As most of the Dutch team was packing its orange bags in the country's only indoor nets on a freezing night in late January, hard-hitting allrounder Ryan Ten Doeschate was gearing up to play for Tasmania against New South Wales in the finals of Australia's Twenty20 competition.
South African-born Ten Doeschate and South Australia's Tom Cooper are the higher-profile players in a Netherlands team of relative unknowns that is also made up of students, a tobacconist and a hamburger restaurant owner. Many of the players had to take time off work or study to travel to the World Cup.
But the Dutch part-timers have proven in the past they are capable of pulling off a shock, beating hosts England by four wickets in the opening match of the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup.
"The target for us is, obviously, to cause upsets, make an impression," New Zealand-born captain Peter Borren said. "And to do that, we need to knock off one of the big boys."
- Peter Borren (captain)
- Wesley Barresi
- Mudassar Bukhari
- Atse Buurman
- Tom Cooper
- Tom de Grooth
- Alexei Kervezee
- Bradley Kruger
- Bernard Loots
- Adeel Raja
- Pieter Seelaar
- Eric Szwarczynski
- Ryan Ten Doeschate
- Berend Westdijk
- Bas Zuiderent
Realistically, however, the Netherlands will be targeting their two last Group B matches, against Bangladesh and Ireland as games to win.
Before those two matches, the Netherlands takes on England in its opener at Nagpur on Feb. 22, followed by West Indies, South Africa and India.
Borren said subcontinent cricket is not new to the team as it embarks on its fourth World Cup campaign.
"In the last four years, we've probably been to India maybe five or six times, so everyone's had some experience there," he said. "But obviously, not all that much experience playing at that level in those conditions."
Netherlands made its World Cup debut in 1996 and appeared at the last two editions of cricket's showcase tournament in 2003 and 2007. So far its only two World Cup wins have been over fellow minnows Namibia, in 2003, and Scotland in 2007.
Selector and former captain Tim de Leede said the Netherlands has no genuinely fast pace bowler to spearhead its attack and will rely on steady medium pacers and a pair of economical slow bowlers — off spinner Adeel Raja and left arm orthodox Pieter Seelaar.
"They have to bowl line and length and hopefully the fielders will do as well as they possibly can to support them," De Leede said.
In its race to catch up with the rest of the cricketing world, the Netherlands has been using specialist fielding, batting, bowling and wicketkeeping coaches and has a full-time coach, Australian Peter Drinnen.
"They have more professionals than ever," De Leede said. "They have a full-time coach, they have specialists coming in … so there are really no excuses any more."
Batting is the Netherlands' strongest suit, with Eric Szwarczynski, a fluid strokemaker who has a knack for finding gaps in the field and Worcester's Alexei Kervezee likely to open.
Pakistan-born bowler Mudassar Bukhari, usually a lower order hitter, also can open in limited-overs matches.
The middle order will feature professionals Ten Doeschate, Borren and Cooper, who has a one-day average of 65.44 in his 10 matches for the Netherlands — most of them against second-tier associate opposition, including 80 not out on debut against Scotland.
Seelaar says the likes of Borren and Ten Doeschate have changed the way many homegrown players approach the game and he hopes the new mind set will pay dividends at the World Cup.
"I think we now are getting close to a professional setup now," he said. "The pros teach us how to be pros."[GALLERY id=4431 cat=sports]