Campbell may be stepping away from the world of Associate Cricket, but says that it will always remain close to his heart
“Reflecting on the World Cup, I feel like a proud father to be honest,” exclaims an elated Ryan Campbell on the Emerging Cricket podcast.
After all, the ex-Netherlands coach has plenty to smile about after an excellent T20 World Cup campaign by the men in orange. The Dutch notched up four victories at the tournament, including two against Full Members Zimbabwe and South Africa; making it their most successful ICC World Cup campaign in history, in any white ball format.
“Beating South Africa in our last Super 12 game and qualifying automatically for the next T20 World Cup was an amazing finish to what has been a wonderful six years for me with Netherlands. I leave with a lot of smiles, good memories and a lot of great friendships,” says Campbell, whose contract with the Dutch was run down.
Netherlands’ performance at this T20 World Cup is a far cry from what happened at last year’s edition. In 2021, their campaign never really got going and they exited the World Cup with three successive defeats, including heavy losses against Ireland and Sri Lanka. Campbell puts down their improved showing this time around to better preparation.
“Going into the last World Cup at UAE & Oman, we literally hadn’t played a game, apart from the two warm up fixtures. COVID-19 had struck, we didn’t have our county blokes play for us in a long time. When you go into a big tournament, you can’t afford to be that rusty and it all just went downhill very quickly.”
“This time, we learnt our lesson. Some of the guys went to Cape Town for conditioning, then to Adelaide to train outdoors and get used to the conditions. We also had fixtures against Brisbane Heat and the Queensland Second XI in Brisbane. So, by the time the World Cup came around, we were ready and raring to go. That’s why even when our warm up game against the West Indies got washed out in Melbourne, there was no panic,” he says.
The former West Australian wicket-keeper batter also credits the ODI Super League for putting the Dutch in good stead ahead of the World Cup, even though they were missing half their squad due to County commitments. “It’s not rocket science, if you are not playing you will not be ready for big tournaments. The Super League allowed our non-County players to test themselves against the best cricketers in the world on a consistent basis. It’s such a shame that it is gone,” he laments.
While Netherlands were perhaps a bit fortuitous to make it to the Super 12 round, relying on UAE to turn over Namibia in the last game; the way they turned their fortunes around after thrashings by India and Pakistan in the Super 12s was highly commendable. Much of the credit, of course, lies with the bowling unit, particularly the pace battery of Paul van Meekeren, Fred Klaassen, Bas de Leede and Brandon Glover, who all had outstanding World Cups.
On a batting front, Max O’Dowd impressed with his 242 runs and Colin Ackermann chipped in with a couple of important innings. But other than that, the batters performed well below par with collapses a plenty and spluttering powerplay efforts. However, when it finally clicked as a unit against South Africa, propelling them to 158/4 in 20 overs, Campbell knew that they had a game on their hands.
“I had a very clear formula about how we were going to be successful. We bat first, we make 160 runs and then you field and bowl well. We can always defend 160 with our bowling attack. It was a very simple, almost childish way of looking at T20 cricket, but sometimes the simplest plans are the best. And the game against South Africa was the perfect encapsulation of that template.”
Campbell was also all praises for youngster Bas de Leede, who had an impressive tournament with the ball in hand, finishing as the leading Dutch wicket taker with 13 scalps. It was a continuation of de Leede’s good form in 2022, which has seen him become an integral member of the Dutch squad.
“Despite all the stick I’ve copped for continuously playing Bas in the XI over the years, he’s an amazing talent for Dutch cricket and we need to embrace that. The simple fact is that in the Associate world, we don’t have the massive talent pool and player depth of Full Member cricket to just drop players when they have a bad run. And so, when you find something that you think is very special you have to nurture them and give them opportunities.”
While de Leede largely underwhelmed with the bat, he still played a crucial innings of 30*(30) to guide the Dutch home in a tense and crucial chase over Namibia. Campbell feels vindicated with his unwavering support of de Leede and stated that the critics had got it all wrong.
“This kid can bat 3 to 7, can bowl first change or can open the bowling. Plus, he was clocked at 140 km/h this year in the Netherlands and is the best fielder in continental Europe. So why would we waver from our belief in the kid, even though he has some bad games,” he says.
Of course, going to the World Cup was a special experience for Campbell after he had a close brush with death earlier in the year. On 16th April, the 50-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest and was in an induced coma for seven days. Campbell concedes that he is very lucky to still be alive and feels grateful about the worldwide support him and his family received during their ordeal.
“I’ve been told that I died like 15 times or something. Basically, I have no memory of those 7 days. All I remember is going to the airport at Schiphol and waking up in a hospital asking my wife, why I am in Bali.”
“To get back fit, strong, healthy, to be able to travel and go to a World Cup in Australia, to see family and friends at the ground and have my mum watching us play in Perth, it was all special. The experience has made me appreciate the finer things in life even more; like kicking a football in the park with my son, taking my daughter to a dance lesson on a Saturday, enjoying a beer and wine with my wife in peace,” declares an emotional Campbell.
Asked about his post-Netherlands plans, he remains mum on what the future holds. Although Campbell does admit that his next role in cricket will take him outside the Associate world. However, he remains proud of his achievements with the Dutch team.
“Winning the World Cricket League was awesome as it allowed us to play in the ODI Super League. We managed to get live cricket on Dutch TV for the first time in history, which can hopefully inspire the next generation of Dutch kids. Obviously, this World Cup was fantastic and I’m so stoked that we got automatic qualification for the next World Cup in 2024,” he exclaims.
According to Campbell, he also brought an increased sense of professionalism and a much-needed change in team culture during his tenure. More than anything though, he hopes that now coach Ryan Cook carries on his legacy of giving the young emerging players like Vikramjit Singh, Shariz Ahmad, Aryan Dutt, Boris Gorlee and Phillipe Boissevain plenty of chances in the senior team.
With regards to the Dutch administration, Campbell is optimistic that it too will keep pace with the on-field progress. “Hopefully, the 2024 qualification gives the administration a chance to get their ducks in order and get us more sponsorships, which is vital, as then you can sink that money into the program and invest in these young players. At the end of the day, let’s not gloss over the fact that we only have 6 contracted players. That has always been an issue, we have a lot of part-time people playing and working. So there needs to be a continuation of the professionalism of the game here.”
“If the administration gets things right, I have no doubt that they can take cricket forward in this country. European cricket is booming due to the influx of Asian migrants and Afghanistani refugees. The Dutch absolutely have to be a part of that,” he opines.
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