Johannesburg — Expecting South Africa to beat the Netherlands is completely understandable — expecting the Netherlands to simply roll over in the three match One-Day series starting in Centurion on Friday would be wrong and downright disrespectful.
As an Associate nation, the Dutch have had to make do with ‘hand me downs’ with regards to the international schedule. That changed with the introduction of the ICC Super League, which provided the One-Day format with context and ensured the Associate nations played against Member countries as part of a qualification process for the World Cup. However, the Super League will be scrapped after the current cycle ends with the 2023 World Cup.
That is understandable in one sense given that the ICC recently announced eight men’s white ball tournaments between 2024 and 2031 — including the 2027 50-over World Cup which will be hosted in Southern Africa.
However, it also puts a squeeze on broadening the game and will diminish the competitive gap between the Member nations and the Associates. So the Dutch will see less of teams like South Africa outside of World Cups, something their captain Pieter Seelaar said was “very disappointing.”
“We’ve still got 21 games left in this competition and it is up to us to leave a mark and show that Associate cricket deserves to be on the international stage,” said Seelaar.
“I play cricket purely for the love of the game. Associate cricketers don’t generally play for the money. But we do want to test ourselves, you want to play at the highest standard as possible.”
Seelaar and the Dutch have an ally in Tabraiz Shamsi who explained that he was a fan of the Super League format.
“It adds an extra element, because every single series has consequences. Personally, I like this format, you can’t take it easy,” said the left-arm wrist spinner. South Africa are well aware of that having lost to Ireland earlier this year a defeat that has left them outside of the automatic qualifying spots for the 2023 tournament. “Previously you would find teams that fielded drastically understrength teams against the Associate teams, now, there is a consequence.”
All of which, along with the presence of a number of players with close attachments to South Africa in the Dutch side, provides many intriguing layers to the series.
“We really want to fight hard,” said Seelaar. “This is still a very good South African team, we are here to compete. It’s not a case of being here and it being ‘nice to get a couple of games to play in.’ We want to show we can play some very decent cricket.”
“When I look at the South African team, a couple of guys are rested, but if you look at the quality of players there, it’s still a very strong side. The scorecard still says ‘South Africa versus Netherlands,’ so for us it doesn’t matter who they put on the park, we still have to try and beat them. Expect a lot of fight, and over the series, hopefully we can get a result but also we get some respect from South African fans and fans all over the world.”
No one exemplifies ‘fighting spirit’ more than Roelof van der Merwe, who played 13 of his 15 ODIs clad in South African green and gold. Along with Stefan Myburgh, who was also born in Pretoria, Van der Merwe has deep roots in the region and Seelaar has been leaning on him a lot for intel.
“Roelfie knows SuperSport Park inside out. He’s given me the ins and outs of the dimensions of the ground and where the wicket taking options are, it was helpful in our planning. Stef and Roelof coming from this area, I expect them to take the lead on this a little bit,” said Seelaar.
Shamsi’s expecting the same. “There are a few guys who are South Africans, so they will have a point to prove. We are not taking these guys easy. They have quality players, who played county cricket. We have not been slacking off (in terms of preparation).
Friday’s match starts at 10am.
SA: Keshav Maharaj (capt), Daryn Dupavillon, Zubayr Hamza, Reeza Hendricks, Sisanda Magala, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Junior Dala, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Wayne Parnell, Ryan Rickelton, Tabraiz Shamsi, Kyle Verreynne, Khaya Zondo.
Netherlands: Pieter Seelar (capt), Colin Ackerman, Bas de Leede, Scott Edwards, Clayton Floyd, Brandon Glover, Boris Gorlee, Vivian Kingma, Fred Klaassen, Musa Ahmed, Stefan Myburgh, Max O’ Dowd, Saqib Zulfiqar, Shane Snater, Timm van Gugten, Roelof van der Merwe