The Netherlands were outclassed by India on Thursday but playing the Rohit Sharma-captained star-studded side in front of 40,000 people at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in a T20 World Cup match was a surreal experience for the Dutch players.
For some like India-born Dutch opener Vikramjit Singh, whose family left Punjab to escape insurgency in the mid-1980s, seeing the adulation Virat Kolhi received was like a fan-boy moment. Ahead of the game, the number of requests Singh received for pictures of Kohli outnumbered the good luck messages for him.
“I have been getting lots of messages today and most of them are about wishing ‘hi’ to Virat rather than wishing me well for the game. Everyone was watching back home and they all were excited as I was,” Singh said after the game.
Singh experienced a ‘wow moment’ when Kohli came out to bat at the SCG.
“It was like a fanboy moment for me and to see him getting cheered was an amazing experience. I was there looking around when 40,000 people were screaming Virat’s name. There was a big smile on my face,” Singh added.
Kohli scored his second successive unbeaten half-century as India made it two wins from two games with a 56-run victory over the Netherlands. Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav also scored fifties as India posted 179 for two before restricting the Dutch to 123 for nine.
Paul Van Meekeren, the experienced fast bowler, says facing the high-profile opponents led to wider media coverage of the team back home.
“Again, it’s massive. The amount of media we got back home because we were playing India was immense. Getting photos and messages from people in Holland, from family, about just the articles and This is a day I’ll tell to my grandkids about hopefully. That’s what it is, playing against India,” Meekeren said.
Meekeren dimissed KL Rahul in the game on Thursday. And the past 24 hours leading up to the game have been a blur.
“You watched these players on TV about 100 times, and just to be there is very special. I think at the moment. I probably didn’t realise it as much, and it will probably sink in the next 24 hours,” the medium pacer said.
The Netherlands players are far from superstars. Meekeren had tweeted about him delivering food via Uber Eats back home after T20 World Cup to be held in Australia was postponed because of the pandemic.
“We’ve got guys in the changing room who pay to go to their own training and only get paid when we go on tour and play games in Holland. But that’s the level of difference against guys that can hit 1,000 balls every week, and guys who study, work, all those kind of things,” Meekeren said.
The Netherlands dressing room is made up of players from different backgrounds. Players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia also represent the team after having become eligible to play for the Dutch.
Interestingly, their captain Scott Edwards originally hails from Australia. The players are hoping for more exposure for the sport in a football-crazy country post the T20 World Cup.
“TV helps for sure. Maybe there will be more followers added after today’s game. Hope things change and more people play this sport back home,” Singh says.