The Hague: The cricketing outpost of The Netherlands was king of the ICC Trophy in 2001 when it was crowned champion and qualified for the World Cup. Now it goes into the South African showpiece publicly pledging confidence but privately fearing a hiding having been hopelessly outclassed at the Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka last year - a tournament which was virtually a mini-World Cup.
There it was defeated by Pakistan by nine wickets and by the hosts by 206 runs -a brutal early taste of what they can expect in southern Africa where it has been placed in Group 'A' with world champions Australia, Pakistan, India, England, Zimbabwe and Namibia, the side it beat in Toronto in 2001 to book its place among the world's elite. It is led by veteran skipper Roland Lefebvre who was also in charge when the Dutch first made the finals back in 1996. He knows that the bitter experience in the Champions Trophy was a hard pill to swallow, admitting that the defeat by Pakistan was hard to take.
"We got hammered. I didn't expect the game to be over that quick," Lefebvre said after Pakistan, chasing just 137 to win, achieved their target in just 16.2 overs. That game was only the Dutchmen's seventh full One-day International but at least they batted the distance of 50 overs. "I am glad we stayed for 50 overs and that was one of the positives from the match," said Lefebvre who was his side's top scorer in that game with 32 followed by fellow veteran Tim de Leede who scored 24. Against Sri Lanka, it had been skittled out for just 86 chasing a massive 292 With eight of its squad having had their first taste of international cricket in Sri Lanka last year, much will be depend on Lefebvre and De Leede.
Lefebvre, now 40, played county cricket for Somerset and Glamorgan while all-rounder De Leede, a former skipper, has also played in England with Northamptonshire, Sussex and Surrey. The Dutch will be happy with any experience gained and will hope for at least a win over Namibia to stimulate interest in a sport which gets little coverage at home. A win will also be a vast improvement on their first World Cup on the sub-continent in 1996 where they lost to New Zealand, England, Pakistan, South Africa and, surprisingly, even to the United Arab Emirates.