Exclusive || More players will pull out of national committments to take part in lucrative T20 domestic leagues: Pieter Seelar, Former Netherland skipper

Pieter Seelar, the former Netherland skipper retired from the game leaving a rich and an inspiring legacy behind him. After serving the nation for over a decade, and leading the squad for four years, Seelar was forced to hang his boots due to a persistent back-injury. The 35-year-old has ended his illustrious career as Netherlands’ most-capped T20I player, their leading T20I wicket-taker, their second-most-capped ODI player and their joint-highest ODI wicket-taker.

He has appeared in more than 300 games for Netherland across all formats in the span of 17 years. Seelar’s last one-day international saw his side succumbed against England as the latter scored a mammoth 400 plus, and defended the total successfully. But his country has qualified for the upcoming T20I World Cup, 2022 in Australia and will aim to make an impression against the mightiest of the game.

Shivani Gupta, Head of Content, The Quotes, in a candid conversation with Pieter Seelar talked about Seelar’s rich experience while playing for his country, Netherland’s prospects in ICC tournaments and more. Excerpts of the conversation are as follows:

Congratulations Pieter, on having an illustrious and inspiring career full with its fair share of ups and downs. Eoin Morgan, former England Captain congratulated you for your contribution to Dutch cricket. You started as a No. 11 and steadily built your career with some incredible records to your name. How difficult it is going to be, to comprehend that you will not be a part of the Netherland cricket dressing room and instead will have to watch the game from the sides.

Answer: Thank you so much. The realization at the start was a bit of a reality check. After spending about 18 years with the team as a player, it felt weird to be no longer part of the playing squad. Now it’s been a month and I’m actually enjoying watching the team play. As an ex-captain and a player, I am still the biggest fan of the guys that are out there representing the Netherlands. Watching them seal the qualification for the T20 WC filled me with a lot of pride and joy!

Netherland has qualified for the T20 WC in Australia. This will be Netherland’s fifth appearance in the ICC tournament. What is the reason that the Netherlands still struggles when they compete with quality teams like England, Australia and others? What do you think the country needs to do more to be more competitive in such tournaments?

Answer: I think what most associate counties lack in order to compete with more seasoned teams is a domestic professional structure. This ensures that a team can play a lot more cricket at a higher standard without having to compete directly with the bigger teams. Apart from the need of a domestic structure, it’s also about growing a bigger base in the country. At the moment we have roughly about 5000 active cricketers. So, in order to compete with the Full time Members on a more regular basis, cricket needs to grow both at grassroots level as well as at the National level.

You have retired from the international stage due to a back injury. Lot of other cricketers have expressed the fact that the ICC schedule has become very hectic and cricketers often feel overburdened. After closely observing the game for so many years, how do you evaluate the evolution of cricket and your analysis on such frequent bilateral contests?

Answer: I guess that depends on who you ask. So, for the top-level cricketers I fully understand the demands are getting a bit too much. I’d say that comes with the evolution of domestic T20 competitions, it pretty much doubles their schedule. For smaller countries like ourselves, we want to play as much cricket as possible, as we don’t get to play enough cricket at the highest level. At the moment I don’t think the balance is right. Quantity exceeds the quality, which will eventually cause players to burn out, but also, the cricket as a product when the quality is not of the highest order.

Cricket South Africa has recently pulled out from a bilateral series against Australia for its own franchise tournament, starting next year. Do you think franchise cricket will overtake bilateral contests in the future?

Answer: Hasn’t it already? More and more players will pull out of national commitment with more (lucrative) domestic tournaments being put forward. In order to keep cricket sustainable and meet somewhere in the middle, I think franchise cricket will overtake (a lot of) bilateral series.

You have a decent track record as a bowler in the shortest format of the game. Why did we never see you participating in the Indian Premier League? Do you have that regret? Would you make an attempt to be part of the world’s biggest T20 tournament in any capacity?

Answer: Haha, simply because I’m not good enough! I think in the IPL with limited overseas places in a squad, teams don’t consider players from associate nations very much (even though there is a lot of talent). The IPL is something most, if not all, cricketers want to be a part of. But I’m a realistic man, and never thought I was going to play in the IPL, so it’s really not a regret (with a smile). I’m not sure in what capacity I could be a part of the IPL, but if there would be an opportunity to be a part of it, I would take it with both hands.

What are your expectations from the Netherlands team in the upcoming T20 WC 2022? According to you, which team stands out from others and has the best chance to lift the T20I WC title.

Answer: I think we’ll enter this tournament with an underdog tag. In the previous WC, I’d like to think we put too much pressure on ourselves in terms of expecting too much of ourselves. But if they peak at the right time, a place in the Super 12’s is definitely on the cards!

On the other part of the question, I believe there are so many teams that could lift that trophy, but I’d say it will be between Australia and India.

After cricket, what’s your plan for the future? Are we going to see you participating in franchise cricket or will you stay away from the game for a while?

Answer: I think I will stay away from cricket for a while. In the Netherlands, becoming a cricket coach is not a stable job. And I’d like to spend a lot more time with my family and friends outside of cricket, so I prefer not to travel away from them for a while. What I’ll do next, I’m not sure. At the moment I’m in the middle of trying to find a job, with a lot of different opportunities in many different areas. But unfortunately, cricket isn’t one of them.

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