Paarl: The cricketing outpost of The Netherlands was king of the ICC Trophy in 2001 but now fear it is about to be transformed into World Cup chumps. On Wednesday, the motley collection of part-timers and wily old veterans come up against the princes of India in the first match of their second ever World Cup. The first was in 1996 when The Netherlands lost all four matches it played - going down by 49 runs to England, by eight wickets to Pakistan, seven wickets at the hands of the United Arab Emirates and by 160 runs to South Africa.
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 beaten 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.
Namibia is the side the Netherlands beat in Toronto in 2001 to book its place among the world's elite. Veteran skipper Roland Lefebvre who was also in charge when the Dutch first made the finals back in 1996 leads it. He knows 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 seventh full One-day International for the Dutch but at least it 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 with 32 followed by fellow veteran Tim de Leede who scored 24. 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.