"We don’t know what the future holds" - Pieter Seelaar
Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar sits down with All Over Cricket to discuss the Afghanistan series and the scrapping of the Super League
Mic check. Mic check
The audio is working. A second later, the video comes on too.
Dutch skipper Pieter Seelaar takes a minute to adjust himself in the camera’s frame, showing off the sponsor’s name on his training gear. His pride is hardly surprising. Prior to the Men’s World Cup Super League, the Netherlands went five years without a main sponsor.
Before we begin recording, he smiles and sounds fairly upbeat. The cricket world hasn’t seen this from him in a while. A winless T20 World Cup campaign was followed by a tour to South Africa abandoned shortly after the rain-affected first ODI in the wake of the Omicron variant sweeping shut International borders.
The World Cup exit had been a shock to a team that won that 2019 Qualifier in the UAE. On-field strategies, team selections, and inadequate international fixtures leading up to the tournament played their part in the unceremonious exit. Meanwhile, back at home, the Royal Dutch Cricket Association (KNCB) was experiencing a political tug of war.
As the Netherlands gear up for their next Super League series against Afghanistan starting on Friday in Qatar, Seelaar will hope to have a galvanising presence in the dressing room. Although he hasn’t always enjoyed spending a large chunk of the last three months soul-searching with Head Coach Ryan Campbell, he understands it is often essential to drive change.
“The team’s performances were just not good enough,” Seelaar told All Over Cricket as he reflected on the T20 World Cup campaign that wasn’t. “You can look for excuses and there were reasons, but we were there playing and it just wasn’t a high enough standard. Everyone within the team had such high expectations of what we were trying to achieve there and it just didn’t work.
“I think it started when we lost four wickets in four balls against Ireland, and we just couldn’t come back from that. Against Namibia, I think they were the better team on the day. [Gerhard] Erasmus and [David] Wiese played absolute blinders. Against Sri Lanka, we didn’t want things to end that way but it was a fitting end to our campaign.
“After that, we spoke a bit about what we needed to do to get things right. Luckily for us, the South African series was upon us quite quickly, so we didn’t have to dwell on it too much.”
This week Seelaar is tasked with weathering a storm of a different kind.
The Netherlands is arguably underprepared due to Covid restrictions back home, with the youngest and least experienced squad they have selected for an ODI series in recent times. They will be without the services of experienced campaigners Max O’Dowd, Stephan Myburgh, Timm van der Gugten, Ben Cooper, and Roelof van der Merwe against a nearly full-strength Afghanistan side.
“In the Netherlands, we have had to deal with another lockdown. Several players, including myself, have had Covid in the past couple of weeks. But what has been more remarkable is the fact that every training session in Qatar had been interrupted by rain. So that is something you don’t really take into account when you go to the desert.”
“It is arguably the youngest squad for an ODI series. It makes me feel pretty old, that’s for sure! Naturally, there is a lot of excitement in the camp. We showed against Ireland that we could fight. For us, there’s a lot at stake, not only from the cricket side of things but also pride. After the World Cup, our pride was dented a little bit. Now we have a chance to redeem ourselves and show the world that the Netherlands can play some good cricket.”
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It perhaps helps that eight members of the 15-man squad who were not part of the T20 World Cup in October will have no bruises to show as the Netherlands looks to rebuild with an eye on the future.
“It is good to see the guys make progress into the national team. For a guy like Boris Gorlee, who hasn’t been near the set-up for long, he’s fitting in and seeing how we go about our business.”
Seelaar, however, warns that playing Full Members like Afghanistan is an altogether different proposition to playing domestic cricket in the Netherlands.
“Coming from Topklasse straight into the full-member scene is pretty much unheard of. Normally, you go through the stages where you play the Netherlands A games then the European sides before you slot into the men’s side, which is the top tier of Associate cricket, so to speak.
“Some of them, they last played in the European T10 competition where they faced up against sides like Belgium, Spain, and all those countries and then to take that next step all of a sudden against South Africa in South Africa and now against Afghanistan is massive. These guys are really enjoying it, they are working bloody hard which is fantastic to see. I hope when the opportunity arises, they are ready and excited to play.”
Clayton Floyd, Philippe Boissevain, Boris Gorlee, and Sikandar Zulfiqar are just some of the players that the Netherlands hoped to inspire when they qualified as the 13th team in the World Cup Super League, which promised them 24 ODIs against Full Members. Sadly, with the ICC confirming in November 2021 that they would be reverting to a ranking-based qualification system for the 14-team 2027 Men’s Cricket World Cup, it threw a spanner in the works of the KNCB’s goal for the men’s team to develop with consistent game time against Full Members.
“It is disappointing. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know what it’s going to be replaced with. For now, we have been told it’s rankings. Does that mean we still have to play eight teams? No one knows,” exclaims a frustrated Seelaar.
But Seelaar insists not all is necessarily lost yet.
“We still have an opportunity. We still have 20 games [against Full Members in the Super League] where we can showcase what we have got. The next year and a half is going to be important for us.
“Before we get to that stage, I would like to stay in the present…not just for us but also for the Associate world. This tournament can send a message, not only to the ICC but to the whole world that we belong and that Associate cricket is there to be recognised.”
Header Image: ICC
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