Rod Lyall 30-04-19
Much of the initial interest in this year’s Topklasse competition will focus on promoted side Voorburg, returning to the top flight after a nine-year absence.
They lost just one match on their march to the Hoofdklasse title last season, and despite the absence of young international allrounder Bas de Leede, now in England with the MCC Young Cricketers, all the indications are that they will be stronger this year, and that they could even challenge for the Topklasse championship itself.
At the heart of their selection are four South Africans, two of them bearers of a Dutch passport and already members of Ryan Campbell’s national squad.
They are seamer Brandon Glover, who took 17 wickets at an average of 6.06 last year, and slow left-armer Clayton Floyd, whose 28 wickets at 13.61 contributed a good deal of the attack’s cutting edge.
He will share the new ball with Viv Kingma, who returns from injury and from VRA showing every sign of wanting to shake up opposing batsmen. Steffen Mulder, the only surviving member of the 2009 Voorburg side unless Tim de Leede decides to take his bat out of the cupboard one more time, will no doubt bowl his share of seamers as well.
With leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain, another member of the Dutch squad, to match Floyd’s left-arm spin Voorburg look to have a balanced and menacing attack.
And that’s without taking into account the contribution of South African brothers Matt and Nicholas Smith, whose main contribution is likely to be with the bat. Left-hander Matt hit 467 Hoofdklasse runs at an average of 116.75 in just seven matches last season before being forced out with a knee injury, and this year he will be joined by Nicholas; both have plenty of experience of club cricket in England, and can be expected to cause problems for opposing bowlers.
The side will again be captained by former Dutch international Tom de Grooth, and with keeper Mohit Hingorani and Australians Noah Croes and Steve Nottle also on their players’ list, Voorburg will be one of the teams to watch as the competition gets under way.
The South African influence will again also be strong at ACC, who will be hoping to improve on a very disappointing 2018 campaign.
Their new recruits are 26 year-old Boland batsman-wicketkeeper Jean Marais and 30 year-old North-West allrounder Brady Barends, who will bring some maturity to what is still a very young and inexperienced outfit.
The Zulfiqar presence will still be of great importance to the side, although Asad has moved to Punjab Rotterdam; elder brother Rehmat, one of the most improved players in the Topklasse last year, will still have skipper Saqib and the other remaining triplet, Sikander, alongside him in the team, even if it is unclear how regular an appearance will be made by their evergreen father Ahmed.
Above all, it’s consistency that the Amsterdammers will be looking for from their three remaining Zulfiqars: all have proved the ability to make big scores and to take crucial wickets from time to time, but their importance to the side is all the greater because of the club‘s commitment to a youth policy, and means that they need to come off more regularly than they were able to do last year.
There will be hope, too, that the younger brigade of Aryan Kumar – arguably the most successful of the group to date – Areeb Shoaib, Jamieson Mulready, Shirace Rasool, Ammar Zaidi and Shreyas Potdar will make significant progress this season, and that some at least of them will hold their own on the demanding Topklasse stage.
It’s not as if ACC don’t have more experienced players on their books: Bas van der Heyde topped the Second side’s batting averages last year, and with the likes of Rehan Younis and Steven de Bruin also potentially available, the opportunity is there to field a more balanced side.
Half-filling a side with teenagers is a laudable commitment to the future, but it only has real value if they are able to rise to the challenge.
Jay Bista, the leading run-scorer in the Topklasse last season with 854 at an average of 47.44, is back at Quick Haag, where he will be joined by his countryman Prathamesh Dake, a seam-bowling allrounder who is something of a T20 specialist in his native Mumbai.
Sean Davey has reportedly moved to Ajax Leiden, and with seamer Imran Khan out through injury the club’s rebuilding phase looks set to continue. But the abandonment of the KNCB’s restriction on overseas players means that Namibian Pieter Groenewald could move up from the Seconds to strengthen the Topklasse side.
Otherwise, it looks as if Quick might need to rely on the mixture as before, with Jeroen Brand, Lesley Stokkers, Thijs van Schelven and Geert Maarten Mol, all of whom have played for the national side at some point, among the more familiar names and faces; it remains to be seen whether last season’s successful coup of persuading Edgar Schiferli to return to the colours will be repeated this year.
Keeper Daan Vierling made good progress last season, posting a maiden Topklasse half-century, and Bob van Gigch is another veteran who is always ready to demonstrate that he is still capable of making a contribution in the top flight.
Rogier Rooda and Stefan Ekelmans have yet to establish themselves as fully-fledged members of the side, and they may well find youngsters like Teun Landheer and Tycho de Mooij breathing down their necks.
Visitors to Nieuw Hanenburg will find one major difference this season: the outfield, the butt of more than its fair share of jokes over the years, has gone, as Quick have followed the example of neighbours HBS and laid a brand-new astroturf surface. Whatever one may think about artificial outfields, it seems likely to offer better value for one’s strokeplay than its predecessor sometimes did.
Sparta 1888 made a promising start on their return to the top flight last season, but then fell away and had to be content with seventh position.
There’s been something of a reshuffle at the Bermweg, with Michael Pollard, Warren Bell, Craig Ambrose and Faisal Iqbal all moving on, to be replaced by 25-year-old Wellington batsman Andrew Fletcher and 18-year-old South African wicketkeeper-batsmen Garnett Tarr, as well as by spinner Manminder Singh, batsman Chandan Kumar, and the hard-hitting Ali Raza moving from Hermes-DVS, Excelsior ‘20 and Punjab respectively.
Fletcher will fill the spot vacated by Pollard, and much will depend on his ability to made consistent runs, the core around which Sparta can build significant totals.
That said, with former internationals Mudassar Bukhari and Atse Buurman still on the strength, and Belgium’s Raja Saqlain added to the squad, Sparta will doubtless be a force to contend with, especially at home.
Spearheaded by Bukhari but also featuring solid performances from skipper Joost-Martijn Snoep, Dost Muhammad, young Max Hoornweg, Usman Ishfaq and Usman Saleem, it was the attack which largely kept the Capelle side clear of the relegation zone last season, and apart from the departure of Bell that will be unchanged.
The least altered of all the squads appears to be Dosti’s. They will sorely miss Mohammad Hafeez, the leading wicket-taker and top of the bowling averages in 2018, who has moved on to Punjab.
But as against that, they have Taruwar Kohli, Anees Davids and Amitoze Singh all on their books again, and this year there is nothing in the rules to prevent all three playing at once; last season Singh proved an invaluable replacement when Kohli returned to India.
Vinoo Tewarie’s side will need more consistency from its local players, not least Tewarie himself. He and Rahil Ahmed have struggled to build major innings, and although they made 378 and 336 runs respectively last year, Kohli needs more support from both of them.
Kohli and Davids are also central to the attack, and will be even more so without Hafeez. Here, however, the pace of Wahid Masood proved useful last season, and the advent of Asief Hoseinbaks to share the spin burden with Mahesh Hans also gave a better-balanced look to the attack.
One of Dosti’s greatest problems, though, is the relative thinness of their squad: they rely heavily on their overseas players and a small number of locals, and they have not been able to find new players to help lift them back to their title-winning form of four years ago.