Cricket World Cup 2011

Dutch part-timers relish CWC

2011-02-21 09:31
Part-timer: accountant Bernard Loots celebrates a wicket for the Netherlands. (AFP)

Nagpur - While cricketing stars like Sachin Tendulkar and Muttiah Muralitharan dream of winning the World Cup, just being in the tournament is an achievement for the Burger King restaurant manager and the accountant playing for Netherlands on the world stage.

Netherlands' status as one of the smaller nations at the 14-team tournament means that there won't just be professional sportsmen taking to the field for its tournament opener against England on Tuesday.

"There's a tobacconist, a financial adviser, a physio, a fitness trainer," said allrounder Ryan ten Doeschate, just one of three full-time players in the Netherlands' 15-man World Cup squad. Plus, he added,"The odd cricketer."

The likes of Burger King restaurant manager Mudassar Bukhari, and accountant Bernard Loots are among those training evenings and playing weekends around the demands of a full-time job.

Loots, a 31-year-old bowler who works for Australia-based mining firm BHP Billiton in The Hague, said work and cricket leave little time for anything else.

"All in all, I probably have one or two days off a week, and that just in the evenings," Loots said. "Otherwise, it's full-on work and full-on cricket. It keeps us quite busy.

"That's a nice 70- or 80-hour week right there, but I try and get my eight hours' sleep in."

His routine contrasts sharply with that of cricket's superstars, who get schedules tailored specifically to help them develop their skills and peak physically for major contests.

Even after the Dutch cricket board, the KNCB, helps negotiate players' release from their regular jobs for the World Cup, things are tough for the Dutch part-timers.

With training and warmups in Dubai, the squad has been away from home for three weeks even before its first tournament match.

"It is very, very difficult for some of these guys to manage and balance their life given they had to get a lot of time off," coach Peter Drinnen said. "Obviously being away from loved ones for seven weeks, the professional sides are used to that. It's unusual for us."

To help ease the separation, the Dutch players will be given time off to spend with their partners and families when they visit next week.

Loots grew up in South Africa and played cricket while studying management accountancy, but never thought of a professional sporting career in a country so awash with talent that star batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott ended up playing for England instead.

Loots said he moved to the Netherlands with his girlfriend "to experience life abroad in Europe and a bit of travel." A friendship with batsman Tom de Grooth, which started back home, led to him joining a local cricket club and things simply snowballed.

"The cricket was just a way of integrating into Dutch society," Loots said. "This is a little bonus, if I may say it like that. It's a fantastic experience."

But the identity of Loots' employer is one thing that does make things just a little easier.

"It helps that they are an Australian-South African company, so cricket's part of the culture," Loots said. "They're very supportive of it. If we progress, I'm sure they're going to be fine with it as well."


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