Netherlands Cricket Team Tour of India Dec 2012 – Humbled and Inspired at the Maidan.

Day 3

Let me start off by saying that if it wasn’t for our sponsor, ABN AMRO, firstly we wouldn’t be in India, and secondly we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be humbled as we were today in South Mumbai. Today was all about giving back to the children of Mumbai. The Dutch Team, through ABN AMRO, conducted two cricket clinics to foundations that the bank support in India, these being the Support Foundation, and The Hamara Foundation. I think Sponsor Manager, Steven Sedee (@stevensedee) summed it up perfectly on the bus before everything started, when he said that we should bare in mind that today will most likely be the greatest day in these kids’ lives. Little did he know that today, together with ABN AMRO and the kids, would be one of the greatest days in OUR lives. Allow me to paint you the picture…

Peter Seelar accepting a gift from one of his fans.

Peter Seelar accepting a gift from one of his fans.

All of this took place on a beautiful piece of land called a ‘Maidan’.  Click on link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross_Maidan -To quickly explain what a Maidan is, it is basically an open field area where the public can play cricket recreationally. And trust me when I say play cricket. In my rough estimation, there must have been about over 100 cricket games being played at the same time. How many people were participating? I would guess well over 3000!! All of this in the space of 22 acres!! Now trust me when I say that this is no word of a lie. Someone in the team actually noted that there are more people on this field playing cricket than there are in the whole cricket playing community of Holland! When I was explained beforehand what it would look like, I tried to paint myself a picture of what to expect, and let me tell you that it is something that you have to witness yourself in order to comprehend the immensity of the experience.

A view of the Maidan.

A view of the Maidan.

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As far as the eye can see, its cricket.

As we descended onto the Maidan, with chaotic cricket matches taking place all around us, I could not help but be in awe of what I was seeing. It reminded me a bit about the great migration that happens in Kenya and Tanzania, where millions of wildebeest and zebra make the big trek to greener pastures. Ok, so there weren’t quite a million people but it sure as hell felt like it. Balls were flying in all different directions, and no matter where you were walking; you were bound to be walking straight through the middle of someone’s game. I don’t know how people figure out who’s on whose team, and whether you have two people behind square (a fielding position), or a cow corner. It was total chaos! But the common denominator was, fun and cricket.  Very similar to traffic rules here in India, the people somehow got on with what they have been given. I hope you can get some sort of taste of what I was witnessing through these photos. I tried to get the photographer on top of a building to take a picture so that you can get a good judgment of the size of the field, and the masses therein. My efforts turned out to be fruitless, but I still managed to get a few good shots of what was going on.

Back to the clinic. The first group was from the Support group. Kids that have been, and are being, rehabilitated from drugs, alcohol, or abusive parents. The group consisted of about 30 kids, and the clinic was conducted without a glitch. After lunch we were divided into ten groups of two, and ran a clinic for 100 homeless kids.  100! A big challenge for sure, but I have to take my hat off the team who stepped up and ran a good show. The enthusiasm from the kids was electric, and very contagious. Before you knew it, people were jumping up and down, smiling from ear to ear, and smashing balls all over the place. In a strange kind of way, our ‘structured’ clinic integrated itself into the chaos of the Maidan. Without even realising it, we became part of the ‘harmony’ that this field brings to everyone. After all, all the people there, including ourselves of course, were there for only one reason… the love of CRICKET. Nelson Mandela knew what he was talking about when he said that sport has the power to unite people and nations, like nothing else on earth, and today was a true testament to that.

Kids lining up to practise with their heroes.

Kids lining up to practise with their heroes.

ABN AMRO handing over a donation to the kids.

ABN AMRO handing over a donation to the Support Foundation.

It is at this exact moment that I would like to take the opportunity to thank ABN AMRO for the wonderful experience that I found myself a part of. To the boys of the Netherlands Cricket Team, you guys truly put on a great show and made the day even more special than what it already was. The whole cricketing fraternity would be proud of what you guys did out there. Lastly, but by no means the least, I want to thank the children of India for inspiring me to realise that no matter how big or small you are in the world, you have the opportunity every day to make a difference in someone’s life. The fact that I, and we (the Dutch Team), are able to do it through cricket is something that I will never take for granted. If I look back at my cricket upbringing background, and compare it to this, I feel absolutely blessed. The experience at the Maidan humbled me right to my core and I thank you all for playing in special part in that. I urge every cricket, and human being lover, to one day stop and watch the people of India play cricket together in one the many Maidan’s around the country and be inspired like I was.

ABN AMRO supporting The Hamara Foundation.

ABN AMRO supporting The Hamara Foundation.

Evening Activity

An aerial view of all the strips at The Brabourne Stadium. I would guess more strips there than in the whole of Europe.

An aerial view of all the strips at The Brabourne Stadium. I would guess that there are more grass strips here than in the whole of Europe (excl. UK).

We were lucky enough to be invited as guests through Consul General Marijke van Drunen, for a cocktail party at the Consul General Residence. She had also invited a lot of the Dutch expat community in Mumbai, in a sort of meet and greet. We showered and dressed accordingly at  the Cricket Club of India just around the corner from the Maidan. Click on link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cricket_Club_of_India –  Upon entering the Stadium, you walked past billiard rooms, card playing tables, and libraries for reading and drinking tea, all overlooking the wonderful Brabourne Staduim. One could not help but immediately notice and feel the British influence. Every inch of the walls is covered with rich history and proud facts of players past and present. Roland Lefebvre had been here before and took me on a quick tour around the stadium. It was like I was back at Lords (famous ground in England) again. There were old trophies on display, and butlers running around all over the place just waiting to be at your service.

The Ranji Trophy (domestic cup of India)

The Ranji Trophy (domestic cup of India)

Apart from the obvious sense of prim and proper high society locals walking around, one could also not help but notice again the general love and admiration for cricket. So here in a space of 20min, and 800m apart, I had witnessed the bottom end, and the so-called crème de la crème of cricket in India. And I guess that is how you could some up India in a nutshell: the gap between rich and poor could not be more vast, but yet living amongst one another everyday, and absolutely LOVING the game of cricket.

Not a tough choice for Micky Swart.

Not a tough choice for Micky Swart.

The food that they serve at the CCI is of course top notch. During our lunch break we were served the choice of good healthy chicken wraps, and, on the other end of the health scale, warm slices of pizza. No doubt to what Micky Swart put down his throat, and I thought it was quite apt that I bumped into a room called the “siesta room” during my trip around the Stadium with Roland. I immediately thought of Micky, as I was in no doubt that if we were playing cricket back in the colonial days, Mickey would clean up the lunch table, and have no quarrels in sneaking off into the siesta room to shut down the big diesel engine for a while. Inside he would make himself comfortable on the antique “lazy boy” chairs, and would probably have to be woken up by his teammates just before the tea break.  Scones and doughnuts to be served of course. A truly great Stadium, with a beautiful field, with all its little rooms filled with so much history. Once again, a great experience.

The infamous Siesta Room.

The infamous Siesta Room.

The cocktail party at the Consul was a resounding success, as the boys got to mingle with some Dutch people, who were interested in learning about the game, and of course meeting our players. A good gesture from The Counsel General for the players to come relax and unwind a bit, after what proved to be a long, yet very humbling day for the boys. A nice surprise for me upon arrival, was the serving of bitterballen as an entrée. This, together with a few plates of vegetables and dip sauce of some sort, 1000 Islands if I’m not mistaken, got my taste buds going. I must admit that this time around I succumbed to the provocative call of the Dutch delicacy. However, you can imagine my shock and disbelief, that once the plate had found its way to me, I realised that it had also passed through the hands of Micky Swart. Lets just say, my one and only bitterball was divine.

All in all, a great day to be a part of.

Day 4 – Match Day vs Mumbai XI

Dutch vs Mumbai XI

Back: Roland Lefebvre, Michael Swart, Wesley Baressi (wk), Daan van Bunge, Paul van Meekeren, Tom Heggelman, Ashan Malik, Stephan Myburgh, Anton Roux
Front: Tom de Grooth, Mudassar Bukhari, Ed van Nierop, Peter Borren (c), Peter Drinnen, Peter Seelar, Alexei Kervezee

Today the Netherlands took on a Mumbai XI at the Dr. D.Y. Patil Stadium. Not much was known about the opposition, so it was decided that we focus a lot more on our skills and executions of game plans for the day. A 10am team meeting was held, where we discussed what we wanted to work on as a unit, and where we felt we really wanted to put up a good show. All was in order, and you could sense that the guys were up for this game. This was to be a good test as we were told that most of the guys that we were to come up against have some sort of IPL (lucrative franchise league tournament in India) experience.

Having assessed the wicket, captain Peter Borren (@dutchiepb), and management decided to head into the game with an extra batter in the lineup. Having lost the toss, The Netherlands was sent into bat on a wicket that they too would have wanted to bowl on first, truth be said. Openers Swart and Myburgh once again got the Dutch off to a solid start with an opening stand of 24 off just 3 overs. Myburgh fell to a short ball that rushed him a bit, and was held nicely in the deep at the square leg boundary. The next three batters fell cheaply, apart from Swart who hung around and played a good cameo of 26 off 20 balls. With the Netherlands teetering at 53 for 4, Daan van Bunge and Tom de Grooth steadied the ship, and put on a well-constructed 76 run partnership off just 54 balls. Van Bunge being the main destroyer with 45 runs off 39 balls, which included five 4’s and a six. He was ably supported with a typical crafty knock of 38* off 26 balls from senior player de Grooth. Together with Bukhari’s 17* off 11 balls in the end, Netherlands posted a formidable total of 154/5 off their allotted 20 overs. On a wicket which was a bit two paced, it was always going to be difficult to chase down once we got through the power play overs unscathed.

The proverbial back of the Mumbai XI was broken within the first 8 overs. Paul van Meekeren ripped through the top order with good old classical fast bowling, returning figures of 4/17 in 4 overs. Not to be outdone, Mudassar Bukhari backed his opening partner up at the other end with miserly figures of 1/7 in just 3 overs, thus the score after 8 overs being 30/6. It was always going to be a massive effort to get up from that position, and credit has to go to the Dutch team who never let their standards slip, as two great catches were held by Borren and wicket keeper Baressi respectively. The team could easily have taken their foot off the gas so to speak, but the calculated use of the short ball by Borren, and the effective use of slower balls and cutters from Malik, meant that the Mumbai XI could never get out the hole that was created by the quick’s upfront. Michael Swart wrapped up the innings with 2 quick wickets, and ended with 2/3 in 1.3 overs.

A sold performance it has to be said from the boys in Orange. They were clinical in their executions of pre-discussed game plans, and put in a world class fielding performance any coach would be proud of. This result bodes well for the team, as they move ever closer to their three fixtures against the England Lions in Poona in a few days time.

Netherlands XI          154/5 in 20 overs

van Bunge                  45(39)

de Grooth                   38*(26)

Swart                          26(20)

Mumbai XI                 55 all out after 16.2 overs

Van Meekeren           4/17 in 4

Malik                           3/4 in 3

Swart                          2/3 in 1.2

Bukhari                      1/7 in 3

Netherlands XI win by 99 runs.

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Netherlands Cricket Team Tour of India Dec 2012 – The lighter side of cricket whilst on tour in India.

Day 2

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Beautiful main grandstand at the stadium.

Drove to the Dr. DY Patil Stadium for our first practice in India, and I have to tell you that the 10min trip was one to remember. I trust that all of you know the automobile manufacturing company called TATA right? Well we got issued the first two buses that TATA ever built as concept experiment busses back in 1936. The only way that I could tell that the busses were operational, was by the fact that we were somehow, by divine intervention, moving in a forward’s direction. On route, while dodging four near death incidents, it struck me: why does India only have one up and coming F1 driver in Narain Karthikeyan? Surely amongst the billion residents in this beautiful country, lies a few Sebastian Vettel’s, or Alain Prost’s? All Indian drivers like speed, are gifted behind the wheel when it comes to avoiding accidents, and they are especially good at staying calm amongst all this chaos. Born naturals if you ask me. Anyways, moving on…

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You have to admire the upholstery.

The most interesting part of the bus that I was in, was the    paraphernalia on show on the dashboard. The old   digital dashboard clock, was replaced by two strapless time pieces that came out of the same era when TATA was founded as a company. Our driver was clearly a heathen, or pagan of some sort, as he had three of these of sort of mini statues that I guess are mini gods for various things. One was with a beautiful topless Indian lady with two  other ladies standing either side of her, all surrounded by one cow. The other one was a dude standing on one leg in a very “zen” like position. Staring at it, and trying to figure out what is was, I immediately felt a sharp pain shooting straight through to my glute muscle which got me to thinking that it could very well be a voodoo doll of sort… Aimed at unschooled foreigners like myself.

Jokes aside. We eventually got to the stadium, and immediately put the boys through a good session in the nets, and ended off with a bit of fielding. So far so good it seems, with no complaints about guys damaging the “Royal Doulton” (a type of ceramic toilet) so to speak. Its kind of strange when the first thing you hear in the morning is everyone talking about what food they ate and that they are still feeling no side effects whatsoever. The chatter then quickly shifts to the driver and his amazing skills, or lack thereof, behind the wheel. Once we are in our safe zone/happy place, ie the cricket stadium, talk soon returns to normal.

I absolutely love walking into a dressing room or pavilion that is clustered with cricket photos and memorabilia. It just gives the place a lot more class, and shows that the people are proud of their teams’ performances. The under 19 Youth Coach, Roland Lefebvre, and myself took some time and went through some of the pictures, and of course stumbled onto one that was of a local lad called Sachin Tendulkar. Don’t really know who he is, but they seem to love him over here. They even had a picture of his dad hanging on the wall.

Not really Sachin's dad, but he does look cool with his pipe.

Not really Sachin’s dad, but he does look cool with his pipe.

Our net bowlers were awesome local youngsters, who were always keen to bowl to our guys and give it their best. I felt a bit sorry for them when Mudassar Bukhari starting pumping them to all parts of the ground, and one by one they had to spend some time looking for their balls. It took me back to when I was 16 and bowling to Lance Klusener in the nets at SuperSport Park in South Africa. The press photographers asked me to carry on bowling as they were getting real good action shots of Lance pumping it down the ground. Not a great feeling really.

Welcome

“Johnny Cake” and myself being welcomed the local way.

While all of this was going on, I couldn’t help but notice the look on some of the boys (net bowlers), security guards, and local on-lookers’ faces, when they saw a 7ft2 tall black man in Daniel Doram  (aka Johnny Cake) stride to the nets for a bowl. Bred in St. Maarten West Indies, Daniel not only holds a Dutch passport, but also bowls very useful left arm spinners. Add this together with his height and we have oursleves an up and coming star in Daniel at the ripe old age of 15!! Yes 15. Great guy, great character, who adds a touch of island swagger to our squad.

For lunch, I took down some stir-fry chicken bathed in black bean sauce. This was accompanied with some fried rice on the side, and was nicely complimented with some fruit for dessert. I didn’t quite have time to look and see what Micky Swart had, but my guess would be that the cheesecake took a hammering.

For dinner, the Head Coach (Peter Drinnen), Eric Szwarczynski (or Turtle as we call him, but he also responds to Viking), and myself went back to what we had the night before. As the Coach says, if you have found a good settlement with good tucker, you have to stick with it. So we went the safe option of ordering the same meal. Just as good as before, I have to add, but I have promised myself to go a wondering in a tuk-tuk with Roland Lefebvre, and venture into the unknown and feast on the local Mumbai cuisine. God help us in the tuk-tuk…

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Netherlands Cricket Team Tour of India December 2012

Never have I been more excited about touring a country, than this trip to India. I can clearly remember when I was young, I wrote down a “to do list” and started jotting down all these great adventures that I wanted to do before my time was over. Some of the adventures included balloon safari, cage diving with great whites, and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to name but few. I am fortunate enough to say that I have ticked some of those off the list, but one that clearly stands out for me was, touring India for cricket, being it in a player capacity or Coaching role. And here I am…

It wasn’t even 30min after we touched down in Mumbai, that I spotted my first big ass rat. There it was, crossing the walkway just outside the Airport, not worried about the presence of people whatsoever. This of course was not my first encounter with a rat (the reed rats that I used to hunt on the farm were the size of cats I kid you not), but it was my first visual intake of India. It must be said though; we had a 4am flight out of Dubai and arrived in Mumbai pretty jaded, so for me to even spot the rodent was a pretty good effort.

Splinter Apart from spotting “Splinter” (the rat boss in teenage mutant ninja turtles for those who do not know), the smog, heat, smell, and incessant noise were the other first impressions that stood out for me.

The 1hr bus ride to our hotel was a bit of a blur for me as I was asleep for most of the way, but it soon stood out quite clearly for me that we have entered a country that seems to run a lot like East Africa. Organized chaos is probably the best way for me to describe as to what I mean. There are no rules, but rules are followed. Un-written rules, like the use of lane ways on main roads, or the total disregard for lane ways if you catch my drift. It is safe to say that, in India, only a local would be able to drive around in India. It is an absolute nightmare. If you don’t have a hooter/horn/honker/tooter (whatever you want to call it) you might as well walk to your destination.  I can’t stress how critical the addition of this tool is to your survival kit for India. So much so that, if you find yourself without one, death will be painful and imminent.

Again, no real shock for me as to what I have seen in Africa in terms of squalor and pollution, although one peculiar sight that caught my eye, before I drifted into a semi comatose state of sleep deprivation, was the sight of children and adults alike playing cricket in every street, field, or space available. A magnificent sight really, that brought a smile to my face. For in Africa, the stumps and bats are swapped for the more beloved round football and goal posts. Cricket here, in India, is truly a way of life.

Day 1

 Consisted of me falling asleep in front of the TV with some test cricket on in the background. Surely, apart from watching golf, nothing beats catching a 40 winks while the sounds of hard fought test cricket is on the telly. Once I had awakened, I was summoned to the lobby for a quick ‘schedule planning’ meeting for tomorrows training at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai. This was followed by some dodgy x-mas shopping for some of the lads in the team, as in Dutch tradition, Sinterklaas gets celebrated and we have to buy a gift or two for some team members and write a poem in Dutch about your gift for them. I’m afraid no poetic masterpiece will be coming from my side although my gifts should bring about one or two laughs. Its quite tough deciding what to buy people seeing as though I have never really celebrated x-mas since  that fateful day when my witch of a sister told me that Santa Claus didn’t exist. So Sinterklaas will be celebrated with a team dinner on the 10th.

A green Thai chicken curry was taken down at one of the local restaurants together with our team Manager Ed van Nierop, and Sponsor Manager for ABN AMRO Steven Sedee. I must say that the spice explosion in my mouth was absolutely divine, and I can see myself gaining a few pounds in the next few weeks as I work way through all the curries that India has to offer. Cant wait to try a few with our  own team food pundit Michael Swart (@mickyswart).

Caught up with Coops (@tomcooper26) over skype, who’s team the Melbourne Renegades had just completed a demolition act against Shane Warne’s team the Rebels in Australia’s Big Bash 20/20 tournament. Was good to catch up with him and find out what the latest news is from down under.

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