Tuesday, December 5, 2023

    Men’s ODI WC: Meet Scott Edwards, the Netherlands skipper armed with a sweep & fierce desire to get better

    Bengaluru, Nov 11 , The numbers may not show the full picture of Scott Edwards’ impact on the 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup, but delve deeper and you will find the Netherlands skipper has been an influential figure for his team in their run in the tournament.

    In the Netherlands’ famous 38-run win over South Africa at Dharamshala, also their first win in the World Cup over a Test-playing nation, Edwards top-scored with 78 not out as the side made 245/8 after being 140/7. He then took three catches behind the stumps and was astute in his captaincy to lead the Netherlands to a stunning win.

    Edwards would again emerge to pull the Netherlands out of the abyss with a gritty 68 and take the total to 229, which was enough to get an emphatic 87-run win over Bangladesh in Kolkata, apart from taking four catches behind the stumps.

    Edward’s exploits for the Netherlands in their return to the ODI World Cup after 12 years haven’t come as a surprise for Shannon Young, the head coach at Richmond Cricket Club in Melbourne for 11 years. Before coming to Richmond, Young was coaching at a premier club named Camberwell Magpies and would invite young players to train.

    Amongst those young players was Scott, then a 15-year-old.

    “He was playing locally in junior competitions and so we invited him to train. He probably weighed about 45 kilos at the time. At that time, for his lack of strength and conditioning and his nickname before one that we gave him originally was always ‘sticks’.”

    “So he was a gangly kid underway and he trained and there was nothing special about his skills and stuff; he was an okay player. We’ve certainly seen more talented kids, but there was just something about him that I liked,” said Young in a chat with IANS from Melbourne.

    When Young moved to Richmond, he got a call from an unexpected person: Don Edwards, father of Scott.

    “Don, a great guy, rang me and said, ‘Oh, Shannon, I don’t know if you remember, but my son came to training at Camberwell. Just wanted to check in.’ I said, ‘Look, I’m actually going to Richmond. I don’t know what the situation is. But I’d be happy to give Scott an opportunity there’.”

    Edwards joined Richmond and debuted in their third eleven, where Young witnessed him being the hardest worker in the room, coupled with a fierce desire to get better as a cricketer.

    “Very coachable, listened a lot, trained really hard for a young kid and really had the desire to get better. He spoke to the senior players and just had a desire as a young kid to get better and slowly worked his way up from there.”

    By his own admission during last year’s T20 World Cup, Edwards hadn’t received much formal coaching in his early years, till he met Young, who believes that his batting shots and wicketkeeping technique are more of his own creation.

    “I was probably his first sort of technical coach from a one-on-one perspective. As a club coach, dealing with 50 guys, a lot of it is club driven and how you play cricket and the ethos around how you play the game.”

    “That stuff was always about moving the game forward and always the Australian way to be quite proactive and always look to put teams into winning positions and be aggressive and positive.”

    “But the technical stuff was probably just reinforcing the fact that his technique was his own and working on what he did well. He was quite strong in that as well; he didn’t really want to be like everyone else and he knew what he did well and so we worked primarily on that.”

    “He was always naturally a very good keeper even though he bats right-handed and does a lot of things right-handed. But he actually throws left-handed. So, when you see a left-handed wicketkeeper and they throw the ball left-handed – that is not as pure is probably a right-handed wicketkeeper.”

    “The only other guy that springs to mind was Adam Gilchrist — he threw the ball left-handed. So Scott throws left-handed but bats right-handed and was always very handy with the gloves. But he probably didn’t look as pure and technically pleasing as some other people. We did a lot of work on just how he would construct an innings and how to play to those strengths really consistently.”

    As a batter, Scott Edwards, who holds a Dutch passport through his grandmother, has been noted for his batting proficiency against spin, using sweep, reverse-sweep and scoop to good effect. The most notable example of that skill has come through scores of 68, 86 and 54 in a three-game ODI series against Afghanistan at Doha in January 2022, coming against the likes of Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

    When Scott went to Rotterdam in the Netherlands to play club cricket over the summer of 2015, he spent a lot of time there with Alex Ross, the right-handed batter who has played for Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat and Sydney Thunder. His excellent mastery over the sweep shot earned Ross the moniker of ‘sweepologist’, something which also rubbed on Scott.

    “Alex Ross was the one who pretty much encouraged him to sweep and taught him its different ways. So when he came back to me, he was really keen to sort of build his game around that — being able to rotate or play with impact, particularly sweeping spinners. We saw it and kind of encouraged him to do that.”

    “With the Netherlands playing only white-ball cricket, his ability to play spin in T20Is and ODIs was something we worked around and the rest of his game was, we worked quite hard at getting him to hit more down the ground and stuff. He probably works on his sweeps more than his cover drives because it’s his go-to shot.”

    “So it’s by no accident; he’s really quite confident in it because he’s done the work. Though he’s made some mistakes doing it, but every batter has gone through it. When he’s back in Australia or Richmond, he talks to a lot of our young guys about the sweep. It’s kind of becoming his thing, which is great to see, and you can see he’s fearless with it,” adds Young.

    Scott was playing first grade for Richmond while doing an electrician apprentice in Melbourne in 2016, till he got a call to join the Netherlands team at the end of 2017 as a backup wicketkeeper. Subsequently, he made his international debut and hasn’t looked back since then.

    Five years later, Scott was made the Netherlands captain as Pieter Seelaar retired from international cricket due to a back injury. In the 2023 ODI World Cup, where he’s made 243 runs and effected 15 dismissals as a wicketkeeper so far, Scott has shown the ability to dig in and take initiative with the bat while being tactically astute and sharp behind the stumps.

    He continues to play club cricket for Richmond in the Australian summer, where he also took in vital learnings from former Australia players Cameron White and Dan Christian. He also made an appearance for the Victoria second eleven side and won the Jack Ryder Medal in 2021, the highest individual honour in Victorian Premier Cricket, with its previous winners being Abdul Qadir, Carl Hooper and Paul Collingwood.

    Young was in New Delhi for a few days last month, where the Netherlands played Australia at the Arun Jaitley Stadium and felt surreal plus very proud to see Scott being in action. He also went to Geelong, an hour’s drive from Melbourne and to Perth, when Netherlands played in the 2022 T20 World Cup, to see Scott, whom he first coached as a 15-year-old, fulfil his dream of playing international cricket.

    “He’s a kid whose cricket journey is not like anyone else’s, it’s a unique one. The reality is that as much as I love him, and respect all the work he’s done, the reality was he wasn’t going to play for Australia. It still blows my mind that he hasn’t been selected in the Big Bash League, despite averaging 40 in international cricket, and like, it’s just crazy.”

    “What a lot of people don’t understand is, in his first 2-3 years as an international cricketer, he certainly wasn’t paid like one. He’d come back and play at Richmond, worked in my coaching business; gave up and sacrificed a lot to give himself a chance to be an international cricketer.”

    “He was just a kid from a suburb in Melbourne and now he’s captain of the Netherlands, achieving amazing things. We talk to the guys at Richmond a lot about living your dream. I mention to a lot of people that as an adult, one of the saddest days you’ll ever have is the day when you realise your dreams are not going to be fulfilled. But he’s the guy living his dream.”

    “He’s playing against the best players in the world and has got a lot more to achieve and I look forward to seeing him do that. I still remember how much he’s grown from being a kid, which is pretty awesome and super satisfying as he wanted to get better.”

    “It’s a great example for our other kids that pathway and journey is different for everyone. If you’re prepared to sacrifice and work really hard, dreams can come true. Scott has got every ounce of talent, but he’s combined that with an unbelievable work ethic and a willingness to get better.”




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