Though both wound up in the wrong half of the table last year, neither VOC nor Salland looked in serious danger of relegation through the second phase of the 2022 season. For Salland that was in part down to a bit of luck in that they took all their phase one points through to the relegation fight, and Victor Lubbers’side will be happy enough if they can survive another season in the top flight. In VOC’s case, the T20 Champions will feel they rather underperformed in the longer format last year.
The Rotterdammers were rather reliant for runs on international opening pair Max O’Dowd and Scott Edwards last season, the only VOC bats to cross 500 runs for the season in 2022. Former West Australia under 19’s bat Lane Berry arrives at Hazelaarweg to bolster the top order, which will be particularly welcome when the national side comes calling for Edwards and O’Dowd during the mid-season T20 competition.
Nonetheless they will hope from more regular contributions from skipper Tim de Kok, whose form was rtaher all-or-nothing last year, and Bloodhounds fans will hope his predecessor Pieter Seelaar has another season in him, along with the evergreen Jelte Schoonheim. The arrival of the veteran Atse Buurman from Sparta means their will be no lack of experience at Hazelaarweg, but with the exception of all-rounder Arnav Jain the middle order does look rather long in the tooth.
Arguably more of a concern is the bowling however, especially if Seelaar is unable to lead the spin attack and Pierce Fletcher’s coaching duties keep him off the roster too often. Max Hoornweg and Belgium’s Burhan Niaz have been an adequate new ball combo, but the pair managed only 30 wickets between them last season. Arnav Jain’s offspin bagged him 20 scalps last summer, but a shoulder injury has kept him from bowling for much of the off-season. The arrival of Asief Hoseinbaks from Dosti adds another slow-bowling option, and Sieb van Wingerden continues to show promise, but all told the VOC roster looks rather batting heavy again for 2023.
Conversely Salland’s chief strength last season was their reserves of quality slow bowling, with German spin pair Elam Barathi and Venkatraman Ganesan the stand-outs. The German contingent will be back this season, with Talha Khan and Sahir Naqash also turning out for the Deventer side again. Indeed the core of the side is largely unchanged, Piyaranga Ottachchige again takes the glove and Victor Lubbers again captaining, as well as providing another seam option alongside his brother Reinder or Gijs van der Molen. Newcomer Fraser Bartholemewwill likely take over the as Reinder’s new ball partner however, and Salland will hope the Kiwi right arm quick will lend the seam attack a cutting edge it was previously lacking.
It was the batting side of things that was Salland’s main weakness last year with no bat passing 350 for the season, though a second signing from New Zealand may go some way to redemying that deficiency. A product of the Central Districts youth system, Finn Raxworthy’s occasional legspin may add an extra dimension to the spin attack but his primary role will be to bolster the batting. Alongside the two signings Salland have also added some locally-based foreign talent to the rolls in Australian James Ridley and South African Ruan du Plessis (though not the former Easterns bat of the same name) lending the roster some much needed depth for when the German contingent are unavailable.
A shallow player pool was a significant issue for the Deventer side last season, availability issues occasionally even seeing the venrable Steven Lubbers called out of retirement. That looks likely to be less of an issue this season, though the squad remains rather geographically disparate, which has hampered preparations. “We are a team completely scattered across two countries, with almost no one of our squad actually living in Deventer, meaning that our pre-season shape up is messy to say the least” Lubbers told Tkcricket. “We finished 7th out of 12 last year which we of course were incredibly happy about, our goal for 2023 is nothing different than 2022: surviving demotion. It is important that our batting clicks, as we often struggled to set a decent score on the board. There will be a big role for the Germans, Raxworthy, Piyaranga and myself to play this year. Making the top half after the first phase would relieve all the pressure, but we’re realistic and may well see ourselves in the bottom half, meaning we will have to come up with the same season finale as we showed last season by winning 5 of our last 6 games. Our goal is not to do well in the Topklasse for a single season, but to become a mid-table team for multiple years.”