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The Hindu
The Hindu
P.K. Ajith Kumar

Scott Edwards: the selfless keeper of the Oranje flame

Pulling double duty: An admirer of former Australia keeper-bat Adam Gilchrist, Edwards is adept with the gloves and averages almost 41 with the bat in ODIs. | Photo credit: Getty Images
Stepping up: Edwards was the Player of the Match in the stunning World Cup upset win over South Africa. He top-scored with 78 not out and held three catches behind the stumps. | Photo credit: Getty Images

Listening to Scott Edwards speak on a pleasant October night on the lawns of the Netherlands Residency, considered by some as the most beautiful house in Delhi where Muhammad Ali Jinnah once lived, you are reminded of Ellyse Perry.

Instead of talking about her great exploits, ranging from scoring in the football World Cup to powering Australia’s successful campaigns in several cricket World Cups, Perry would rather talk about teammates who may have made smaller contributions in matches she dominated. 

Though raised in Australia — he grew up in Melbourne and played for Richmond — Edwards also has a Dutch passport, through his grandmother. Like Perry, he would much rather talk about his teammates than his own performances, one of which, about a fortnight ago, took the Netherlands cricket team to its greatest moment. 

Leading from the front

After walking in at 82 for five, against a South African side that had won its previous matches by 102 runs and 134 runs, the captain led from the front, making an unbeaten 78 off 69 balls. The next highest score in the total of 245 for eight in 43 overs — the rain claimed the rest — was 29, made by Roelof van der Merwe.  

But Edwards underplays his contribution, instead speaking at length about van der Merwe’s 19-ball cameo and Aryan Dutt’s nine-ball 23. “It is obviously nice to play a part but I actually thought what Roela and Aryan did was amazing,” he tells The Hindu at the party the Netherlands Ambassador Marisa Gerards hosted for the cricketers. “Sometimes, it is easy to play the sort of anchor role. You obviously need guys to come in around you. And Roelof was striking at over 150 and Aryan more than 200. Aryan is a strong man and definitely someone to watch out for.”

Edwards also doesn’t want to talk about his three back-to-back half centuries in ODIs against England last year, or the 39-ball 137 not out in the European Cricket League final that set a T10 world record. “I don’t take too much from individual success,” he explains. “I don’t think it means a whole lot, to be honest.”

He is glad to talk about what the Netherlands has achieved, much against the odds, in international cricket, though. He is proud of the way the team has fared over the last year or so. His side shocked South Africa at the T20 World Cup in Adelaide last year, played some fine cricket in the Qualifier in Zimbabwe to return to the ODI World Cup after a gap of 12 years, and, of course, stunned South Africa in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.

World Cup expectations

“Coming into the tournament, we had high expectations, and to meet those expectations, we have to beat good teams,” he says. “So the win against South Africa is a great result for us, but we came here wanting to do more.”

He is disappointed that the team couldn’t win against Sri Lanka despite posting a competitive score after surviving yet another collapse. “We should have bowled better,” he says. “I think 262 was definitely a good enough score on that wicket as there was enough for the bowlers. We had them two down in the Powerplay, probably leaked a few too many runs there, but we were still confident. We just didn’t bowl and field to the standards that we like to.”

The Netherlands had certainly done that against South Africa, whose batting looks as good as any side’s in the tournament. Edwards is glad that the victory has helped cricket gain some attention in the Netherlands.

“I think we have just got to continue to play good games of cricket and win games, and the media attention definitely brings a little bit of a spotlight in the Netherlands, where traditionally cricket is a small sport,” he says. “So it’s always nice to get that extra publicity and attention around the sport. It doesn’t happen every day, but we were noticed during the last T20 World Cup and then the [World Cup] Qualifier in Zimbabwe.”

He is more eloquent than usual when he talks about that unforgettable game against the West Indies in the Qualifier. Shai Hope’s men had made 374, but the Netherlands tied that score (No, he doesn’t mention his 67 off 47 balls). In the Super Over, Logan van Beek scored 30 and claimed both the West Indies wickets.

“The one thing I remember most is that thinking we sort of have to qualify now [by winning more matches], or this game will just become, you know, just a random ODI win that means nothing,” he says. “We had guys like Teja [Nidamanuru] and Logan doing things like that and standing up in such a big game. People probably tend to forget what Teja [111 off 76 balls] did. It was one of the best innings I have seen in ODIs, and, in the last year, he’s had a massive hundred against Zimbabwe when we were probably down and out.”

Proactive captain

Edwards averages close to 41 after 43 ODIs, with 14 fifties. He has always been a ’keeper-batter who admires Adam Gilchrist. And he is an excellent captain, who tries to make things happen rather than waiting for them to happen. In the win against South Africa, his captaincy stood out, be it the bowling changes or the field placements. And they worked most of the time.

He enjoys captaincy. Is it something that he always wanted to do? Or did he just get the job and start working on it?

“A little bit of both,” he says. “I like the leadership side of it. I loved being vice-captain, actually; I was one for a couple of years. Becoming captain is an honour, too. A lot more media and work behind the scenes. And I love working with our coach Ryan Cook.”

Edwards’ teammate Max O’Dowd rates him as one of the best captains he has worked with. “He’s very selfless and embodies what the team culture is all about, you know, selflessness, unity and all those kinds of things,” says the opener, who has had the camera lenses focused on him in the field because of the sheet of paper in his pocket containing strategies about matchups. “He does such an amazing job of getting the best out of every player and he wants us all to succeed. That’s why I think he’s a very good captain.”

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