• Max and his partner Victoria
  • Max O'Dowd at November cafe, Mairangi Bay

Living cricket to the Max

Facing down the barrel of a Jasprit Bumrah delivery in a cauldron of 50,000 obsessed fans at a Cricket World Cup in India is arguably peak living for any batsman. Contrast that with his more familiar outings at Onewa Domain and you get a taste of what a year of contrasts this has been for North Shore cricketer Max O’Dowd.

Takapuna-born Max has just returned from the ICC Cricket World Cup. The opening batsman is the only Shore-based player to have competed at the 2023 one day international tournament in India, playing for the underdogs in orange – the Netherlands. More accustomed to Metro Park than Mumbai, the former Westlaker is living his childhood dream of playing cricket around the world. Returning home to Mairangi Bay from an intense two-months in India provides about as stark a contrasting change of scene as is possible.
“It was very special,” he smiles. “Playing against India, in India, in front of 50,000 obsessive fans was really cool. I mean, what an awesome opportunity; to play the best team in the world on their home ground. It was very intense, an amazing experience!”
Achieving wins against cricketing giants South Africa, as well as a well-versed Bangladesh side, Max feels the Dutch team has much to be proud of results-wise, as well as how they approached the tournament in India. Despite a "pretty average performance" personally, he’s proud to be part of a team that captured fans around the world and, he hopes, introduced more people to the game.
“Qualifying for this World Cup was against the odds,” he says. “And people have really commended the Dutch team on the way we played throughout the tournament. One of our goals was to be everyone’s second favourite team. We thought that if we just act and play the way we normally do, and just be ourselves, people would enjoy watching us.”
The fearless approach with which Max and his teammates faced cricket’s international megastars wasn’t totally without of trepidation, however. “Facing Bumrah was insane,” he says. “That man is a bowling machine. He seems slow running in then he fires it down and swings it both ways. He’s like no-one else.”
Winning against Bangladesh was another highlight for a team that was unfortunate not to notch up more scalps with several close losses. “It’s often about very small margins,” says the 29 year-old. “Sometimes we have to take a step back, though, and look at the grand scheme of things. To achieve what we achieved with the set-up Dutch cricket has, compared to other teams, is amazing.
“My performance at the tournament was pretty average, personally. And, yes, that’s frustrating, but it’s not the end of the world. The team did well overall. Our win over South Africa stands out and proved that we can play against the best teams in the world, in a World Cup, and not only compete, but win. That gave us the confidence that we did belong there.”
One of many reality check moments in India came when Max was about to walk out to open the batting against England. “I was asking the coach what he thought the net worth of the England team was that we were going into face. After a bit of adding up, we came up with a figure somewhere in the region of $50million US dollars. And there I was, more used to walking out to no crowds in club cricket on the North Shore!”
His final two matches in India were particularly special, he says, as his parents flew out to watch. Max’s Kiwi dad, Alex, is a former Auckland and Northern Districts cricket representative, who also coached the Dutch national rugby team. He met Max’s Dutch mum, Christine, while playing club cricket in the Netherlands. The family lived on Aberdeen Road in Campbells Bay until Max was five, then moved to The Hague in his mum’s native Netherlands, staying until Max was 12.
Returning to the same house, near Campbells Bay Primary School, Max joined Murrays Bay Intermediate before spending five years at Westlake Boys’, where his mum also worked. His younger sister Neneh went to Westlake Girls’ and played cricket "to a decent level", he says. Max has always played his club cricket with Takapuna District Cricket Club, shifting to Hibiscus Coast CC last year to take up a player/coach role. “I wanted to do more on the coaching side, as well as playing, and I was offered a great role. I have so many good mates at Taka, it would have just felt weird coaching them,” he explains.
Years spent around cricket fields with his dad gave Max exposure to the game from a young age and a wish to carve out a career in the sport. He travelled back to the Netherlands after finishing school to become part of the Dutch U19 set-up and hasn’t looked back. He now has three Cricket World Cups under his belt with another, the ICC T20 World Cup in the USA / West Indies, ahead next year.
“Everyone in the Dutch team is an amazing human, without ego. We value each others’ successes and share responsibility. The coach has done an amazing job of creating a culture where everyone is valued equally. We call it SOUL: Selflessness, Ownership, Unity and Learning.”
In December, Max’s next international travels will take him to Cape Town. There, he’ll spend Christmas with the South African parents and family of his long-term partner, Victoria (who has recently completed a master’s degree in psychology and teaches at Campbells Bay Primary). Then it's on to Nepal where the Dutch take on the country’s fledgling side, before heading to Europe for the start of the season in April. “It’ll be a big summer,” Max smiles, outlining the Dutch national team hosting Pakistan in May, ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup in the USA and West Indies in June/July.
He’s glad to be back on the Shore for now, he says, a far – and welcome – cry from the crowded cities of India. Grounding himself back home includes coastal walks, beach time and coffees at his local, much-loved Mairangi Bay café, November. Golf and DJing also snare his time outside cricket – he inherited a love of house and disco from his parents and started making music at the age of 14.
Max’s relaxed style and ready smile embody a sense of freedom and fun demonstrated by the Dutch side. But they’re hard-earned. And he’s grateful for the opportunities he has been given in the sport he loves. Many years back, encouraged by his mum, he set goals to pave a path to where he is now, and he’s enjoying the ride. “It’s good to think about where you want to get to, and have goals but, for me, now it’s more about enjoying the process and not being too fixated on outcomes.
“I decided that I wanted to commit fully to my cricket, while I’m in my prime. It’s likely I’ll go back to study later on, but I have no idea what,” he says. “I don’t think I’ll ever really leave the sporting field.”
As a team sport player, team goals are equally, if not more, important for Max. And he views that team as stretching beyond a 17-man national squad, or club side.
“Our other goal, this World Cup, was to create a legacy. Qualifying against the odds hopefully inspires young kids, and anyone, to believe they can do things that might not seem possible. We hope this will also inspire more action from the funders and the ICC to say maybe it’s time to start investing in this side and in Dutch cricket more. We want to inspire the younger generations to start playing, or keep playing, cricket and develop a love of the game.
“While I maybe won’t see the full fruits of Dutch cricket’s potential by the time I retire, if there’s a strong, lasting cricket set-up then I’ll be glad to have contributed to that.”

Issue 148 December-January 2023