Cricket was introduced to The Netherlands by British soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th Century, and the Cape Colony in 1856. In the 1860s, it was considered a major sport in the country. The Netherlands national team played its first-ever game in 1881. It fielded 22 players against an Uxbridge Cricket Club XI, but still lost by an innings.
The Dutch Cricket Association, forerunner of the present, Koninklijke Nederlandse Cricket Bond (KNCB), or Royal Dutch Cricket Association, was formed in 1883. It consisted of 18 member clubs, four of which are still in existence. The first national tournament was held the following year, won by the Haagsche CC. English touring teams then began visiting from 1886 onwards.
Many other sports (notably football) have long since surpassed cricket in popularity among the Dutch. Today there are around 6.000 cricketers spread around the country, most notably in the western, central, and some eastern, regions. In 1966, the Netherlands achieved Associate Membership of the ICC.
The Dutch team took part in all eight ICC Trophy tournaments between 1979 and 2005, winning the competition in Canada in 2001 and finishing as runners-up twice (1986 and 1990). The Netherlands has also participated in the 1996, 2003, 2007 and 2011 ICC Cricket World Cups. Its currently in the process of qualifying for the ICC World Cup 2013 via the Pepsi World Cricket League Championship. The Dutch entered the English domestic NatWest Trophy competition for the first time in 1995. It spent 10 years in the tournament, its best performance coming in 1999, when it progressed to the fourth round, beating Durham along the way. In 2010, it joined the CB40 League as one of three additional sides pitted against the 18 counties in three groups of seven. In 2012 the team played their best cricket in this competition thus far being on top of the table for quite some time.
In 2004, it began competing in first-class cricket as part of the ICC Intercontinental Cup. Although it has achieved little success in the competition as a team, it has seen one of its players distinguish himself. In its final match against Canada in 2006, Ryan ten Doeschate set a new competition record individual score of 259 not out. But the greatest moment for the Netherlands so far came in June 2009, having qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 via the qualifiers in Ireland the previous year. Facing England at Lord’s in the opening match of tournament, the Netherlands pulled off a dramatic victory off the final ball. It was unable to reach the Super Eights – due to a heavy loss to Pakistan in its next match – but it had already made its mark in dramatic fashion.
In 2010, it defeated Bangladesh and qualified for the main Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Championship table. Their results in the 2011 World Cup were 5 losses, but the overall standard was much better. The team was just pipped by Ireland and Afghanistan for qualification for the next T20 World Cup
In 2011 and 2012 the team also took part in de CB40-over league in the UK, whereby in 2012 they won their first five matches. In the same year the Dutch XI beat –again- Bangladesh, this time in a Twenty20 in their home country at the VCC–ground. The team was also very successful on their India tour beating the strong ECB EPP team twice, once in 50 over format and once in a Twenty20 format.
The Netherlands has a strong national league which was renamed Topklasse and consists of 8 teams. The Hoofdklasse also consists of 8 teams as second tier. There are also first divisions nationally, and in total 20 senior leagues, including two women’s and two senior men’s 35+ leagues. These all play limited-overs matches. In 2009, domestic multi-day cricket was introduced on a regional basis, involving the 50 top players. Youth cricket (ages 8-18) is being organized at all age levels, divided in top leagues and social leagues (ebab: everybody bats and bowls). Next to these regular weekend competitions, there’s a midweek Business League with 12 teams, and separate T20-championship leagues are being contested by the top-16 men’s teams and the women. Many clubs organize their own Tip&Run leagues for young children.
Cricket, as all other sports in The Netherlands, is club-based. The school system has limited possibilities for organized school sports. As with all other sports in the Netherlands, there are no formal weekly competitions in primary or secondary schools. The clubs are responsible for developing the game at this level. Thanks to the support of the ICC Europe office, Kwik Cricket has been introduced into at least 400 schools over the last 10 years. The KNCB appointed a full-time development officer in January 2009 to assist clubs and coaches in every possible way. Part of that job will be to assist clubs in running their business and especially to help them to recruit youngsters. In 2012 more than 30 bi-lingual colleges (Dutch-English) introduced cricket in their curriculum, and these schools took part in a regional school tournament, with the finals being held in September 2012. Since January 2013 two more fulltime Development Officers are employed by the KNCB; Cage Cricket has been introduced, and new ways of developing cricket in The Netherlands are being used and explored.
Former Dutch international captain Roland Lefebvre is employed fulltime as Cricket Manager and he runs a comprehensive youth program. This covers the development program for the youth as well as the high performance teams in the various age groups. The Netherlands is strongly represented in the yearly ICC European Cricket Academies, as well as in the ICC European Centre of Excellence. Two Dutch international players, Ryan ten Doeschate and Alexei Kervezee, are contracted by English counties, respectively Essex CCC and Worcestershire CCC. The national youth teams (Dutch Lions) performed well over the past couple of years, with the Dutch U15 boy’s team winning the European title for two consecutive years (2011 and 2012).
The Netherlands has two national women’s leagues, who play one-day matches, 45 overs in the top league, 35 in the second. In 2009, Twenty20 cricket was introduced. The national team played in all ICC Women’s World Cup tournaments between 1988 in Australia and 2001 in New Zealand. In 2003, it could not take advantage of its home soil in the first-ever qualifying WC tournament, missing out on a place in the World Cup for the first time since 1988.
In 2007, the women’s national side played its first Test match against South Africa.
In 2011 it grabbed 4 titles: European champion 50 overs and T20, the ECB County regional T20 and the championship in the ECB 3rd division county championship, under the captaincy of Helmien Rambaldo. The team finished 7th in the World Cup Qualifying tournament in Bangladesh in November 2011, therefore losing its ODI status. In 2012 the team qualified for the T20 WCQ tournament, to be held in Ireland in the summer of 2013. The women’s team was relegated to the ECB 3rd division in a play-off with Ireland on neutral soil in the UK.
An international women’s T20 tournament, involving Gibraltar, Germany, Belgium, Jersey, Estonia, and a Dutch KNCB XI consisting of talented players who did not qualify for the National women’s XI, was held at the Kampong CC in Utrecht. It was a huge success, Jersey turned out as winners, highlighting a desire by other European countries to get into women’s cricket in a serious way.