Episode 94: Dutch cricket – and when it can be dangerous to watch

Cricket authors (and obsessives) Peter Oborne and Richard Heller launched a podcast early in 2020 to help deprived listeners endure a world without cricket. They’re no longer deprived of cricket, but still chat regularly about cricket topics with different guests each week – cricket writers, players, administrators and fans – hoping to keep a good line and length but with occasional wides into other subjects.

The Netherlands has played organized cricket almost as long as England. Steven van Hoogstraten was chairman of the Royal Dutch Cricket Association for over a decade and is a current member of its supervisory board: he has also had a distinguished career in public service in the Netherlands and with the United Nations. As England play their first one-day international series in the Netherlands, Steven explores the rich history of Dutch cricket and analyses its current state as the guest of Peter Oborne and Richard Heller in their latest cricket-themed podcast.

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Steven begins by sharing his personal experience as a live spectator of the first match in the ODI series, in which England posted a world record score of 498 and not only spectators but passers-by were emperilled by sixes (Dutch as well as English). He describes the setting, the  Amstelveen ground, with a live attendance of over 5000. 22 minutes He analyses the following of the match on Dutch sports-subscription TV and the limited coverage of Dutch cricket in mainstream media. 2-7 minutes

Several of the best Dutch players were unavailable for the match due to commitments with English counties. Steven explains the relationship which has evolved between the Dutch cricket authorities and its exported players. A limited number of domestic players are on central contracts, others are on match fees when selected. Dutch cricket is no longer wholly amateur but players cannot expect to make a living as a full-time professional from domestic cricket alone. 7-9 minutes

On Dutch cricket history, Steven notes the mediæval records of the game of “krickstoel” in the Low Countries: however, unlike the French, the Dutch have never claimed to be the inventors of cricket. He traces the take-off of cricket in the Netherlands in the nineteenth century to the influence of English teachers in leading schools. Established in 1883, The Royal Dutch Cricket Association is now the longest-serving cricket administration in the world, elected by some fifty member clubs, including several of the founder members. The Royal title dates from 1958 and the most active Royal supporter was the present King’s late brother, Prince Johan Friso: Steven recalls his sparkling innings in 2004 for the Binnenhof (Dutch Parliament) in the annual tournament between the Dutch and British Parliaments. 10-13 minutes

He tells the story of a great Dutch player, Carst Posthuma, who played with WG Grace, represented the country in his sixties, and captured in all nearly 2400 wickets at an average below 10. 16-18 minutes He describes the experience of Dutch cricket under the Nazi occupation, when the major competitions were continued as long as feasible. The Dutch found a novel way to counter the shortage of cricket balls. The competitions were eventually abandoned in the straitened, hungry year of 1944. 18-19 minutes

As a teenager Steven witnessed the two mighty sixes with which the Netherlands sealed victory in the 1964 Australian Ashes side led by Bobby Simpson, in a one-innings match. Despite later successes, this is still often cited as the Netherlands greatest cricket result. He profiles the leading Dutch players in the match. 20-23 minutes

As an administrator, Steven launched the Netherlands’ application to play in the English Nat West (formerly Gillette) one-day knockout competition in the 1990s: in its five years this brought some major matches to the Netherlands and raised the profile of the game there.27-29 minutes

In recent years, Asian immigrants have greatly boosted participation in Dutch cricket – although not as greatly as the transformation of German cricket from its Afghan refugees. They have helped to counter the persistent media stereotype of Dutch cricket as an elitist sport. Cricket is rarely played in Dutch schools but many Dutch children are introduced to it as a summer sport by their football clubs. There used to be a strong crossover from hockey as well, but more and more hockey is being played until the end of June. 29-34 minutes

He describes his personal experience representing the Netherlands on the ICC, and Dutch relationships with other cricket administrations, with an especially fruitful one with the ECB when Tim Lamb was its secretary. 35-38 minutes

Finally, Steven looks forward to the remainder of the ODI series – and the imminent renewal of the English – Dutch Parliamentary battle, in which he tips the English. 38-44 minutes

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Peter Oborne & Richard Heller

Peter Oborne has been the chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, a maker of several documentaries and written and broadcast for many different media. He is the author of a biography of Basil D’Oliveira and of Wounded Tiger, a history of Pakistan cricket, both of which won major awards.

Richard Heller was a long-serving humorous columnist on The Mail on Sunday and more briefly, on The Times. He worked in the movie business in the United States and the UK, including a brief engagement on a motion picture called Cycle Sluts Versus The Zombie Ghouls. He is the author of two cricket-themed novels A Tale of Ten Wickets and The Network. He appeared in two Mastermind finals: in the first his special subject was the life of Sir Gary Sobers.

Oborne & Heller cricketing partnership

Jointly, he and Peter produced White On Green, celebrating the drama of Pakistan cricket, including the true story of the team which lost a first-class match by an innings and 851 runs.

Peter and Richard have played cricket with and against each other for a variety of social sides, including Parliament’s team, the Lords and Commons, and in over twenty countries including India, Pakistan, the United States, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Australia, Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Morocco.

The Podcast is produced by Bridget Osborne and James Willcocks at The Chiswick Calendar.

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