Sport is fun for its unpredictability. Underdogs can topple World Champions on their day and in this piece I take a look at one of the great upsets in cricket—Netherlands beating England on the opening day of World T20 at Lord's this year.
This is a published article in Cricbuzz
June 06 2009
Tifosi is to be among the most widely recognized fan groups in the world. For those who don't know them they are Italians who follow Ferrari and Italy's footballers all over the world.
The only time ever I got to have a glimpse of them was at the US Grand Prix in Indianapolis in 2006. Schumacher and Ferrari won that race and the Grand Stand with a capacity of over 120,000 was a sea of scarlet. The trumpets bellowed over the revving engines and Ferrari flags madly fluttered and billowed everywhere.
Being an Indian and a cricket fan and having seen my share of cricket over the years, I didn't expect to see a more 'noisier' crowd than the ones that turned out to cheer for India in the home games.
The tifosi easily drowned the engine sounds of F1 cars the moment Schumacher crossed the finish line. And just as I thought there's no beating the tifosi, I saw tifosi being beaten hands down by an army of people all wearing bright orange jerseys as Netherlands beat Italy and France at Euro 2008.
They invaded the roads, bars, stadium and what not? The Dutch Oranje Army had hit town and they invaded every square inch of Switzerland and Austria through the whole of Euro 2008. And on Friday, they invaded Lord's with orange umbrellas.
Then, their team comprising of a bunch of 4 professionals and mostly amateurs humbled the Poms at the home of cricket and set the tournament off to a spectacular start.
"I see cricket as a box. Every time you play, you put something into it, but the box is never full," said Bas Zuiderant as a 17 year old when he came to India for the '96 World Cup. He was the youngest player in that World Cup and impressed one and all with his attitude, batting and fielding.
The Dutch won the hearts of many locals with their fielding and enthusiasm for the game. For Bas Zuiderant, he would have got something from the box he's been putting into all his life on Saturday when he and his teammates put one across the country that gave cricket to the world. It must have been particularly satisfying for the Dutch as the ECB stopped them from participating in their domestic Friends Provident Trophy following a restructuring of the tournament.
Coming back to the match, the English never seemed to have approached the game with all seriousness. By the end of the game English were desperate not to lose it and Dutch were desperate to win and perhaps their better attitude coupled with poor English fielding resulted in the Dutch landing their greatest cricket win yet.
"Hoge bomen vangen veel wind"
"Hoge bomen vangen veel wind" is a famous Dutch saying which translates to: "high trees catch a lot of wind." The Dutch use it to refer things that stand out. The Dutch stand out in most things they do. They revolutionized football with 'Total Football' concept and field-hockey with drag-flick specialists and set-piece play.
Their national teams wear orange jerseys! The entire nation takes to the streets following any sporting achievement—it could be a football or a hockey triumph or even Pieter van den Hoogenband winning Olympic Swimming Gold. Or even a cricket match. They never miss a chance to celebrate!
On Saturday, the Dutch caught the attention of the world with their cricket.
Darron Reekers, a former Kiwi First Class cricketer, bats with the fearlessness of a brash teenager. He could end up having a huge following by the end of the tournament especially if the Dutch make it to the Super 8s.
Their cricket does not reflect the 'Total Football' concept pioneered by Ajax Amsterdam, but it is never short of 'Total Enjoyment'. Their batsmen swing for glory from the first ball. They are definitely not the ones that will die wondering. Not after we have seen Reekers bat!
It's long been said that minnows berate a tournament of World Cup's magnitude. It does not hold good for T20 format where one inspired bowling effort or one sparkling innings can bring about an upset. In any case, sport is meant to be unpredictable. And everybody loves to see the underdog win.
Australia found that out against Zimbabwe in the last T20 World Cup and it led to Ponting publicly confessing that they ought to pay the newer format more respect and that just turning up to make the numbers didn't automatically translate to victories.
The administrators will hope that the higher probability of minnows upsetting stronger teams in this format of the tournament will inspire more nations to take up the game more seriously. At least for the administrators it is vindication to include associate nations such as Netherlands and allow them to show the world what they can do on the world stage.
It is only just the beginning of the second T20 World Cup and many recognize it as the highest prize in the game ahead of the One Day World Cup. It is a sea change cricket is going through in the last few years with the advent of T20 cricket.
It is debatable if it is for the better or for the worse.
For now, the Dutch Oranje Army is headed to England. If they do manage to make it to the Super 8s, cricket world will see for the first time what it is to be swamped by the Dutchmen wearing orange. It will be nothing short of an invasion! Cricket will be better for it.
The Dutch will go all out to beat Pakistan and any other team they might go on to meet in the tournament. Their captain, Jeroen Smits, did mention that he looked forward to playing in the finals at Lord's on 21st June. You can bet that they will try to win all the matches. After all it is the tall trees catch a lot of wind!
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