Hong Kong v Netherlands, WCL Championship, Mong Kok February 18, 2017

Talismanic Borren still leading the fight

Few have given as much to Associate cricket as Peter Borren, and his will to win means Netherlands will keep knocking on the door
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Peter Borren's Netherlands side closed out another tight win in Mong Kok © Panda Man

Peter Borren's shirt is covered in dirt. A few minutes earlier, in trying to run out a Hong Kong batsman, he had thrown himself at the ball and stumps. It was just another moment of Borren throwing everything he has into Netherlands cricket. According to him, Netherlands "fight hard", and it's obvious why they do.

The two most important people in cricket at Associate level are the creative CEO and the talismanic, inspirational, do-everything leader. The dream team in that regard was Ireland's Trent Johnston and Warren Deutrom. Netherlands still haven't had that creative CEO who makes things happen with little money and turns an amateur side into a professional contender. But they have Borren. And this is something they should be thankful for every series - rare as they are for his side.

In the first of Netherlands' two WCL games against Hong Kong, Borren was bowling the third over of the match, because Vivian Kingma's opening over went for 19. There was no fuss, no emotional moments, or angst, Borren just picked up the ball and did a quality, workmanlike job. If there is a hole in this team, if there is a job that needs to be done, if there is a moment when the team isn't focusing, the answer is almost always Borren.

When he was batting in the first game and Hong Kong tried to play on his masculinity by bringing up mid-on and mid-off, he smashed a ball into the softball stadium next door. He made 40 off 36 and ensured the good work from his top order meant something. Then, with the ball, he bowled 1 for 44 from his eight, including the partnership-breaking wicket of his opposite number, Hong Kong captain Babar Hayat.

"I'm not that good at cricket, so I try very hard"
Peter Borren

At the crease with the ball, he's all bustling effort and mind games. For one whole over, he tried to buy a wicket by grunting hard for his slower balls, sometimes well after the ball had left his hand. His bowling is equal parts trickery and effort. And when it doesn't go his way, like an edge through the slips, he bellows.

Borren screams a lot. In angst, in passion, in perpetuity. "Come on lads." "We can get one here." "Turn six into seven", as he claps his hands viciously. He is like an angry ground announcer, such is his volume and consistency. If his team isn't doing well, he leads a screaming plea to get them back on song.

When he was out in this match, he had a two-minute discussion with both umpires about whether the ball was a full toss above hip high. The longer he talked, the more likely it seemed he would get his way. In the first game, when one of the balls had to be replaced, he was unhappy with the selection. The umpires knew it, his team knew it, Hong Kong - the team, city and country - knew it. Nothing is subtle with Borren.

When he bats, he hits the bat harder into the ground than other players. At Mong Kok, you can hear it clearly, as the sound bounces off the apartment building next door. And then there is his batting: part canny used-car salesman, part club cricketer playing to his absolute limit. When mid-on and mid-off came up again, it was clear he was going to go over them again. Not in a reckless way - it was intelligent and forceful, to make clear Hong Kong knew who was really in charge.

At one stage he was facing Anshuman Rath, who accidentally bounced him (Rath is a left-arm fingerspinner). Borren tried to heave it on to mainland China. The whole incident was a perfect illustration of the differences between the two sides. A Hong Kong batsman probably would have smashed it for six, but a Hong Kong batsman wouldn't have been facing a left-arm spinner bowling for the first time in the 42nd over, one who hadn't been bowling much recently because he had the yips.

A hard man to beat © International Cricket Council

Borren doesn't make mistakes like that. This Hong Kong team are very much in the image of their captain, Hayat. The effortlessly talented batsman who in both games (and the first-class Intercontinental Cup match) smashed the Dutch bowlers around beautifully. But the decision to bowl Rath, or being run out with a few overs to go because he was ball-watching, are things that Borren doesn't do. Hayat has captained two straight games where his team has scored over 300 in a chase, with plenty of wickets in hand, and he has no wins to show for it. If that was Netherlands, Borren would have dragged them over the line at least once.

If you had a cricket team that was bleeding from every orifice, had two broken legs, and a runny nose, Borren is the sort of man you'd want in charge of it.

Hong Kong, and most of the Associate world, would kill for a player like Borren. He plays like someone who has played all the cricket there is, despite being still relatively young at 33. He feels like he has been involved in cricket since the word Associate started being used, and he captains that way. "Captaincy is second nature to me, maybe because I've done it for so long now," he says. Simon Cook, Hong Kong's coach, believes that the Dutch win so many close games like these purely because of Borren.

They won the first WCL game by five runs and the second by 13, and just on pure performance Borren was immense. Scores of 40 and 49 at better than a run a ball, and both times he then had to make up for a poor opening bowler but still delivered his 18 overs at less than a run a ball, while taking crucial wickets.

But it was also the way he constricted Hong Kong in both games. They have a massively talented top order but Borren got them on both occasions to get behind the rate, knowing the young side would bottle it. He used his wristspinner, Michael Rippon (Man of the Match in both games) exquisitely. And Netherlands seemed to trust in what they were doing at all times, as a team, whereas Hong Kong are still a group of talented individuals. The main difference between these teams isn't talent; it's Borren.

If you had a cricket team that was bleeding from every orifice, had two broken legs, and a runny nose, Borren is the sort of man you'd want in charge of it.

Over the two games, he only got seven overs out of his secondary opening bowler but not only did it never even seem to bother him, if you hadn't read the card, you also wouldn't have thought this team were a bowler down. Borren just yells a bit, claps a bit, constricts the opposition, and throws himself through the crease a few more times than normal, and suddenly his team is back in front again. And then it's a fight, and when it comes to bare-knuckle-brawl-type cricket, there are few better in the world than Borren. Because of these two fighting victories, the World Cricket League is theirs to lose.

They have quality strike bowlers, are well drilled in the field and have a good batting line-up, but without Borren it's hard to see how they would have only lost one match out of ten so far in the league.

Those who denigrate Associate cricket often pick on the fact that players like Borren, who was born in New Zealand, are expats. But Borren is a true Associate hero, and his birthplace cannot change that. A player like Borren helps grow cricket in an emerging nation, and if you see the blood, sweat, and screams Borren puts into playing for Netherlands, his birthplace becomes completely inconsequential. The Dutch will hopefully improve and grow but in 20 years' time there still won't be a player who gives more than Borren has done for the men in orange.

On his own role he says, "I'm not that good at cricket, so I try very hard." The first part is unfair; the second part is an understatement.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Whyaskme on February 21, 2017, 10:24 GMT

    I thoroughly detest Steven's remark, but unfortunately it is not completely untrue.. Interest in the sport in our country is not as big as it was 20 years ago.. However giving up would be unfair, especially to people like Peter Borren, who might be an expat, but is one who gives his absolutely utmost for cricket in The Netherlands... (and there might be a few test teams that also use the services of "expats"..). We can only hope that the relentless efforts of these volunteers lead to more interest for and development of the game in our country...

  • Cric_Writer_Anindya on February 21, 2017, 1:32 GMT

    Nice one Jarrod. I am a huge fan of your writing, and its precisely because of pieces like this. Borren is a true leader. And you need men like that at the front when you are trying to punch above your weight and moving up the ladder in a sport where the barriers to entry at the top level are very high. Notwithstanding the dismissive tone of a couple of previous comments, you have to admit though that grassroots interest in the sport must grow far more in the Netherlands for the nation to make real progress.

  • Slowleggy on February 20, 2017, 20:48 GMT

    I've been to VRA three times, and actually played against Borren when they put him out against our Sunday friendly cricketers as a warm up for South Africa the following weekend! Dropped off my bowling, possibly because he'd never seen anything so slow, but wasn't long before he got my measure and I was being fished out of the canal. I've seen him running coaching sessions for kids in the nets, fielding training, and playing training games on the astro strip after our game - how many international skippers can you think of that have done that for their club side?

    As for speaking Dutch... well, he can say "Lekker lekker!" - that's a word of Dutch, Dunross.

  • nursery_ender on February 20, 2017, 16:04 GMT

    I remember watching the ICC Trophy final between Netherlands and Zimbabwe at Lord's in 1986. That Netherlands team had nine Dutch-born players, one Englishman and one Guyanese. Two of the Dutch team (Roland Lefebvere and PJ Bakker) had very successful careers in County cricket.The scheduled day (Sunday, I think) was all but washed out but was attended by a large number of enthusiastic Dutch fans. Sadly most were unable to stay for the reserve day.

    Another time I was watching a Sunday League game at Lord's attended by a large, noisy (ok, drunk!) contingent of Dutch club players on tour. Cricket may not be a major sport in the country but those who do follow it do so with a spirit close to fanaticism. Otherwise why would they bother bringing in overseas professionals?

  • St John Smythe on February 20, 2017, 14:40 GMT

    @lephat, There is a huge difference between The Netherlands and the countries you mentioned. You could count on one hand the number of cricketers who are born and learnt their cricket in the Netherlands. The rest is from South Africa, NZ or Oz with a Dutch grandparent. Or they are expats from other cricketing countries. There is next to no interest in the game and the WCL was not mentioned in any news. Sexysteven is right on this one. I would love the game to succeed here but it is not sustainable here and just an excuse for some journeymen from around the world to realise their international dreams or for the ICC to believe they are spreading the game.

  • LePhat on February 20, 2017, 13:00 GMT

    Yeah great point Sexysteven. We should just repeal the inclusion of Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh from international cricket - after all, they were essentially associate natoons promoted to the top tier. While we are at it we will strike the efforts of Kenya and Ireland, both of whom have beaten full member nations, from the records and ban them too. Lastly we will rub out Afghanistan and the UAE, who today each had a player drafted into the IPL. Because associate cricket is pointless right?

  • AButch62 on February 20, 2017, 12:51 GMT

    Interesting contrast between this article & another on the same ESPNcricinfo page; Tim Wigmore's "Captain's aren't that important anymore" I know where I stand on the subject & sorry Tim it's not with you.

  • Dunross on February 20, 2017, 10:24 GMT

    Peter Borren does not speak a word of Dutch..he does not even try... what does that tell you?

  • Sexysteven on February 19, 2017, 23:54 GMT

    I don't see the point in these associate nations cos most of there players are journeyman expats from cricketing nations who ain't good enough to play for there country of birth what's the point when there's Bugger all locals are playing in these teams ur not developing cricket in these countries if there are next to no locals in these teams a total waste of time if u ask me as for Peter Borren absolutely arubbish cricket player he wouldn't even make a club team in most countries he's that bloody average so it doesn't say much for Dutch cricket for having him there in charge that's for sure get rid of the associate countries total waste of time expat players defeat the purpose of having these associate teams it's not encouraging more locals to play in these countries so basically it's a waste of money even trying to develop these nations cos there not interested in playing cricket just the expats r

  • FieryFerg on February 19, 2017, 21:14 GMT

    @ OURMAN it's an obvious idea but it just doesn't seem that a series between Ireland, NL and Scotland can be sorted out. I'd love it to happen and we've all been shafted to some extent by the ECB with the changes to the one-day cups so I'd love the administrators to sort it out. If we don't help ourselves no-one else will!

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