ICC World T20 - Men
Coopers the key to a Dutch surge
Australian-based brothers Tom and Ben Cooper look to make an impact for the Netherlands at the World T20
6 March 2016, 04:52 PM AEST
The decision to reduce the 50-over World Cup to a 10-team tournament, and to make the ICC World T20 a quadrennial event as opposed to a biannual one, has put the onus on the game's Associate nations as they jostle to create an impression at this year's World T20 in India.
One such nation is the Netherlands, who was the standout Associate team in the 2014 World T20, where they defeated the UAE, Ireland and England and also had South Africa on the mat before failing to close out the contest.
The Dutch will be banking on their senior players in India this month, of which the Australian-based Cooper brothers Tom and Ben - whose mother was born in Netherlands New Guinea - are set to have a key role in conditions that are quite different from back home.
The Cooper brothers are among three Australian-born players in the Dutch squad, along with former Tasmania fast-bowler Timm van der Gugten.
Older brother Tom, 29, wasn’t part of the Netherlands squad when it was first announced last month, but after he was dropped from South Australia's side for the Sheffield Shield, he was quickly added to the 15.
Quick Single: Shield axing leads to World T20 selection for Cooper
On the other hand, 24-year-old Ben has been scoring plenty of runs for Netherlands in recent years, even finishing the 2015 World T20 Qualifiers as the second-highest run scorer.
In an exclusive chat with cricket.com.au ahead of their opening match of the tournament against Bangladesh on Wednesday, Ben said he will still need to adjust to the Indian conditions quickly to continue the momentum of his good recent form.
"It's always good coming into a tournament with some runs under your belt, especially in a tournament like the Qualifiers," he said. "It puts you in a good position.
"But it's different conditions here ... and T20 is a format where anything can happen. You could come into the tournament with form as good as you have had in your life but you could get a good ball, a poor decision or get out to a good catch.
"For me, I feel confident at the moment and I am hoping it holds me in a good stead going into the World T20."
Despite talk about adjusting to the conditions, the Netherlands and Ben look to have come prepared.
The hot summer climate in Adelaide, where both brothers are based, as opposed to the bitter winter cold of Netherlands is more in line with the expected Indian setting, as are the slow turners they encountered in the UAE during their recent practice matches.
"I myself wasn't in Holland for too many days before coming here. I was more in Australia before we headed over here," Ben explained.
"I was in Adelaide there before going to UAE where we had two weeks for the World Cricket League and the Inter-Continental Cup, so that sort of broke it up a little bit coming from an extended time back home."
Older brother Tom was the second-highest run scorer in the 2014 edition of the World T20, behind only Virat Kohli, and his addition to the side could be the boost the Dutch batting line-up needs in the lead-up to the tournament.
And while he hasn’t been with the side until just a few days ago, his recent KFC Big Bash League stint and his previous visits to India should hold him in good stead.
An unbeaten fifty in Netherlands’ first warm-up game against Afghanistan only underlined that fact.
"This is my seventh or eighth time in India," he says. "I have only been here few days this time, but very excited to be back in India. I love coming here, love playing here and love experiencing the culture.
"I played here a couple of times in the (T20) Champions League, came here for the Aussie U-19s, came here on a club tour, came here with the Test team (in 2004) as a youngster. A bit like a scholarship.
"(Adam) Gilchrist was captain (and) Michael Clarke hit 150 on debut on that one."
While the immediate future for the Cooper boys involves wearing the orange of the Dutch in India, their futures could take them all over the world.
Tom's first goal is to force his way back into the South Australia side and get more opportunities to represent the Netherlands, while Ben is still hoping to get his first crack at first-class cricket in Australia.
England is an option too, Ben says, but admits he will need to score more runs in club cricket for him to be considered by the Australian state sides or the English counties.
"Born in New South Wales in Australia, and I have spent the last three years going back and forth between Australia and Europe," he explained.
"I am yet to play any domestic cricket in Australia, fingers crossed that happens soon. For me, the Australian seasons haven't been what I have been hoping for, they haven't really done me any good, but I am sort of shifting my focus and putting my Dutch passport to use and looking to build a career in England in the county scene.
"I have played grade cricket in Australia and grade cricket in England so far, but hopefully this season or the next couple of seasons can help me put forward those scores to play at county level."
Interestingly, the future could have another Cooper joining in the cricketing fray too. By Tom’s reckoning, the third Cooper brother is one to watch out for.
"I have got a younger brother still, Jack, who is probably better than the both of us," he says.
"He’s probably 13 and at 13 he’s better than the both of us. He is an allrounder at the moment so good times."
Good times indeed for the Cooper family. And probably for Australia and Netherlands as well.