Alphonsus Stoelinga, the Dutch Ambassador to India is an avid cricket fan. He took time off his busy schedule to interact with Sunday Guardian to reflect on a plethora of issues regarding the Dutch team. Following are excerpts from the interview. He hosted the Dutch cricket team at a glittering ceremony at his official residence.
Q. The Dutch cricket is going through a very good phase right now with a host of good performances of late. How do you rate your team’s chances in the forthcoming World T20?
A. The Dutch cricket team has performed quite well in the recent past, which we are proud off! On their day, they can be a challenge to any team in the tournament. They have showed this in the last T20 World Cup when they have beaten a strong England cricket team. I would not be surprised if they cause a few upsets in this tournament as well.
Q. How popular is cricket in the Netherlands? What do you think are the reasons for the increasing popularity of the game in your country?
A. You might be surprised to note that cricket has, infact been played in the Netherlands for over a century! Our cricket board was founded even before world famous cricket clubs in Australia, New Zealand, and the West Indies. I think the popularity in the Netherlands is increasing after some good performances of the national team at the highest levels (world cups), becoming more attractive for sponsorshipsand there is an increasing interest of the Netherlands cricketers in the T20 leagues around the world.
Q. A look at the Dutch team reveals there are two of players of Asian origin-- Ahsan Malik and Sikander Zulfiqar. Do you think that your cricket team symbolises the multi-cultural component which is so true of Netherlands?
A. Absolutely, our country boasts of many cultures and the same is visible in our cricket team.
Q. Do the more famous Indian players like Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli have fan support among the Dutch fans. How popular are these players back in your country?
A. While Football and Hockey players remain most popular, famous Indian cricket players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are both rising stars amongst Dutch (especially diaspora) fans and players.
Q. The Dutch are world powers in games like hockey and football. Do you envisage yourself as a world power in cricket the near future?
A. Not in the immediate near future, but hopefuly in the coming times! Securing a spot in the T20 world cup this year has definitely increased the popularity of cricket amongst youngster in the Netherlands. Booking some positive results in the upcoming matches will certainly add to this popularity and love for the game.
The Dutch cricket team has been practicing in India for the last two weeks.
Q. Where were you based and what was the experience of your team members?
A. I have been based in New Delhi since 2012 summers. On the 29th of February this year we received the cricket team at the residency. During this reception an interview wasconducted with Roeland van der Merwe, one of our upcoming cricket stars. He has some previous personal ties with India, is a tidy left-arm spinner and can definitely hit the ball hard! If interested, a video footage of this interview can be found on our Facebook page: Kingdom of the Netherlands in India.
Q. Your command over Hindi is remarkably good. Tell us from where did you learn to be so conversant in Hindi? A. Dhanyavaad! Before coming to India I took Hindi lessons in the Netherlands and am currently taking weekly classes here as well, as and when the time permits! Besides, I try and speak to my staff members in Hindi (which by the ways is the best way to practice a language) and read some Hindi newspapers as well.