On Tuesday in Dharamsala, Netherlands pulled off one of the biggest upsets in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup history, as they brought down the high-flying South Africa.
Overseeing the result was coach Ryan Cook, who did not have the greatest of starts for his stint. He got the role after the then-coach Ryan Campbell suffered a series of cardiac arrests in April 2022. In Cook’s first match as a coach in June 2022, England almost breached the 500-run mark (498 for 4) against the Dutch.
But after initial turbulence, things steadied. They gave Pakistan a run for their money, only losing two ODIs by 17 and nine runs. By then, Ryan was cooking something. He has started to apply Gary Kirsten’s school of thought in his coaching and the results followed. First they defeated Zimbabwe and South Africa in the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia. The Dutch followed it with an incredible run in the ODI World Cup qualifiers, the highlight being the tied match against against West Indies that they won it in the super over.
For Cook, it all started in 2013, when he travelled to India as an assistant coach of the South Africa U-19 team. He wrote to Kirsten, trying to understand the conditions in India. “He wrote me a big mail. Explained all the venues, and conditions beautifully. There was a very minute detail in it,” Cook had told The Indian Express ahead of their World Cup campaign.
“Gary was very specific about why the players should be put first,” he said. “The most interesting thing that he wrote was that cricket is a team sport and you need the brilliance of 11 to win a game. A couple of good performances should not be good enough.”
LVB takes wicket number 1️⃣0️⃣ and brings in the historic win🎊🎉
Kudos to the fight and resistance showed by the last wicket partnership of the opposition. 👏
— Cricket🏏Netherlands (@KNCBcricket) October 17, 2023
Cook, whose elder brother Stephen Cook and father Jimmy Cook have played cricket for South Africa, took on board the inputs given by a former Proteas superstar and India’s World Cup-winning coach in Kirsten.
“I worked with him for a few months in Cape Town at his cricket academy. It was a great learning experience. I understood the importance of mental health,” he said.“Ahead of the ODI World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe, we had a mental and cultural camp in Cape Town. Every single person on the squad was asked to speak up about their aspirations. What they want to see in the team. I remember Bas de Leede saying ‘let’s go to India and show them we are not pushovers’.”
“Scott (Edwards) is an inspirational leader. He has created a great atmosphere in the team. I personally told the boys that I want to have 11 Ryan ten Doeschate in the Dutch team. That’s the goal,” he added.
When asked what made the Netherlands team believe in themselves, Cook recalled the horrendous experience of the first ODI in charge against England. “They were playing book cricket. Phil Salt, Dawid Malan and Jos Buttler scored centuries but the brightest part was that our shoulders were not down. We knew we could only learn from that game,” he said.
While the Netherlands are obviously short on top-flight cricket experience, they are rich in talent. Players like Edwards, Logan Van Beek, and Bas de Leede have shown that there is an abundance of talent, and many of them ply their trade in English league cricket as well. Several Dutch players like Paul van Meekeren have also played in T20 leagues.
— ICC (@ICC) October 17, 2023
“Let me tell you a story. When we were chasing 374 against West Indies. I told the boys at the break look we chased down the Nepal’s 167 runs target in 28 overs and if we can just double our score in the last 20 overs, we have a chance. We tied the game and then Logan van Beek blasted 30 runs (4, 6, 4, 6, 6, 4) in the super over. What a match it was,” he recalled.
The Dutch arrived in India two weeks before the start of the tournament. They played three practice matches against Karnataka and they didn’t go well. Their official warm-up games against India and Australia were also washed out. Their campaign then started with two defeats.
On Monday, when asked about the Dharamsala outfield ahead of their match against South Africa, Cook said it is better than where they train in the Netherlands. It offered a peek into the team’s mindset. And as they stunned the Proteas with clinical efficiency, they did so tapping into all the attributes that Cook spoke about.
The only aim for Cook from this World Cup was that he wanted his team to rub shoulders with the best and set a lofty ambition to win three or four matches. “People often refer to us as cricket minions. We see ourselves as a cricketing nation that plays in a good style. We compete against the best teams in the world. We’ll be putting everything in to get those three or four victories in our bag,” he had said.
He can place one massive tick next to that particular task on his checklist.
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