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Netherlands ready to 'co-achieve' the Ryan Cook way

Last updated on 05 Oct 2023 | 11:33 AM
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Netherlands ready to 'co-achieve' the Ryan Cook way

In a chat with, the Netherlands coach opens up about his coaching philosophy, tenure with the team, expectations from the World Cup, and much more

A quick Google search will tell you that the concept of Total Football, introduced by Dutch coach Johan Cruyff in the 70s, essentially means โ€œan attacking style of play in which every outfield player is able to play in any position as required during the course of a game.โ€

The Netherlands team at the World Cup are keen on implementing the same tactics in the field of cricket and hope to eke out favourable results that could take them to their target of reaching the semis โ€“ something that almost achieved at the T20 World Cup last year โ€“ where they beat the likes of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

โ€œTotal Cricket is about making sure all 11 guys contribute in some way in the match,โ€ Netherlandsโ€™ key player Logan van Beek explains Total Cricket in a chat with

โ€œThey've got to find a way to contribute, be adaptable to whatever situation presents itself. Pretty much, you've got to find a way to get yourself to get involved in the game. We can't rely on one or two guys to win us a game. We need all 11 guys each time we go out there, especially in a World Cup to contribute. If 11 guys contribute more, that can hopefully result in a win,โ€ he adds.

Also Read:ย Now an MBA, Sybrand Engelbrecht rediscovers love for cricket

As intriguing as it sounds, in cricket, it is a rarity that all 11 of them have their best day everyday, in every single game. There are plenty of factors at play that make it highly difficult. Scrapping for every run, converting those half chances on the field and stopping every run on the field is what all the teams strive for.ย 

It is those one percenters that could be the difference between a win and a loss; between progressing to the semis and crashing out in the group stages. Netherlands head coach Ryan Cook who took to coaching at a very young age, believes in his philosophy of โ€œco-achieving.โ€ย 

โ€œMy coaching philosophy is co-achieve, which the first five letters are 'coach.' The idea that is we achieve together. If I'm doing more for the team, they are getting more. If they are doing well, that's going to help us. From that point of view, it's a nice relationship that we've got with the guys. We are all trying to learn, we're all trying to get better. That includes the coaches as well, we all also look to do the same,โ€ Cook told

Cook initially took over as the Netherlands head coach after Ryan Campbell was hospitalised following a heart attack in 2021 and also took charge of the side during their successful 2022 T20 World Cup. They finished top eight, finishing above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in their group at the Super 12 stage.

The word upset or fluke gets thrown around when anyone outside the top ten teams loses to a side below them, as it happened at the World Cup this time around too. Plenty around the world do not see the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, but Cook has no issues with those words being mentioned when his side registers a win. Do not be surprised if there is a similar reaction if Netherlands get over the line in a few matches this time.

โ€œFrom our internal narrative, it's around us playing good cricket, it's us being as good as we can be on that day. We really do believe that if are that team, we do the small things well and we play the way we want to play, we'll be able to give any team a run for their money and that doesn't mean that they have to play poorly on the day for us to win. We can't rely on that,โ€ Cook explains.

โ€œWe need to play the style, the brand and the standard of cricket we can play and I think that's where in our own minds, it doesn't become as much of an upset, rather two good teams playing well against each other.

โ€œThe longer that we can play well the more we give ourselves a chance to put ourselves in a position to win. Previously, we have put ourselves in a position to win and have not closed it out, and we have been able to do that in the qualifiers under pressure, which I was quite happy with the guys about. That is something we had worked really hard on in different ways. Hopefully, this World Cup, it's the same.โ€

There has barely been a sense of continuity in the Dutch setup with players playing for their respective counties, even if it coincides with a Netherlands game. They had to bear the brunt at the Qualifiers too, but they emerged out of it having booked their tickets to India.

Itโ€™s no different this World Cup too. Netherlands are without the services of Fred Klaassen, Tim van der Gugten, Brandon Glover, Vivan Kingma and Tim Pringle at the marquee event due to various reasons. However, the silver lining is that experienced players like Roelof van der Merwe, Colin Ackermann and Paul van Meekeren have returned to the fold after giving the Qualifiers a miss.

Cook, who has to deal with the constant chopping and changing in the team on a constant basis, does not see it as a huge deal.

โ€œWe've got a specific set of values. The guys know what it takes to play for the Oranje, and they are very motivated to do so. It doesn't take much to get the team together,โ€ the 38-year-old head coach says.

โ€œThey are a close-knit group of guys who stay in touch throughout the year, wish each other the best wherever they might be playing - southern hemisphere, county cricket or in the Netherlands as well. They are tightly knit. So, when they come in, it's pretty seamless. They know how to behave and know what our culture is all about.โ€

In fact, Cook believes that one of the highlights of his job is to deal with players from different cultures and age groups.

โ€œHaving such a diversity of players and especially me coming from South Africa, that has such a diverse background, and embrace everybody, and that's something that we have done here,โ€ Cook said.

โ€œAll players who come into the team have earned their right to be here. There's an unwritten code amongst the team that it's special to be here. Everybody treat each other as such. They all bring in unique strengths, which is celebrated. They've all got little quirks of their own which everybody really enjoys about the team. A mixture of ages, backgrounds and get a beautiful blend, something we look to bring to the fore within the team framework of how we want to behave.โ€

Scott Edwards replaced the experienced Pieter Seelaar as captain when the veteran had to retire in the middle of an ODI series against England last year due to a recurring back injury. The Netherlands have tasted a lot of success since then, including qualifying for this World Cup and the T20 World Cup next year. Cook, who has worked with Edwards since the beginning of the latterโ€™s tenure, believes everyone in the dressing looks up to Edwards, including himself.

โ€œScott has got his own unique style. One of the things that I love about him and things that he has done really well is to stay completely authentic to who he was despite the title. That was a really amazing thing to see. Everybody's commented in the dressing room and outside saying that this guy is so humble and level-headed and really just helps the guys wherever he can. He is extremely authentic, very believable as a leader, which I think you definitely need to have. He has a huge amount of credibility because he walks the talk,โ€ Cook said.

โ€œHe sets the example for the players of the style of cricket everyone are playing and he really backs it up with his actions day in and day out. I'm not talking about the running between the wickets or the tactical decisions that he makes, but the small decisions he is making day-to-day just in his body, recovery and all those things are inspirational to watch for a lot of the players and certainly for me as a coach as well. It has been fantastic to work with him.

โ€œOn top of that, he is tactically astute and really wants to get every inch out of it, it makes for a very pleasurable relationship.โ€

Cookโ€™s cricketing career did not exactly pan out as it did for his dad and brother Stephen, both of whom went on to play Test cricket for the Proteas. Cook, who bowled a few leg-spinners and was also a versatile batter up and down the order, never really played any competitive cricket for any team at any level.ย 

But the coaching part of the game is something that intrigued him and took to it like fish to water when he was about 17.

โ€œCricket is in my blood, as you mentioned with my dad and my brother. I was an aspiring young player,โ€ Cook, who earlier this year had a coaching stint at the Indian Premier League (IPL) with Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), said.

โ€œBut I fell in love with coaching very early. Dad had his own cricket academy. At about 17, I helped him out with clinics and as soon as I finished school, I got into the academy. He was coaching the Lions at that time, so sometimes he would be away. So, I got some of the guys he was coaching and I was sort of coaching them.

โ€œThose guys, as it turns out, are Devon Conway, Quinton de Kock and many others. They have all gone on to play first-class cricket, Test cricket and that was my introduction to coaching and what a brilliant one it was. A lot of mentorship along the way, my dad, Ray Jennings, Gary Kirsten, those are the guys who were good in mentoring me to become the coach I was.

โ€œI was fortunate to be given a lot of those opportunities by those coaches to listen and learn and be with them and that's gone from strength to strength. So, from that perspective, I pretty much knew at around 19 that I wasn't going to make it as a player.โ€

The fact that Cook could not make it as a player has certainly proved to be a boon for the Dutch, who under him have shown plenty of promise and from their perspective, will continue to do so in the years to come.

After Netherlands qualified for the World Cup, Cook had appealed asking any team in the world to play against them that would give them the much-needed match practice ahead of the mega event. Karnataka answered the call and the Netherlands got an opportunity to play against a strong team at Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), Alur, that featured the likes of Manish Pandey, Mayank Agarwal, Vidwath Kaverappa and more.ย 

That allowed the Netherlands to get rid of any rust or cobwebs that will perhaps hold them in good stead at least in the initial stages of their World Cup journey.

Amidst such a hectic schedule, what does Ryan Cook do in his spare time (if any)?

โ€œI'm not really good at it. My guilty pleasure is trail running, especially around trials. That would be where I go. A little bit of golf here and there. A little bit of swimming and surfing occasionally,โ€ Cook, who has a degree in marketing communications and sports management, said.

โ€œI'm one of those guys who is switched on most of the time. I find that it helps me with balance. I'm not the kind of guy who can go away for six or seven days, much to my wife's dismay and not keep up to date with the cricket scores or see what's happening here or keep touching base or come up with an idea of something we can do. I think I'm always on and I find that it is my best way to unwind.

โ€œTime with the family...I'm actually expecting a baby girl in November, so my answer might be different a little bit later. But I think trying to just connect with my family because we spend so much time away from home. I haven't been home for a long time this year and re-connecting with them and spending time with them is really premium. So, that's my main motive outside of a cricket field.โ€

The Netherlands have taken their preparation for the World Cup extremely seriously. They not just arrived to acclimatise a couple of weeks ahead of the event, were there in the country early September as well, for a spin camp.

Cookโ€™s clarity of thought and his vision for the team has taken the Netherlands to great heights already. Donโ€™t be surprised if this is just the beginning.

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