A lawnmower moves slowly across the main pitch of the VRA cricket club in Amstelveen, as the birds sing. In the background, the sound of an electric drill inside the clubhouse is the only noise to disturb the rural tranquility. Even planes to Schiphol are silent.
But in three weeks the green will be packed with fans, marquees and TV crews as VRA kicks off the biggest season of international cricket the Netherlands has ever seen, hosting first the West Indies and then the England as part of the CWC Super League series. one-day internationals.
The club, sandwiched between Amsterdam hockey giants Pinoke and Hurley and which has been around for around 100 years, has just 350 members but is thinking big.
‘It was either go bankrupt, downsize or really go for it,’ says club treasurer Pierre van Gulik during a guided tour. “We have therefore decided to expand and update our facilities, in the hope of attracting teams looking for pre-season training facilities, as well as offering cricket-related events to businesses and groups.
The money to fund all of this comes from contributions, donations and a few sponsorships, as well as loans, and it will take four or five years to be sure the bet has paid off.
Today, the 1930s clubhouse at the edge of the green is perched in front of a huge covered hall, where Dutch teams now train all year round.. The indoor training hall is top of the range, developed to English cricket specifications, with international standard lighting, three pitches and includes a sports hall.
The club itself is being extended with new changing rooms, a large state-of-the-art kitchen, offices and relaxation areas to meet the needs of the modern game – and the International Cricket Council.
There are only a few weeks left before the West Indies arrive, but there is still a long way to go, and the club’s board has been drawn up to help the electricians and builders complete the job.
‘We’ve been working on the project for two years, through the Covid lockdowns,’ says board member and volunteer Theo Lindemann as he checks boxes of tiles stacked on a table in the bar.
‘We dug the drains, supervised the drilling of 125 piles to support the hall and finally, we are finishing the site for the international matches.
With around 2.5 billion followers worldwide, cricket is second only to football. This is not the case in the Netherlands, where just over 5,000 people play the game, and many of them are international workers from traditional cricketing countries.
The VRA itself has seven senior teams and a women’s team playing in league competitions, along with three recreational teams and a growing youth branch.
The club is home to 23 nationalities, many of them drawn from the international community of Amsterdam and Amstelveen. First team player Vikramjit Singh is a relatively new addition to the Dutch squad, who will see his mettle tested by some of the world’s best sides this summer.
Van Gulik hopes the summer internationals will help energize the sport and bring it to a wider audience. The Netherlands, he points out, does not play test match cricket, only 50 overs or T20s, and that makes the game more appealing to more people.
“A match does not last all day. You didn’t leave from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. so we hope that the T20 will encourage more people to come to the games. It’s also more exciting to watch,” he says.
Ticket sales have been going well so far and will be bolstered by the thousands of English fans who will be coming to the channel next month.
“When England play, they play in a stadium of 60,000 to 100,000 people with all the facilities and now they will come here…to a small cricket club,” Van Gulik explained. “That means we have to have the facilities to meet the requirements of the ICC and we have to live up to that.”
“But we must not forget our members who play recreational cricket and just want to have a good time. It’s their club and they also want to be able to play every day. We must therefore also take this into account.
The VRA kick off the cricket season with the West Indies on May 31, June 2 and 4, followed by England on June 17, 19 and 22. New Zealand are in town for two games in Voorburg on August 4 and 6, and the season ends with Pakistan on August 16, 18 and 21, hosted by VOC in Rotterdam.
“There has never been such an important year with such important matches in the history of Dutch cricket,” says Van Gulik. “We have been working at this point for many years and we have a lot to do.”
You can buy tickets for all matches on the KNCB website
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