Dosti, Hermes face tough Topklasse challenge
A year on from the controversy over eligibility which frustrated their promotion, Dosti Amsterdam are set finally to face the challenge of the Topklasse, after taking last season’s Hoofdklasse title by a single point from Sparta 1888.
Formed in 2006 by a merger of Gandhi and Bijlmer, both of which had played in the top flight, Dosti’s first target will no doubt be to avoid an immediate return to the Hoofdklasse, and their experienced squad undoubtedly has the ability to upset some of the more established sides.
Their player-coach will again be former Punjab and Rajasthan Royals allrounder Amit Uniyal, whose 492 runs at 54.67 and 24 wickets at 14.67 played an important part in the side’s promotion campaign last year. Now 31, Uniyal is a lively left-arm seamer and aggressive left-handed batsman.
Dosti’s batting will be reinforced by the arrival of former Pakistan international Mohammad Wasim, who joins the Amsterdam club after three seasons with Sparta, initially as player-coach and more recently as a Dutch resident.
He joins a line-up which also includes several players with experience of the top flight with other clubs: Mehmood Sadiq, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rafi and Ehtesham Chaudhry Mohammed. Another player who could have a significant impact is one of the survivors from Gandhi’s last appearance in the then Hoofdklasse in 2001, the enormously talented Gary Gravesande, who only played a handful of games last season but who has reportedly been working hard to reclaim a regular place in the side.
Gravesande doubles as wicketkeeper and seamer as well as a classy batsman, but he now has a challenger behind the stumps in youth international Rahil Ahmed. Another of the younger brigade is medium-pacer Mahesh Hans, who has also played for the Dutch Lions and will be a contender for a place in the attack alongside Uniyal, the experienced Vikram and Vimal Tewarie – both of whom played for Gandhi in 2001 – Hafeez, Chaudhry Mohammed, and Waseem Abbas.
After a disappointing, injury-blighted 2011, Hermes-DVS Schiedam will be looking to improve on the seventh place they achieved last season, aiming for a spot in the top four with international spinner Pieter Seelaar taking over the captaincy from Nick Statham.
New Zealander Greg Todd will be back as player-coach, and he will be joined in the squad by his former colleague at Otago, 25-year-old lefthander Mark Craig.
Left-arm seamer Ernst van Giezen has retired and Nils Lenstra, who missed a good deal of last season through injury, has decided to concentrate on his studies this year, but there are encouraging reports of the possible return of former international Ruud Nijman, who suffered a shocking hockey injury eighteen months ago but who has now resumed training.
Hermes will be hoping that Sebastiaan Braat will show the benefit of a winter at Ben Williams’ academy in Tauranga, and that he will improve significantly on the 12 wickets he took last season. He may be joined in the new-ball attack by Niels Woermeijer, who has played a dozen first-team games but has yet to claim a regular place in the side.
Much of the work with the ball, however, is likely to devolve upon Erik Hartong, one of the most consistent bowlers in the competition, on Seelaar’s spin, and on the two New Zealanders.
One should not underestimate, however, the allround contribution of Pieter Seelaar’s brother Harro, one of the most improved players in last year’s side, averaging 31.54 with the bat and claiming 14 wickets at 21.79. He is likely to play a key part in a batting line-up which also includes the enormous experience of Statham, Jasper Beijer (both of whom have more than 350 top-flight matches behind them), Renzo Borrani and wicketkeeper-batsman Bart Schilperoord.
It is the batting which is likely to be crucial to Hermes’ chances: the side only passed 200 twice last season, and a strong attack often found its efforts undone by a batting collapse. The top six will need to perform more consistently if Hermes are to challenge for that top four place.