Van Meekeren is flying the flag for Associates game
FROM the World Cup in Dharamsala to club duty in Durham, Paul van Meekeren cracked the county game following the most unorthodox of journeys at the start of this year.
And Somerset’s flying Dutchman says that, for those willing to take a punt, he is living proof that a player born-and-bred in an Associates nation can become a professional.
Though Van Meekeren took a superb 4-11 at the World T20 against Ireland in March – dismissing county stalwarts Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien – he was hardly inundated with offers.
The all-rounder instead started the English summer with North East Premier League side Benwell Hill before Glamorgan and then Somerset asked to take a closer look at him.
The plan worked perfectly as last week came the two-year contract at Taunton – but he admits the speed of his rise has taken him by surprise.
“It’s been a very good year,” he said. “I never planned for it to happen this soon, I don’t think counties look to Associate cricket at any level, even in a big tournaments.
“It happened within three months for me, but I planned to do it within two or three years. If it didn’t work, then I would have to had to think about my future and whether I could carry on.
“One of the games I played in with Glamorgan happened to be against Somerset, they invited me to trial with them and here I am.”
The Netherlands, on a small scale, has invaded county cricket this summer as Van Meekeren joined left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe at Somerset while Timm van der Gugten also enjoyed a fine debut year with Glamorgan.
But while his international teammates possess Dutch links through ancestry, Van Meekeren is a native having grown up in Haarlem watching his father, also called Paul, play for Rood en Wit CC.
Like most of his peers the allrounder grew up with dreams of emulating Johan Cruyff rather than Ryan ten Doeschate, but through the support of his parents, cricket took over as his burning passion. Now 23, Van Meekeren took his chance in India during one of the Netherlands players’ fleeting shop windows – but he is adamant that those talented enough can make the grade.
“There are a lot of young, talented players in Holland that can make it as professional cricketers,” he explained.
“But most of those who have done so far come from traditional cricket-playing nations and have a Dutch or EU passport. I’m 100 per cent Dutch.
“I don’t have a British parent or grandparent, so it’s slightly different for me, but there are plenty of Irish and Scottish players playing county cricket so it shows the talent is good enough at Associates level. It’s just about deciding to give it a go, if you want something you have to work for it.
“Especially for the guys here in Holland, they need to say,‘I’m going to give it a shot’ in club cricket in England and trial at all the different counties.
“A lot of players don’t make that lifestyle change away from friends and family, but the Netherlands is only an hour’s flight away so I have plenty of opportunity to go home.”
Top work: Paul van Meekeren celebrates bowling Ireland’s Max Sorensen whilst playing for the Netherlands in the 2016 ICC World Twenty20
Free flowing: Van Meekeren in action for Somerset