“I’d love to see Netherlands play Test cricket one day” - Max O’Dowd reflects on the rise of budding Netherlands team

“I’d love to see Netherlands play Test cricket one day” - Max O’Dowd reflects on the rise of budding Netherlands team

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Five years after their heroics in the 2014 WT20, the Netherlands are on the rise once again, and now find themselves among the Top 13 ODI teams in the world. At the heart of their rise has been opener Max O’Dowd, who exemplifies the quality of youngsters coming through the ranks in Dutch Cricket.

Cricket might not be one of the more globally acclaimed sports going around thanks to the current system which sees the top ten or even the top eight full member teams play against each other over and over again, but in recent history, the sweetest and the more memorable moments have been delivered to us by the associates. From Ireland shocking Pakistan on St Patrick's Day to the Netherlands stealing victory off a Stuart Broad overthrow, everybody loves an associate story. 

When the Netherlands followed up their improbable chase against Ireland with a victory over England in the 2014 WT20, everyone thought that it was the start of something special. They took their time, they stumbled upon several hurdles along the way, but five years later, here they are, the Dutch, ever-so-strong, and ever-so-confident, and they mean business. 

And the rise of Dutch Cricket is epitomized by none so more than Maxwell O’Dowd. Making his debut for the national team in front of his own fans, O’Dowd took apart a Zimbabwean attack comprising the likes of Kyle Jarvis, Donald Tiripano, and Tendai Chatara to script a historic 2-0 ODI series win for the Men in Orange. O’Dowd is one of the many exceptional young prospects in the Dutch National team, alongside the likes of Tobias Visee, Ben Cooper, and Scott Edwards. In an exclusive chat with SportsCafe, O’Dowd took us through an array of topics, including his introduction to ODI Cricket, where he smacked an unbeaten 86* on debut against Zimbabwe. 

“Making my debut and scoring 86 was a highlight for me, but without a doubt winning the game was the most important thing, and being able to help the team get the win was fantastic,” O’Dowd told SportsCafe in an exclusive interview, recalling his ODI debut. 

There aren’t many batsmen who possess an ODI average over 100. In fact, O’Dowd’s average of 145.00 is the highest for any batsman in ODI history. However, the man himself isn’t fussed about the statistic, as he laughed it off while insisting that he was proud to be able to play ODI cricket for his country.

“Haha well obviously it’s great to have made my ODI debut for the Netherlands. In regards to my average of 145, I’ve only played two games so far, so I’m sure over time that will change! It was great to firstly beat Zimbabwe in our ODI series,” he said. 

Exciting times loom ahead for both the Dutch Cricketers and fans, with the country set to co-host the inaugural edition of the Euro T20 Slam later this year, which is set to host some of the biggest stars in World Cricket, including the likes of Rashid Khan, Shahid Afridi, Martin Guptill, Faf du Plessis, and Eoin Morgan

With the Netherlands getting two franchises - Amsterdam Knights and Rotterdam Rhinos - and having signed up to play for the latter, O’Dowd reckons that the tournament will be a surreal experience for both fans and players, due to the sheer quality that’ll be on display. Being a part-time off-spinner himself, the 25-year-old also said that he hopes to learn a few skills from magician Rashid Khan - the marquee player of his franchise. 

“Can’t wait. It's going to be an unbelievable experience for many of our local dutch boys. To play with players who play at the highest level all around the world year in year out will be great.

“Personally I can’t wait to learn some tips and tricks from Rashid Khan in regards to the way he goes about his leg spin. Hopefully, I can take some of his ideas & techniques and put them into my bowling,” he exclaimed. 

Despite the Netherlands being a country that leans more towards Football, O’Dowd believes that the spectacle of tournament could potentially help in reaching out to even the people who don’t watch the sport.

“The Euro Slam is going to be providing some great games for everyone to come and watch. The stars in the Euro Slam will allow people who may not have heard of cricket, experience the worlds best in their very own backyard,” he added.

The Men in Orange secured ODI status and a place in the 13-team ODI league by winning the ICC World Cricket League in 2017, and have not looked back ever since. Their improvement has also been reflected in their on-field results, with their 2-0 victory over Zimbabwe serving as a testament to the progress they’ve made. 

The flamboyant opener believes that the sport is growing slowly but steadily in the country and that the players will get invaluable opportunities to enhance their skills by playing the top ODI teams on a regular basis. He also expressed his excitement over the quality of young players coming through the ranks in Dutch Cricket.

“I feel cricket in the Netherlands is only growing and getting better. The amount of young local players coming through the ranks is great for the identity of cricket in the Netherlands. Obviously after winning the World Cricket League and now being promoted into the new ODI World Cricket League the profile of cricket in the Netherlands will only get bigger. Being a part of the top 13 countries in the world, and getting to play them over a four-year cycle is going to be a great experience and chance for guys to only improve their skills,” he explained.

One of the more controversial topics in recent times has been ICC’s decision to shorten the 50-over World Cup, with the decision coming under extreme criticism from associate nations and players all around the world, who have expressed their disappointment over the decision as it undermines the associates, further cutting short the opportunities they get against the top sides.

However, time and again, associate sides have proved that they can in fact compete with the very best, with Scotland’s victory over the World Champions last year and Ireland’s immaculate performance at Lord’s last week serving as prime examples to support the fact. 

O’Dowd feels that the only way associate sides can make it to the top is by locking horns with the very best more often, and hopes for the ICC to provide them with more chances to showcase their skills and talent. He also hailed the Irish team for their heartful showing against England at Lord’s, where they almost pulled off an improbable upset.

“Obviously the only way teams are going to get better is by playing more and more cricket. Hopefully, the ICC can continue to offer the opportunities it does to many of its associate nations by aiding and helping all countries in tours and series,” he said. 

“As an associate, we are obviously very proud of Ireland's performance in their recent Test against England. We have faced Ireland many times and have had some very good battles, and have come out on both ends of the winning/losing scale,” he spoke of his rivals, praising their showing.

The Netherlands are set to host UAE for four T20Is starting on August 3 and with them also set to gear up for the ICC WT20 qualifiers later this year, O’Dowd asserts that they are not looking too far ahead, with their primary goal as a team being to win every match they play. He also believes that the national players who play franchise cricket are an extra edge to their team and feels that they have the ability to beat any team on their day. 

The opener also says that someday, he hopes to see the Men in Orange don the whites and play Test Cricket, but admits that they’re still a long way away from making it happen. 

“Our goals are very simple, to win every game we play. Obviously, we are often the underdogs in games we play, which is a tag we do enjoy. We’re a team growing in confidence, we have guys playing franchise cricket around the world playing against the worlds best which is only helping their development and confidence. We feel we have the ability to beat any team we play if we play to our best! In terms of the longer format, personally I’d love to see the Netherlands playing test cricket one day, but as it stands I don’t think that will happen any time soon.” he signed off.

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