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Ryan Campbell: The Aussie leading a Dutch cricketing revival

Head Coach Ryan Campbell and the Dutch side ahead of the ICC World t20 Qualifier in the UAE. (Credit: Netherlands Cricket, photo provided by Ryan Campbell)

The oldest player to debut in a T20 International. The only cricketer to represent both Australia and Hong Kong internationally. Both are true of Ryan Campbell.

The former Western Australia wicket keeper batsmen represented Australia in two one day internationals and later at the age of 43 debuted for Hong Kong at the 2016 T20 World Cup.

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Now he is the brains behind a surging Netherlands national team that have secured their place at the next years edition of the T20 World Cup.

Campbell spoke to the Sports Gazette following his sides successful qualifying campaign in the UAE last month, which saw them win the competition out right and defend their title.

Reflecting on his teams efforts Campbell says he could not be more proud at how they dealt with adversity.

“After coaching and playing for Hong Kong, I knew fully well just how cutthroat these competitions are and what a poor performance can bring.

“We were under the pump leading into the tournament with results not going our way as well as having some major injuries.”

This even led to one of the sides managers putting the kit on for their last warm up match in Oman.

“We lost Ben Cooper (ankle) Philippe Boissevain (back) Colin Ackermann (fractured rib) all before we played a game in Dubai.”

Whilst, this made it tough for Campbell to settle on a lineup it also allowed him to unleash his master plan.

“That gave me a chance to test my theory that four fast bowlers could work in the UAE.”

The conditions in Dubai have always favoured the spinners, therefore Campbell’s decision to play the seam quartet of Roelof van der Merwe,  Paul van Meekeren, Brandon Glover and Tim Van de Gugten was certainly a bold one.

“As the sole selector I knew I had the backing of our captain Pieter Seelaar so we decided to hell with it, let’s play them all!”

The gamble paid off with impressive results as the four seamers combined to take 57 wickets throughout the 9 games and all finished in the top 10 for wickets taken. If you include the wickets of fifth seamer Fred Klaassen, who appeared in five of the games, the unit totalled 64 of the 76 wickets taken by the Dutch  at the tournament.

The seam attack proved decisive in their pivotal qualifying match against the UAE with Glover taking joint tournament best figures of 4 for 12 as they restricted the hosts to 80 for 9 in their 20 overs. They eased to an 8 wicket win securing their place at next years World Cup in Campbell’s backyard.

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Another key component of their success was the experience with bat in hand and in the field brought to the table by Ryan Ten Doeschate and Campbell does not hold back his praise of the Essex stalwart.

“Let me go on the record here and say that Ryan ten Doeschate is the greatest player ever to play associate cricket”

After their group stage exit at the 2011 World Cup, Ten Doeschate decided to step away from international duty. A massive blow to Dutch cricket.

But in the twilight years of his career and a revamped Dutch cricketing programme he was lured out of retirement in 2017.

“We lost Ryan in 2011 due to a lack of professionalism in Dutch cricket so getting him back for the last couple of years is a great reflection on how our program is going,” Campbell said.

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“To have him in our line up brings a fantastic calmness to our team. His knowledge was brilliant and his infield leadership really helped Pieter.”

Campbell is hopeful that the Dutch side can get more opportunities to play against the top teams.

“The obvious way for us to get more exposure is to be playing the big teams of world cricket. We’ve seen the standard of associate cricket go through the roof and we all want to have a crack at the big boys!”

“I know that full members have a packed schedule but I’d hope that they would open the door to playing more associate teams. Of course we will get this opportunity in the ODI Super League and we need to play well on behalf of all associates.”

The ODI Super League will take place between 2020 and 2022 and will feature all twelve full ICC member nations as well as the Netherlands who qualified after winning the 2015-17 World Cricket League Championship.

Although nothing is finalised yet the tournament is expected to be part of the process for qualification to the 2023 World Cup.

If this is the case it will provide the Dutch with a great opportunity having missed out on qualification for this years tournament in England due to a reduction of teams.

“With the ridiculous reduction of teams at World Cups, making this one (T20) was vital for us to attract sponsors as well as having no idea how qualification for the 2023 World Cup will happen.”

As fewer World Cup places become available the strength of associate cricket continues to rise making qualification all the more difficult.

“As I’ve mentioned before, the standard of associate cricket has gone through the roof and the gap between 10, 11, 12 in the world rankings to 13-16 has closed considerably.

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“Generally when you think of the top associates you think Scotland and Netherlands but there are so many more countries with excellent programs and their standards are going through the roof.

“The UAE and Oman are really impressive and I’d also throw in Nepal, PNG, Namibia, USA and Canada as teams who will threaten big teams in the near future,” Campbell added.

Despite a reduction in teams at the previous World Cup the rise of Afghanistani cricket culminating in achieving test status in 2017 has given all associate nations something to target.

“We love what Afghanistan have done, it also has started a cricket revolution in the country with participation numbers going through the roof.”

Another international side that has stood out to Campbell as something to aspire to.

“The funny thing is that we take more inspiration from New Zealand. Here’s a country of five million people, not ladened with cash, yet they have made two World Cup finals in a row as well as having an amazing rugby team. The facts are that if you plan well and have passionate players coming through, you can compete.”

Looking ahead to the future Campbell is excited about the prospects of next years tournament.

“I’m so excited to bring this group of players to Australia. I feel we have a good blend of youth and experience to push the teams in our group and I’m also excited to see what our group of fast bowlers can do on the fast Australian wickets.”

If he continues to have success revamping Dutch cricket then other suitors are sure to come knocking at the door.

“Beyond that I’d hope to get an opportunity to return to Australia one day to coach a state team or perhaps even a county side but those opportunities will only come with continued success with the Dutch.”

Whatever 2020 holds for Campbell and his side, the cricketing world will certainly be watching with keen eyes especially those seamers in friendly Australian conditions.

Alex Bartlett
Alex did his undergraduate degree in History at the University of Leicester. A lifelong sports enthusiast, his first experience of journalism came working for his university magazine, where he went on to edit the sports section. He has also hosted a weekly football talk show for three years, discussing a wide range of topics including the misfortunes of his beloved West Ham. He has a particular interest in the relationship between sport and politics, which formed the basis of a dissertation project on sports role in ending apartheid in South Africa.
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