Quick look to accelerate as Excelsior aim high
There was not a great deal to choose between the performances of Quick Haag and Excelsior ’20 Schiedam in 2011, although the two sides were moving in different directions: Quick had escaped relegation by the narrowest of margins the previous season and could be reasonably satisfied with their seven victories and sixth place on the table, but for Excelsior, pipped at the post in the championship final in 2010, finishing outside the top four was as galling as it was unexpected.
For Quick, therefore, the new season will mean consolidation of last year’s improvement, while for Excelsior ’20 – one of the outstanding sides of the past decade or so – nothing short of a serious challenge for the title will do.
For the Nieuw Hanenburg club the principal bad news of the winter was the decision of wicketkeeper and opening batsman Stijn Allema to abandon serious cricket, but this was compensated by the return of Dutch international Tim Gruijters from England.
Quick has also augmented its squad by recruiting New Zealander Tim Clarke, who will take on the wicketkeeping duties and also play an important role in a batting line-up in which returning player-coach Amol Muzumdar, whose 740 runs in the Topklasse last season at an average of 49.33 made a big contribution to the revival of the side’s fortunes.
With Muzumdar, Clarke, Gruijters, the aggressive former international Edgar Schiferli and the brothers Henk-Jan and Geert Maarten Mol (the former again as captain) Quick’s batting looks solid, and it will be even stronger if Lesley Stokkers is able to recapture the form which he displayed when he first broke into senior cricket several seasons ago.
Tim Gruijters had three successful seasons playing club cricket in England, and despite the back problems which have forced him to convert from a seamer into an off-spinner he has shown in his limited opportunities with the national side that he is a powerful middle-order batsman. Younger brother James, back from a valuable winter spent in New Zealand, is likely also to contribute with the bat.
Allrounder Jeroen Brand will slot in once his football commitments are completed, and his aggressive batting and lively seam bowling will add another dimension to the squad. His bowling in particular will be welcome to skipper Henk-Jan Mol, since the Quick attack lacks the power of the batting.
With Bas Zimmermann out through injury the new ball may be shared by Farshad Khan and promising youngster Boudewijn van den Berg, with the Mol brothers contributing plenty of experience to the seam attack.
Slow left-armer Thijs van der Schelven will, along with Tim Gruijters, form the frontline spin attack, with Stokkers’ off-spin and James Gruijters’ leg-breaks as back-up.
Excelsior’s squad will gain another dimension through the acquisition of international opener Stephan Myburgh from HCC, and his attacking left-handed batting will further strengthen a powerful line-up which already includes current or former internationals in Tom Heggelman, Daan van Bunge, Denmark’s Fred Klokker, and Luuk van Troost.
The player-coach, South African allrounder Rudi Hillermann, is also likely to contribute plenty of runs, and Excelsior will be able to boast a top six which is the equal of any in the competition, and highly likely to banish the disappointments of last season into the remote past.
The arrival of Myburgh and of 21-year-old New Zealander Brett Hampton, moreover, more than compensates for the loss of allrounder Usman Malik, who will be playing for United Haarlem in the Eerste Klasse this year.
Hampton, who has played for Northern Districts A, will spearhead a pace attack which will also include Hillermann and Heggelman, with rejuvenated former international Seb Gokke and Haider Khan also in contention for a regular first-team place.
Spin will be provided by Myburgh’s off-breaks and the leg-spin of Joost Kroesen, another of the younger brigade who has benefited from a winter at Ben Williams’ academy in Tauranga, New Zealand. With skipper Van Bunge also able to employ his own leg-spin and with the medium pace of Van Troost and the off-spin of Adam Woutersen as further options, the Excelsior attack has plenty of variety.
Despite the presence of Danish keeper Klokker in the side it is likely that the long-serving Marcel Schewe will again be behind the stumps, and adding further depth to the batting.
Excelsior introduced 17-year-old youth international Tim Etman to the Topklasse towards the end of last season, and although he will find it difficult to break into such a distinguished batting line-up the club will be hoping that he makes a case for promotion with a run of strong performances in the Second XI.
All things considered, it will come as a major shock should the Schiedam side again finish outside the top four, and they can be expected to mount a strong challenge for the championship title they last claimed in 2009.