to improve on their 6th place finish despite a number of last season’s first choice side being stranded abroad. Absent will be keeper-bat Noah Croes as well as the Smit brothers, whilst pace spearhead Brandon Glover has been snapped up by Gloucestershire and Clayton Floyd by HCC.

HCC’s Ali Ahmed has made the trip in the opposite direction, however, and Voorburg are also bolstered by the return of Bas de Leede from the UK, whist national legspinning prospect Philippe Boissevain will also be sticking with the club in liueu of a planned stint at MCC Young Cricketers. Aryan Dutt also returns to Westvliet after a stint at Kampong, and together skipper Tom de Grooth VCC will be looking to returnees Dutt and de Leede to plug the run-gap left by the absent Croes and Smit brothers.

Much will also depend on the fiery but fragile Viv Kingma as he steps back into the spearhead role, but de Grooth is bullish about his side’s chances. “We were back at training pretty much straight away. We’ve been playing (an intra-club) T20 comp with four competitive teams and a league with four social teams. Last round of that will be this Friday. So should all have some games behind us. Will be great to have Bas back in the side and see how he has develops. Aryan Dutt is back from Kampong and is looking the part and young keeper Tobias Nota is one to look out for with the gloves. I think there is a great opportunity to show that we can play competitive cricket without the big overseas stars. Hopefully a season where young players can step up and as a club to show out depth. Lots of chances for coming players to shine and grab their chances.”

Round 1 Preview

Rod Lyall & Bertus de Jong 03/05/19


The 2019 competition opens with a split round over the Liberation Day weekend, with three matches taking place as originally scheduled on Saturday and two moved to Sunday. In a further adjustment to the normal programme, Saturday’s matches will start at 10:00 in order to allow for the observance of the national commemoration in the evening, while those on Sunday will commence at 12:00.

RL: Much attention will focus on Voorburg’s Westvliet ground, which was in its first season when the club last played in the top flight. Their guests on their return will be Sparta 1888, who made a winning start last season on their own return to top-division cricket. Saturday’s match will give us a first glimpse of Voorburg’s side, impressive as it unquestionably is on paper, while Joost-Martijn Snoep and Mudassar Bukhari will have the task of quickly moulding their reshuffled outfit into a winning combination. The return of Viv Kingma to Westvliet adds a good deal to the Voorburg attack, and it would come as no surprise if the home side take the points.

BdJ: Also expecting a winning return to the Topklasse here for VCC, who have arguably just been biding their time in the second division in the last couple of seasons to build a side capable of making an immediate impact. Even with Bas de Leede’s departure for England this Voorburg side has the look of top four contenders rather than also-rans, though Sparta’s strength is perhaps tough to guage given the personnel changes over the winter. In Fletcher and Tarr they have two batsmen with proper first-class pedigree, and should they both take quickly to Dutch conditions Sparta may yet take an early lead again this season, but such rapid adjustment has generally been rare in batsmen new to the country.


RL: Defending champions VOC Rotterdam will be at home to Dosti Amsterdam at the Hazelaarweg on Saturday, and despite the loss of Fred Klaassen and Umar Baker from their attack they will start as clear favourites. They were not always completely convincing last season, especially with the bat and early in the season, but they settled into a formidable combination as the campaign went on, and although the pace attack will look different they will still be a force to be reckoned with. Dosti are likely to rely heavily on their overseas players, but will also be hoping that Vinoo Tewarie and Rahil Ahmed among the batsmen and Mahesh Hans, Asief Hoseinbaks and Wahid Masood among the bowlers can play a greater role. If that happens this could be an intriguing game to watch.

BdJ: Hans and the wily Mohammad Hafeez will likely be key to Dosti’s hopes of upsetting the defending champions in the season opener as they memorably did a year ago, though this time they’re taking on the title holders in their own yard, where they went unbeaten last season. It remains to be seen whether VOC persist with their tactic of preparing dry, turning wickets again now that they are a spinner lighter, but either way if Vinoo Tewarie hopes to grab two points off the better-fancied VOC in the first game again, a good start might be winning the toss.


RL: Excelsior ‘20, who entertain Quick Haag at Thurlede in the third of Saturday’s matches, will be keen to put a slightly disappointing 2018 behind them and return to the winning ways which took them to the title in the two previous seasons. Lorenzo Ingram has been joined in Schiedam by West Indian Test batsman Brenton Parchment, who has the most distinguished credentials of any of this year’s overseas players, and surrounded by a talented bunch of young players who are now three years older and more experienced than they were when they first claimed the championship, they should prove too strong for a Quick side which tailed off badly last season.

BdJ: Well word is Quick are still waiting on overseas signings Jay Bista and Prathamesh Dake, who are both apparently going under the hammer at the Mumbai T20 tomorrow when Quick might prefer them to be taking the field, while both Lorenzo Ingram and Brenton Parchment have arrived in good order for Excelsior. Given Bista kept Quick afloat more-or-less single-handedly last season it would be a remarkable upset if they were to knock over a full-strength Excelsior tomorrow without him. That said, it would presumably be a major confidence boost if they managed it. Skipper-in-exile Tim Gruijters has apparently arranged for his Canterbury Country team-mate Rupert Young to fly over and bolster the Quick batting, whilst the veteran Edgar Schiferli is understood to have taken the team in hand over the winter, subjecting them to a remorseless and unrelenting fitness program, and is reportedly mulling a return to competitive cricket to continue pushing his side on the field. They are still far from favourites tomorrow, but it could just be that the 2014 champions surprise everyone this season.


RL: On Sunday ACC, with South Africans Jean Marais and Brady Barends making their Topklasse debuts, will take on VRA Amsterdam at Het Loopveld in the first of this season’s traditional derbies. The Bos-dwellers turned out to be the strongest of VOC’s challengers last year, and although they will be without Daan ter Braak this season they have the most experienced outfit of all: Peter Borren and Eric Szwarczynski have more than 7000 top-flight runs each, and will again provide the core of the batting. Het Loopveld, though, can be a tricky place to visit, and the Amsterdam derby in recent years has generally been a hard-fought affair.

BdJ: Het Loopveld may take some getting used to for visitors, but this VRA side have generally felt quite at home there. Last season they skittled the home side for 112 and then knocked off the runs for the loss of just two wickets in half their allotted overs, despite a 3-ball duck for Peter Borren who generally makes hay on the ACC mat. Somewhat perversely, the visiting side will be more familiar with the “conditions” at ACC than two of the home side’s key players, with Marais and Barends likely having little experience on artificial pitches. That said, VRA are traditionally slow starters in the Topklasse and will be without Quirijn Guinning, who took 2-17 in the team’s last encounter at het Loopeveld.


RL: The other Sunday game pits HBS against HCC at Craeyenhout. The only first-round match which pits two teams from the top half of last season’s table against one another, this promises to be an absorbing duel. With New Zealander Zak Gibson and South African Zac Elkin joining Sharn Gomes at Craeyenhout HBS promise to be at least as strong as they were last year, while HCC will have Gibson’s compatriot Matt Hay joining Ryan Ninan to support their crop of young locally-produced players, led by allrounder Hidde Overdijk, Tonny Staal and Boris Gorlee in the batting and Ali Ahmed Qasim among the bowlers.

BdJ: HBS carry form and home advantage into their opening fixture after the match-up was belatedly relocated, and are firm favourites on paper. Despite the loss of Jaron Morgan, the Crows only look to have got stronger over the off-season, whilst HCC have put their faith in their maturing cohort of youth players. Word is that Ninan will not in fact be back at all for HCC this season, and indeed he was absent for both their warm-up matches. Heavy defeats in both suggest HCC’s young side has yet to really find their feet under new skipper Tonny Staal, and they will either need everything to click for them if they are to take home 2 points from Craeyenhout or Ali Ahmed Qasim to put on a repeat of his performance at the crows’ nest from last season.


Rod Lyall’s tips: Voorburg, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.
Bertus de Jong’s tips: VCC, VOC, Excelsior, VRA, HBS.