Dutch U19 Regional League all set to go
The KNCB will launch its latest domestic competition on 9 June, with the opening round of matches in the new Under-19 Regional League.
While in one sense the new competition can be seen as making a virtue of necessity, the numbers of senior youth players having declined to a point where there is no longer a sufficient basis for the traditional under-18 interclub competition, the Regional League will also have real advantages in its own right, and the time may come when it can co-exist with a revived top level of junior club cricket.
Most significantly, the regional format will pit the best youth players against each other in a potentially intense series of matches, in which they will represent Amsterdam, Den Haag, Rotterdam, and a composite Haarlem/Voorburg side.
A number of those involved, such as Dosti’s Rahil Ahmed, HCC’s Werner Erkelens, Quick Haag’s James Gruijters -- who will captain the Den Haag team – and Rood en Wit’s Paul van Meekeren, Jaap Dickmann and Ben Thornton, have already graduated to their club’s first teams, while Sebastiaan Braat, skipper of the Rotterdam side, was recently called up to the full national squad following the withdrawal from the opening CB40 games of VOC seamer Ahsan Malik Jamil.
In the regular senior competition, however, such promising young players are often consigned to a supporting role in sides which feature both overseas players and current or former internationals, whereas here they will be required to play a leading part themselves in a contest against their peers.
Conversely, it was relatively easy for the most talented players to dominate an under-18 club competition, and this did little to help them develop their game. With coaches like Roland Lefebvre, Zulfiqar Ahmed and Tom de Grooth working with the regional squads, it can be anticipated that there will be greater progress visible in the new scheme.
Given that the pathway from youth cricket to the senior international ranks has been far from smooth in Dutch cricket in recent years, with many falling by the wayside and very few challenging for a place in the national side, it must be hoped that the Regional League will play a significant part in an improved development process.
And more immediately, these matches will give promising young players an opportunity to stake their claim for a place in the national under-19 squad.
The four sides will play each other twice in a home-and-away round robin competition, with the opening matches on 9 June pitting Rotterdam against Amsterdam and Haarlem/Voorburg against Den Haag. The remaining rounds are scheduled for 23 June, 21 July, 4 and 18 August, and 1 September.
The Under-19 Regional squads are: