Netherlands cricketer Paul van Meekeren was described in a piece by Somerset North as having “a radiant smile, ever-present optimism and love of life that shines through.” Firstsportz caught up with the Dutch pacer and although the interview wasn’t a face-to-face one, we could feel the said smile, optimism and love of life. We could feel the warmth. We could see why he is a beloved figure wherever he goes.
Paul van Meekeren was in the news recently for a Tweet that he made lamenting the postponement of the T20 World Cup 2020 and how the pandemic had led to him delivering food for Uber Eats. ESPNcricinfo had mentioned in a Tweet two days ago that the T20 World Cup 2020’s final would have taken place on that day, had the pandemic not postponed the same. Retweeting the post, van Meekeren expressed regret in not being able to play the tournament and revealed that he has to deliver food for Uber Eats to get through the winters.
Paul van Meekeren has represented the Dutch national team in 5 ODIs and 41 T20Is. He has picked up 51 wickets in total for the side. He has also represented Somerset in County cricket. The right-arm pacer is a vital cog in the Dutch team’s wheel and in all probability, he will turn up for his side in the T20 World Cup 2021 that is scheduled to take place in India.
Firstsportz spoke to Paul van Meekeren about his early life, career and the pandemic situation in an exclusive interview.
‘I’m just one of many athletes in a similar position during the pandemic’
Paul van Meekeren spoke to us about how the pandemic situation had put paid to his hopes of training well and representing the Netherlands in the 2020 T20 World Cup. On being asked about how and why he took up delivering food for Uber Eats, the 27-year-old said, “I needed a job to get me through the winter. Due to COVID-19, there were no coaching or playing opportunities this winter. I was hoping to do some training with some of the country clubs here in the UK and focusing on cricket was my first priority.
So I needed a job where I could choose my own working hours. Uber Eats and many other delivery services give you that freedom. I can just go online and start working. So when the lockdown finishes and teams start training I can make sure I’m always available.”
The Dutchman then rued the fact that he isn’t the only one who is faced with such a situation. “I think I’m just one of many athletes around the world who are in a similar position as me. We are all trying to make it through this pandemic till our sports start again.”
van Meekeren clarified that he hadn’t meant the viral Tweet in a sense of lamentation but in a light-hearted way. “At the time I thought it was a bit of a funny lighthearted tweet,” the pacer said. “But the amount of support has been fantastic, I can’t remember seeing one negative reply. I think it shows the passion and love for cricket especially in India, a passion and love for the game I share,” he added.
The fast-bowler further stated how it has been very difficult to train and practice during the pandemic saying, “It’s been hard to train over the last 12 months. I got some really good training time in during the last 3 weeks of the county season with a county, but now with the winter here and the UK in a second lockdown, it’s been hard to do any training or fitness work.”
van Meekeren speaks about how he came to be a cricketer
We asked Paul van Meekeren about his early years and how and when he chose to be a cricketer. He highlighted the role played by his parents and said, “My dad played cricket. Most Dutch guys and girls get introduced to cricket via a parent. I always enjoyed sport. I played football and hockey when I was growing up. I remember at the age of 10-11 that I wanted to stop playing cricket. Luckily my parents didn’t listen to me, they must have seen how much I loved the game. We never had cricket on TV, radio or newspaper. So I always looked up to my clubs (Rood & Wit) first team.”
He then spoke of the time he took up cricket as a profession saying, “I think after that I got selected for the Dutch age group teams. I never really thought about going professional. I was hoping maybe one day to get a Dutch contract which at that time was semi professional. But I always had people around me saying I was good enough for county cricket. I think at 21 after a couple years in the Dutch team I realized I wanted to go pro, so in 2016 when I was 23 I moved to the UK and was very lucky to sign for Somerset.”
The bowler also spoke about how cricket is as a profession in Holland. “I think back home not many young kids think cricket is an option to make a living out of. I think in the last couple years, this has started to change a little bit. With more contracts than ever. Although at the moment most contracts are semi pro, we hope to keep growing and get more full time contracts in place,” he said.
van Meekeren’s modesty shines through
Like the piece on Somerset North stated, Meekeren was modest as ever during his interview. Although his knowledge of cricket and stats on the same are known to be top-notch, when quizzed about the same, Meekeren was quick to laugh it off and say, “I’m not sure where you got that information from (laughs). I think the more knowledge/experience will help me as a player in making the right decision in what ball I’m bowling next.
But I think that’s where the support staff comes in to play. Coaches and the team analyst that feed the team information. That’s where we have been very smart during our success at the T20 qualifiers and stayed ahead in the game.”
van Meekeren’s favorite moments on the field
On being asked about what he thinks is his favorite performance, van Meekeren said, “I think my performance at the last T20 qualifier stands out. Because I personally put a string of performances together in consecutive games. And we had so much fun as a group of players playing together in Orange.” van Meekeren picked up 15 wickets in the T20 World Cup qualifiers in 2019.
The Dutchman also stated that he cherished his ODI debut and World T20 debut. “Other ones that I will always remember is my ODI debut against South Africa in Amsterdam. And my World T20 debut in India in 2016,” he said.
van Meekeren talks of his experiences with Somerset
Paul van Meekeren was picked up by Somerset in 2016 and the Dutch pacer continued to play for the side till 2019. Speaking of his experiences there and how he got into the side, van Meekeren said, “I got my breakthrough when I was asked to play a second team game for them. Chris Rogers and Marcus Trescothick were both playing that game, and I was lucky to do well that game. I think that feedback went back to the club and they signed me after a second second team game and a tour game against Pakistan.”
Although he isn’t a part of Somerset at the moment, the skilled fast-bowler expressed hope that he will earn a county contract soon. “I think being in a set up 12 months a year at a big club like Somerset has been amazing. I think I had more to show, but unfortunately I couldn’t create as big an impact as I would’ve liked when the opportunities came along. Hopefully things are back to normal next summer and there are opportunities for me to earn another contract at a county,” he said.
‘The Dutch team is moving from strength to strength’
On being asked about the Dutch national team’s growth and its future prospects, van Meekeren optimistically said, “I think the Dutch team is moving from strength to strength. Dutch cricket has been in a very tough position for many years now. I know there is a lot of work being done behind the scenes to get more kids playing cricket in recent years. Hopefully we can see the positives from this in the next couple years.”
Before he signed off, van Meekeren also spoke about how the Dutch players have utilized the pandemic situation to form an association for themselves. van Meekeren is the President of the association. “The Dutch national players have used this ”abnormal” year to come together and form the Dutch Cricketers Association. (dutchca.nl) Like many other Player Associations around the world (PCA, NZCA, SACA, ACA, SCA, ICA and more) the DCA would like to see the game grow in the Netherlands and help with this wherever they can,” he said.
After the interview was over, van Meekeren thanked us and stated that he hopes to see all the Indian fans at the World Cup and make great memories. In what wasn’t a very long interview, the charming nature of the Dutchman shone through and made us realize why he is much-loved in the Netherlands, Somerset and pretty much everywhere he goes.
Come the 2021 T20 World Cup, Paul van Meekeren and the Netherlands will be ready to take down the big guns. The ever so charming van Meekeren won’t appear so to batsmen when he comes steaming in to pick up their wicket, mind you!