Bas de Leede: We want to make the semifinals and we’d have to take down one of the big teams
In the most difficult format, where each team plays the other once, it would take more than an upset to make it to the final four while De Leede is confident, though, that the team won’t be disappointed even if they don’t finish among the top four after having given their best performance.
“We want to make the semifinals,”Bas de Leede announced on Thursday, a day ahead of their opening World Cup encounter against Pakistan, in Hyderabad.
For a team that qualified for the tournament, it’s a reasonable declaration, if not a little overambitious. It’s not just that, though. The fact that they haven’t had a single international assignment since finishing as the second-best team in the qualifying tournament four months ago makes the task even more challenging.
The Netherlands men’s squad has been in India for almost a month and is attempting to get some match practice in addition to simply becoming familiar with the conditions.
There haven’t been many games for the team to play, other than a few practices versus the Karnataka state team. Even the two warm-up games they were supposed to play weren’t played due to the rain.
It’s rare for the full team to even gather together for practice because the bulk of the players, including the head coach, play or work in different countries for most of the year.
Even if there is a challenge, Bas de Leede, one of the few full-time cricketers on the team, acknowledged that they are making the most of the opportunities that have been provided.
“We obviously don’t get to play together as a team very often because guys are spread out,”de Leede said.
“But I think the learnings we can take from Karnataka were, first of all, it was nice to play together as a team and try and adapt to Indian conditions. Obviously, it’s one thing training in Indian conditions, but then another thing going out and playing and seeing what it’s like in a game, so I think for us it was a nice introduction to Indian conditions and trying to find out what works for us as a team.
“And then you know lack of game time. It was a shame that the warm-up games got rained off. But I think in the nets, we try and replicate game scenarios and try and be as competitive as we can when bowling to each other when facing each other. So that’s probably the one way we’ve tried to make up for the lack of games.”
In the most difficult format, where each team plays the other once, it would take more than an upset to make it to the final four. De Leede is confident, though, that the team won’t be disappointed even if they don’t finish among the top four after having given their best performance.
“If we want to get there, we’ve got to win four or five games. So, we’d have to take down one of the big teams. But that’s (semifinals) our main target. And if we get there, we play our best cricket. Amazing. But if we play our best cricket and we don’t get there, I reckon we can still be proud of ourselves.”
So does his team – an Associate nation – go to the World Cup with an ambitious plan or with a nothing-to-lose approach?
“I think probably a mixture of both,”he says.
“I don’t think any of the teams have got anything to lose. They’ve got something to gain, which is winning the World Cup. I think for us, obviously, it’s special being back for the first time since 2011, but we’ve set our goal high which is making the semifinal and I don’t think if we don’t make it, we’re a failure or anything like that. I think if we don’t make it, but we have played our best cricket, we can still be proud of ourselves. But by setting the goal to make the semi-final, I think we can probably do more than what people expect from us. So yeah, I think it’s a mixture of having nothing to lose, but also trying to perform at our best again after 12 years.”
On Friday, they face Pakistan in the opening match of their challenge at a venue where their rivals have previously played two warm-up games (even though they were defeated in both).
It is also a side that the Netherlands had run close last year at home. However, De Leede anticipates that Babar Azam’s team will present a more difficult task in their World Cup debut.
“I think the experience of the whole Super League, having played against bigger nations, was fantastic for us. And obviously, Pakistan, having played them last year in Rotterdam in three ODIs, it’ll be nice to sort of be familiar with the team and the players and stuff, having played them before. I think that will help us a little bit. But obviously, you know, they’ve evolved. They’ve gotten better. They’ve got different skills now as well, even with Shaheen [Afridi] coming back, who didn’t play that series. So, it’s nice to have played them before. But yeah, obviously, we still make our plans accordingly.”
Netherlands squad: Scott Edwards (c), Max O’Dowd, Bas de Leede, Vikram Singh, Teja Nidamanuru, Paul van Meekeren, Colin Ackermann, Roelof van der Merwe, Logan van Beek, Aryan Dutt, Ryan Klein, Wesley Barresi, Saqib Zulfiqar, Shariz Ahmad, Sybrand Engelbrecht.Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.