“We have acquired an additional principal”

There’s never enough time on tour these days to kick back and ‘feel’ a tour, or tournament. It’s all hussle and bustle, travel here, rush there, write, commentate. Eat, drink and sleep. Then over again.

It’s the same for the players, too, but that’s one of the beauties of T20 cricket. All the rush and panic is contained within the game so, for the first time in what feels like decades, there are actually a few spare hours in the day.

So, having collected my accreditation from the media centre at The Oval, I took a moment to sit in the pavilion grandstand and experience the atmosphere of the warm-up match between the West Indies and Ireland. And it ‘felt’ so, so right.

Ireland’s incoming batsmen were greeted with the sounds of traditional folk songs – ‘Wild Rover’ sounded especially appropriate – while wickets were greeted with Calypso drums and reggae. Up above me, in the tournament control centre, Steve Elworthy was on the ‘phone still working as hard as he has been for the last two years since the ECB head-hunted him to put the tournament together follwing the brilliant, inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa.

The crowd was small but highly appreciative – nothing like the frenetic atmosphere expected a day later when India and Pakistan were due to play each other in another warm-up match in front of a sell-out crowd of almost 30,000. It was warm and sunny, very unusual for England and consequently everybody had a smile on their face.

I was awoken from my brief but happy slumber by a yell of greeting from a man dressed in the unmistakable orange of the Netherlands. It was my old friend, Roland Lefebvre, who has, in his time, captained the national team and occupied just about every position of status in Duth cricket since his retirement six years ago. He is now director of development and the assistant coach.

He was with Ryan ten Doeschate and Dirk Nannes, Capetonian and Australian respectively, who were there for a mid-innings press conference to preview the tournament’s opening game against England at Lord’s on Friday. They are quietly confident. Why shouldn’t they be? No pressure, no expectation – and, possibly, a nervous England team. Nannes showed his class throughout the IPL with the Delhi Daredevils and ten Doeschate is good enough to make a match-winning contribution over 20 overs against anyone.

Time was running away quickly and I made my excuses and prepared to tackle the Underground to get to Lord’s for South Africa’s practise session. But ‘Roly’ was having none of it – “Come with us, we have our own driver,” he beamed. “You’ll love it.”

Turns out the driver was also the ICC appointed security officer for the Dutch team and an ex US Navy SEAL man. Not a man to be messed with. He informed somebody, somewhere, that he had “acquired an additional principal” as we set off for Lord’s which produced a giggle from Roly. “We are not ‘passengers’ with him, we are ‘principals’,” he explained to me with a grin.

“He told us that he would get us out of any ‘conflict situation’ should one arise,” said Roly. “I tried to explain that we are Holland, not India or Australia, and that nobody was likely to cause conflict with us – but he treats us like we are all Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting!”

This tournament feels so right. Personal egos already appear to have been put aside. Suddenly the primacy of nation-versus-nation competition was never more obvious. Even better, the T20 format seems to have kept the smile on its face despite going ‘all serious’ with a world cup!

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