Dutch cricket under review 4
One of the most impressive aspects of the KNCB’s current restructuring exercise is the sheer comprehensiveness it is attempting.
That, of course, is both a strength and a weakness: there’s a danger that the extent of the challenge the Board is throwing out to the clubs will frighten the horses, and that they’ll opt for the relatively cosy alternative of the Mixture As Before.
And one obvious question is: where’s the man- (and woman-)power to be found for all these ambitious schemes and programmes? Aren’t we too small a community to take on so much all at once?
But one of the paradoxes of the current situation is precisely that we’re too small a community not to respond positively: the process of contraction which was identified by the KNCB review group more than two years ago has not yet been reversed, and Dutch cricket will quickly become an endangered species if the opportunity isn’t taken to turn all the justified criticisms and frustrations – many of which were voiced at the meeting on 3 September – into positive energy for change.
To change the metaphor, the Bond’s new CEO, André van Troost, will take the helm of a ship which has already begun, however ponderously, to change course, and if he can get the engines running efficiently and the crew working together, he will be able to achieve astonishing results.
We’ve already examined several of the principal elements of the TCN/RCN proposals: restructuring of the competitions, renewed efforts to expand Dutch cricket’s base, the idea of a club charter.
But there are many other projects on the agenda of the two groups which equally need addressing, and which have the potential to contribute greatly to the development of the sport.
One is the suggested ‘KNCB Coaching Model’, of which we have so far heard little more than the title but which could do much to improve junior cricket and perhaps make it easier for more clubs to get involved in this vital area.
In the end, the teaching of basic skills and the creation of the right attitudes is something that has to happen at club level, and club volunteers need more support, guidance and training if this is to take place. No doubt the probability that a core of the national squad will soon have contracts which require them to help with coaching and development work will give impetus to this initiative.
Ireland’s overwhelming success in European junior cricket has been built on a highly-structured system of co-operation between club and national age-group coaches, while Scotland’s appointment of regional development officers also bridges the gap between national and club activity. The Netherlands needs to find its own answer to this problem, and the Coaching Model may well be part of it.
A related, but much more sensitive, issue lurks under the heading of the Spirit of the Game.
There is no doubt that this is a topic which the ICC takes seriously, as the language of its documents and its emphasis on ‘Spirit of Cricket’ awards reveals. But it is also a subject which cannot be addressed without raising hackles.
KNCB chairman Marc Asselbergs and his Board have talked about the ‘two cultures’ of Dutch cricket for two years, but there is little sign that ways have been found to bring them together more harmoniously.
The talk of a breakaway ‘Pakistan Cricket League’ may have dissipated, but there have again been a number of incidents and complaints this season which reflect the fact that clubs sometimes have radically different understandings of how cricket should be played.
The proposal to split Sunday cricket into social and competitive leagues is perhaps in part a response to this problem, but if so it is a response which avoids getting to the heart of the problem, and which certainly won’t create better relations between the various communities which make up Dutch cricket.
It’s a huge issue, and difficult to talk about. Perhaps it should be the lead topic at a future Cricket Congress, but it will be important to find ways of dealing with it during the current review. It wasn’t a positive sign that many of the clubs based in the Asian community were conspicuous by their absence on 3 September.
We started this series of articles with TCN’s proposals for restructuring the competitions, and the importance of the ICC’s High Performance money for the future health of the KNCB makes the top level an appropriate place to finish as well.
Since 2005, The Netherlands has punched above its weight in international competition, not least because of the contribution of some key players who learned their cricket elsewhere. But the pool is terribly, terribly shallow, as we have seen in recent months when injuries and other absences have weakened the side.
There is no substitute for experience, and the calls of the national coaches for more fixtures for their teams, against serious, testing opposition, must be among the highest of the KNCB’s priorities. The ICC, its Full members, and above all the ECB, have a responsibility to support such initiatives, but ultimately the responsibility lies with the Bond itself.
Two years have been squandered, and it has to stop. The Netherlands’ nearest European competitors have been much more proactive and entrepreneurial in this regard, and the results can be seen on the field.
The magnificent achievement of the Dutch squad in reaching next year’s Twenty20 World Cup gives the KNCB an unparalleled opportunity to attract sponsorship and gain exposure for the sport. If that chance isn’t grabbed with both hands, all the other changes which are now under discussion will be prejudiced.
And that’s something Dutch cricket just can’t afford.