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Mark Vermeulen, a career with no lack of incidents

August 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Most cricketers careers don’t tend to generate as much attention or controversy than that of Zimbabwean player Mark Vermeulen, and being that he has only just turned 30, there could still be more twists and turns to come in the patchwork of the troubled sportsman’s career.

Vermeulen was captain of the Zimbabwe Under-19 side, and in 2002 he was called up to the National side for the second test match against Pakistan, and since then he has had his fair share of disciplinary problems, serious injuries and criminal charges to contend with. Firstly, he was sent home from Zimbabwe’s tour of England in 2003 for disobeying the managements instructions to travel with the rest of the squad. This incident occurred after the second test match at Chester-Le-Street where, having made no runs in both innings, he left the ground on his own. The then team manager, Babu Meman, said “Mark has been warned about his conduct on a number of separate occasions during the tour but unfortunately has not heeded that advice”, and after he ignored the orders to travel with the team, he was sent home from the tour.

Mark Vermeulen after being struck on head in match against India.

On the 2003-04 tour of Australia, Vermeulen  suffered a fractured skull during a one-day match with India when he top edged an Irfan Pathan delivery which struck him just above the eye. It was the second time in a year that Vermeulen had suffered this exact injury after an incident in a net session in February 2003.  Successful surgery has allowed Vermeulen to continue to play the game.

2006 was without doubt the year of huge controversy for Vermeulen. The first major incident took place one Sunday in the September of 2006 when Vermeulen was playing as a professional for Werneth against Ashton in the Central Lancashire League. After coming on to bowl and starting out with being hit for a boundary and bowling a wide, a member of the crowd yelled ‘If you take your sunnies off you’ll be able to see where you are bowling.’ After he completed the over, Vermeulen walked over towards the crowd and appeared to hurl a ball at the spectators, but missed everyone. He then went and picked up a boundary marker, a disc with a steel spike, before being restrained by a Werneth member and marched back to the pavilion. No criminal charges were filed against him, but he was banned from playing first class or league cricket in England for 10 years, which was reduced to 3 years after a successful appeal. Part of this incident can be seen in the video below. 

Mark Vermeulen

Vermeulen arriving at magistrates court in Harare

Vermeulen didn’t stay out of the newspapers for long because, on 1 November 2006, he was held by police after apparently fleeing the scene of a suspicious fire at the Zimbabwean Cricket Academy in Harare. The next day, Vermeulen was charged with arson.

After a delay, the trail began and Vermeulen admitted to setting fire to both, the Zimbabwean Cricket Academy and the Zimbabwean Cricket Headquaters, but he pleaded not guilty to arson on psychiatric grounds. He added that he “suffered from partial complex epilepsy and impulsive behaviour disorder” after the head injury he suffered against India.

In the end he was cleared of arson due to mental illness in January 2008, and his lawyer stated that the Judge had “delivered a “special verdict” which meant Vermuelen had not been in control of his actions when he carried out the attacks.” If he had been found guilty, Vermeulen would have faced up to 25 years in prison with hard labour. A month after being cleared, he announced he was going to make a comeback to cricket.

In May 2008, Vermeulen offered to help rebuild the academy he had burned down by giving a percentage of his earnings from playing for Zimbabwe again, but nothing came of this. However, his comeback gained momentum when he was called up to the Zimbabwe A squad for the tour of Namibia in February 2009. And in July 2009, he was selected to the Zimbabwe squad for the One Day International series against Bangladesh, where he played in 4 of the 5 matches with a highest score of 92.

So it seems Vermeulen has come through all his trials and tribulations to make a surprise comeback to the international cricket stage, however it remains to be seen how long his comeback can last and how successful he can be after his chequered past, and if he can finally leave his troubles behind him.

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