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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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)
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.