Rod Lyall 03-05-18
Sparta 1888 return to the top flight after a ten-year absence, having taken the Hoofdklasse title last season with a well-constructed squad spearheaded by former Dutch international Mudassar Bukhari.
Bukhari’s 46 wickets at an average of 8.96 made a big contribution to his side’s success, but the batting relied mainly on South African Riaan Jeggels, who returns along with his countrymen, the allrounders Warren Bell and Craig Ambrose, the latter having played a few matches for VOC in 2014.
Jeggels topped the Hoofdklasse batting with 417 runs last term at 69.50, while Bell’s 35 wickets at 9.43 were almost as valuable as Bukhari’s in disposing of opposition batsmen.
Under the captaincy of Joost-Martijn Snoep, and with former international keeper Atse Buurman, former youth international Tim de Kok, and experienced club players Usman Saleem and Faisal Iqbal also on the playing strength, Sparta’s first task will be to avoid an immediate return to the Hoofdklasse, a fate which befell them in 2008.
Young player to watch: Max Hoornweg.
After several seasons as one of the leading sides, 2015 champions Dosti United suffered a slump last year, saved from relegation only by the near-complete collapse of Hermes-DVS.
One of the few bright lights in a bleak landscape was player-coach Taruwar Kohli, whose 542 runs at 49.27 put him in the top six of the batting averages, and he returns for the new season. He is joined at Sportpark Drieburg by left-handed South African allrounder Anees Davids, who had a successful Hoofdklasse season with VVV Amsterdam last year.
But Dosti’s fundamental problem in 2017 was the lack of consistent support for their overseas players, with Mohammad Hafeez a less potent force with both bat and ball than he had been in the past, and disappointing seasons with the bat from two former internationals, skipper Vinoo Tewarie and wicketkeeper Rahil Ahmed.
One significant addition to the squad is Asief Hoseinbaks, who joins his brother Arief from Quick Haag and whose spin will compliment that of Mahesh Hans.
Young player to watch: Asief Hoseinbaks.
Despite the undoubted progress made by the Zulfiqar triplets and the less remarked-upon contributions of elder brother Rehmat, ACC, too, experienced a disappointing campaign in 2017.
The club’s policy of promoting young players into the heat of the Topklasse did not enjoy great success, and too often it was left to the veterans Usman Malik and Ahmed Zulfiqar to rescue the side from crisis. On balance, the team was generally three or four players short of a unit capable of challenging in the upper reaches of the competition.
Zakir Kathrada does not return, and has been replaced by Richardt Frenz, another South African wicketkeeper-batsman, who will be joined by promising young fast bowler in Devon Botha, who may add a greater cutting edge to the ACC attack.
The question remains, however, whether any of the younger players, such as Jim Dukker, Arjan Kumar, Shirase Rasool or Anis Raza, will have developed sufficiently to step up and pitch in, as with Zulfiqar senior again attempting to retire and Malik having left for Kampong, still more will rest upon the shoulders of the Zulfiqar brothers.
Young player to watch: Arjan Kumar.
VOC Rotterdam began last season as many people’s fancy to mount a serious challenge for the title, but in the event they were never really in the hunt and finished a disappointing seventh.
This has clearly led to some rethinking – and some recruitment activity – over the winter, with not only Australian player-coach Corey Rutgers joining from HBS, but also Dutch international keeper Scott Edwards and his team-mate in the national side, left-arm seamer Fred Klaassen, who arrives from VRA.
With newly-appointed Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar taking over the captaincy, a role he previously fulfilled with Hermes-DVS, and Max O’Dowd also in the squad, the Hazelaarweg side will look a good deal more solid than it did for much of last season.
One setback last year was the disappearance in mid-campaign of international seamer Ahsan Malik Jamil, but he is reported to be back and will clearly strengthen an attack which will be spearheaded by Klaassen and also include Bobby Hanif, brothers Jelte and Tjerk Schoonheim, and spin options including Seelaar himself, O’Dowd, and Umar Baker.
With Edwards behind the stumps Sebastiaan van Lent will presumably be able to concentrate on his batting, and VOC will be looking to him to continue the progress he made last year.
Young player to watch: Seb van Lent.
A mid-table team who promised more at times, Quick Haag finished ahead of Topklasse newcomers Punjab Rotterdam on net run-rate, but ended below them because they lost both head-to-head matches during the season.
The departure of Wesley Barresi to neighbours HBS is, of course, a considerable blow, especially after the retirement of the iconic Henk-Jan Mol, but Quick will be optimistic about the advent of their new player-coaches, Mumbai allrounder Jay Bista and the promising New Zealander Sean Davey.
With Namibian Pieter Groenewald also joining the squad, there will be plenty of overseas experience to help guide the club’s emerging talents, who have perhaps not yet made as much progress as might have been hoped.
But with Geert Maarten Mol, Jeroen Brand, Lesley Stokkers and Thijs van Schelven among the senior players in the side, and Daan Vierling and Rogier Rooda increasingly finding their feet in the top flight, Quick should improve on last season’s efforts, and if new-ball bowler Muhammad Khan can have the same impact he had at times last year, they may overcome their losses and mount a serious challenge to the leading sides.
Young player to watch: Daan Vierling.