(PTI)-Set to experiment with Kevin Pietersen as an opener, England take on the Netherlands in their World Cup Group B match today aiming for the flying start that would set them up for the bigger battles that lie ahead in the mega event.
Drubbed 1-6 by Australia in the ODI series just before the World Cup, Andrew Strauss and his boys would be desperate to put aside the disappointment when they face off against the Dutch at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha.
When Steven Gerrards and John Terrys are pitted against the likes Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, there isn’t much to choose between the two teams but when the English cricket team takes on its ‘Oranje’ counterpart, it becomes a mismatched battle.
But as England wicketkeeper Matt Prior yesterday pointed out, it would be important to have a good start and taking the Netherlands lightly could end up giving the English a rude shock because World Cups have had a history of having at least one match in which the David manages to down the Goliath.
The English, in fact, don’t have to look too far behind for an example. Two years ago in their opening encounter of the World Twenty20 at Lord’s, the Dutchmen stunned the hosts by four wickets which is till date the most memorable achievement by the Oranje brigade.
Six players who played that day — Bas Zuiderent, Peter Borren, Pietar Seelaar, Tom de Grooth, Alex Kerevezee, Ryan ten Doeschate — are in the current squad and would be looking to do an encore here.
However, Dutch coach Peter Drinnen is all cautious when reminded of that achievement.
“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves as we want to perform to the best of our abilities,” Drinnen said.
The focus of the England team will be obviously on their star batsman Kevin Pietersen who will be seen in a new avatar as an opener.
The destruction that KP can cause during fielding restrictions can be a bowler’s worst nightmare coming true in broad daylight. And the Englishmen will be obviously hoping to make full use of Powerplays with him around.
Pietersen was impressive in his new role when he emerged the top-scorer for his team with a useful 66 during their 67 run win over Pakistan in a warm-up game at Fatullah.
While England will be missing Eoin Morgan in the middle-order, a lot will depend on how Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara and Paul Collingwood perform during the middle overs when the proceedings will slow down a bit.
The manner in which Kenya and Canada surrendered against New Zealand and Sri Lanka on Sunday have raised the debate about letting the Associate Nations participate in the marquee event.
Even Australian captain Ricky Ponting has joined the bandwagon, supporting curtailing of teams for the next edition.
Strauss, however has a different take on the matter.
“It is easy to jump conclusions after seeing the games yesterday. Let the tournament finish first and then draw the conclusions.”
‘Ireland, Netherlands stong associate nations’ Strauss was modest in terming the Netherlands and Ireland as strong associate nations.
“I think Ireland and the Netherlands are strong associate nations. They are surely capable of couple of upsets. If you want to win the tournament, you have to play consistent cricket right through from the group stages to the quarter-finals.
“The first job to do is to make sure to get to the quarter-final stage. You can afford a slip up or two at the group stage but it is better not to,” he said.
The skipper was a picture of humility when asked about his take on the quality of Dutch side.
“You can’t underestimate Netherlands. They play a lot of cricket now. The side has obvious strengths and we need to give 100 percent. A 10 per cent off and we will be in trouble.
A few of them play in English counties and we know their players reasonably well now, can’t single out any player.”
Strauss also said the senior most player Paul Collingwood under whom England won World T20 in West Indies last year is like “sounding board” for him when he needs any suggestions.
Asked about the pressure to win by a big margin against minnows after Sri Lanka and New Zealand, Strauss said, “We are not looking at it like that. We are not playing against India right now. We are looking at tomorrow’s match. More than how we win, it is important that we win it.
“Obviously, Netherlands have nothing to lose. We need to play smart cricket. We are going to play against India next week and we need to make sure that we play smart cricket.”