Van Meek­eren is fly­ing the flag for As­so­ci­ates game

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS & FEATURE - By Chris Bai­ley

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.”

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

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

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