The pleasure of going into a time machine

I suppose it is everyone's dream to go into a time machine and return to their favourite era.

Right now I feel I have, as I act as consultant coach to Holland in the European cricket championships played in Belfast, Ireland.

These championships are played every two years and are divided into two divisions.

The second division, obviously the weakest comprises, Germany, Gibraltar, Israel, France, Portugal and Austria.

The winner of this competition will gain promotion to the top division and the lowest in first division will be relegated.

The first division comprises Holland, who have won this tournament on the last two occasions and also qualified for the 2003 World Cup with their victory in the last ICC Trophy and England Amateurs, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark and Italy.

The time machine I have entered reminds me of the innocent sixties when players were playing for the sheer enjoyment and the participation at the highest level.

It was a more generous time with little cynicism and selfishness and certainly very few scandals.

It was also a time when players and opponents enjoyed mixing and making friends.

This is exactly the environment that I am now in.

While the standard in these hard fought championships may not be as high as Test cricket it is nevertheless very competitive.

I am delighted to be part of this and finally see the ICC promoting the game at this level.

We shouldn't forget that Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are recent graduates of these tournaments.

Facilities have been excellent and most of the club grounds we have played on have a proud history of over 100 years.

This doesn't really surprise me as I was aware that cricket had been played in Ireland and Scotland for over 100 years. What has amazed me however is just how long our great game has been played in Holland.

The first cricket club which still exists, U.D.C.C (Utile Dulei) in the East Holland city of Deventer was established in 1885 by some keen English school boys. Within a short time more clubs were established in the length and breadth of Holland.

Nowadays it is pretty well restricted to the Western part of Holland in big cities such as Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Rotterdam Den Haag, Utreck and Antwerteen.

While no cricket is played in the schools there are nearly 6000 registered players in Holland.

Holland has always had a close association with England and the contribution made by British soldiers who were in The Netherlands during the first World War was of great importance to the development of the game.

After the second World War equipment came to Holland through a "Save Dutch Cricket Fund", so that the cricketers who were forbidden to play the game by the occupying forces were able to start playing again in 1949.

Much has happened in Dutch cricket in the last two years. Foreign coaches and players have been allowed to participate in the league and as a result there has been a much more professional approach to cricket.

More internationals were also attracted and Vanburn Holder of the West Indies and David Murray along with fellow wicketkeepers Lee Germon from New Zealand and Tim Zoehrer from Australia while Colin (Funky) Miller of Australia spent many years in Holland.

Numerous state players from all around the world have plied their trade and left lasting impressions.

Most of Holland's cricket has been played on mats over clay. This is now changing and four centres now have turf wickets.

It is quite remarkable that Holland has done so well at the international level. They qualified for the first time for the World Cup and of course will be in South Africa in 2003.

English county scouts are continually visiting Holland to search for E.C.C. qualified talent.

Paul-Jan Bakker was the first Dutch man to play in county cricket and he had a long and distinguished career at Hampshire while current Holland captain Roland Lefebure served Somerset and Glamorgan for over a decade.

Injury has sadly finished the first class career of Andre' van Troost who at Somerset bowled one of the 10 fastest balls in cricket.

What now for Dutch cricket.

They have an excellent administration and a well constructed club cricket and junior development schemes which would be the envy of many Test nations.

Test and one-day internationals are some distance away but still very high on the priorities of Dutch cricket.

Given encouragement and financial help from the ICC they can on the medium term play ODIs.