Cricket below sea level

A little known fact about the Netherlands

Cricket below sea level

Cricket is not just a sport in most Commonwealth countries, it is a religion. Many expats find it hard to adapt to life without their beloved pastime. However, cricket lovers arriving in the Netherlands are regularly surprised to find that there is more than just Sky TV to fulfil their deepest cricketing needs.

Cricket has been played in the Netherlands for over a century. Its national cricket board was founded before world-famous cricket clubs in Australia, New Zealand and the West Indies. Many Dutch nationals play the sport and the country boasts a healthy population of clubs, pitches and teams. Many foreign coaches who come to the country compare the highest club cricket competition to leagues in England, Scotland and New Zealand.

The story starts 150 years ago. English soldiers based in the Netherlands played the game and local kids got interested. The game started to be played regularly, using improvised pitches and much to the amusement of on-looking footballers. The sport became established and was thriving during the 1930s. Sadly, the Second World War interrupted this rapid growth and shattered the interest amongst the local population.

Cricket onder de Zeespiegel

A small remaining group of inspired Dutch cricketers made it their task to revive the sport and interest slowly started growing again. A recently published book Cricket onder de Zeespiegel (Cricket below sea level) describes the post-War era of Dutch cricket which saw the sport rise to its potential once again. The book is a collection of stories, anecdotes and histories as told by the premier 25 Dutch international cricket players of the post-War era.

Dutch cricket has a surprising rich history and it has developed a unique culture and style of play. The sport has many natural enemies in the Netherlands, from the popularity of football and hockey, to rainy summers. Enthusiasts play with a passion that is inspirational.

A good illustration of this passion is illustrated in the first chapter of Cricket onder de Zeespiegel. Robbie Colthoff – one of the outstanding wicketkeepers (see glossary below) of his generation – tells of his 1953 journey to Copenhagen where he and the Dutch national side had a match to play against Denmark. Colthoff was only a student at the time and could not afford the expensive train journey to the north. “I gave all my heavy cricket gear to my teammates at the train station and started my journey to Denmark…on my trusty little moped! I picked up one of our star batsmen who lived close by, he hesitatingly jumped on the back of my moped and with a top speed of 55 miles an hour we raced towards Copenhagen!” This story seems a far cry from the luxury airplanes that are used today for travel between international matches and emphasizes the spirit in which the game is played in the Netherlands.

Beating the Aussies

The Dutch remained playing on an amateur level during the 1960’s and 1970’s although the national team did book a memorable victory on the touring Australians in 1963. Hero of the day Ruud Onstein remembers well how his batting exploits lead to a humiliated Australian side. “We needed nine runs of the last six balls to be bowled. The first two balls went for two singles and on the third ball of the over I managed to hit a huge six. This meant we only needed one run to achieve a memorable victory over the Aussies. The very next ball I also hit out of the ground for four runs and we had done it! We had done what the English had failed to do the same summer: beat the mighty Australian Test team!”

By 1979 cricket had reached a respectable professional level in the Netherlands and the national team was invited to play in the World Cup for ‘B-countries’ in England. A member of that side Peter Entrop recalls how this lead to an unforgettable meeting. “One of the social events of the tournament was an official audience with Elizabeth II, Queen of England. We were all lined up and had been told by an official that we were to shake the Queen’s hand and were only permitted to talk to her Royal Highness if we were asked a question. Whilst waiting for the Queen to arrive we were joking who would shake her Majesty’s hand the firmest. When she finally arrived she stopped at one of our players and remarked ‘you know, I didn’t know you played cricket in Holland’. This was a disheartening comment as we had heard this commentary throughout the tournament. The player who was the recipient of this Royal insult replied quick as a flash: ‘And I wasn’t too happy with your horse at Ascot yesterday!’ A deathly silence desended at this breach of protocol. However, the Queen remained unfazed and responded dryly: “Neither was I!”.

The 1980’s and 1990’s was a period of steady success that resulted in the first ever qualification for an official World Cup in 1996. For the first time in Dutch cricket history Dutch players were to play in front of crowds exceeding 30,000 cricket fans. This international exposure resulted in more Dutch players turning professional in the English leagues of which André van Troost – at his peak feared as one of the fastest bowlers on the planet – is probably the most famous.

A new era

After their first ever win at an official World Cup in 2003 and their qualification for the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, Dutch cricket is now standing at the crossroads of a new era. Recently there has been a slight decline in player numbers and the increase of artificial football and hockey pitches are threatening the vulnerable cricket grounds across the land. However, the passion that exists within the Dutch cricket community will ensure the sport’s future.

If you are interested in playing cricket in the Netherlands you can best visit the website of the Dutch National Cricket Board (KNCB) at . Here you will find addresses and club contact information. Dutch cricket clubs are always looking for new players and you will be warmly welcomed. For further information on Dutch cricket and cricket throughout the European continent you can visit .

If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book Cricket onder de Zeespiegel you can contact the publisher at .

Cricket glossary


points scored


1 point

A four

the ball has been hit out of the field along the ground resulting in 4 runs

A six

the ball has been hit out of the field without touching the ground resulting in 6 runs


the player who bowls (throws) the ball towards the batsman


the player who bowls (throws) the ball towards the batsman


the player who located behind the batsman

Further reading

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