New Delhi: Netherlands fast bowler Paul van Meekeren has been part of two shock World Cup victories but just three years ago was making ends meet delivering food for Uber Eats.
Van Meekeren and his Dutch teammates stunned the World Cup on Tuesday with a 38-run victory over South Africa in the Himalayan hill town of Dharamsala.
In November last year, Van Meekeren was also part of the side which shocked the Proteas in the Twenty20 World Cup.
“I am a professional cricketer now for seven years,” the 30-year-old, who has played for Somerset, Durham and Gloucestershire in the English county championship, told AFP on Thursday.
However, when Covid brought sport to a standstill in 2020 it meant the Twenty20 global showpiece scheduled for that year was also shelved.
“I just ran out of contract and had to earn money to pay the bills,” he said.
“I took the job with Uber Eats because I could then rule my own work times and be available when a cricket opportunity would come.”
He added: “The story was really big when it went viral and keeps coming back. That’s okay with me, but it is not as romantic as it sounds. I am fine with being the fast bowling delivery guy.”
Van Meekeren was just one of the players in the Dutch team who had to hold down day jobs.
Indian-born Teja Nidamanuru worked as a business development manager before his international debut in 2022.
But the bunch of spirited Dutch players, who have come from different parts of the globe, including some from South Africa, are a united force.
‘Victory no surprise’
Their win over South Africa was the second big upset of this tournament after Afghanistan shocked defending champions England, but Van Meekeren insists the win was coming.
“The victory was good, but for us it was no surprise,” said Van Meekeren.
“We train hard and prepare well. It was the result of that. We celebrated of course and were happy, but next day it was travel, and start focusing and preparing for the game against Sri Lanka on Saturday.”
There were phone calls and messages after Tuesday’s famous win from back home, but Van Meekeren said “they also know what we are here for and that is more than one win. We don’t get carried away by this.”
The Dutch have been an associate member of the International Cricket Council since 1966.
They only made it to this World Cup by coming through the qualifiers where they defeated two-time champions West Indies.
‘Not second class citizens’
But Van Meekeren, who took up cricket in Haarlem where his father played football for Koninklijke HFC, doesn’t feel his team are second class citizens.
“It doesn’t hurt (being called minnows) but we don’t feel minnows,” said Van Meekeren.
Their win over South Africa was their first against a Test-playing nation at a 50-over World Cup and just their third in total.
“We know where we are and where we come from. Of course it would be good to have more games. I hope that all the countries who came through the last years do realise that growth of the international scene enriches the cricket world,” he said.
Captained by Scott Edwards, who hit an unbeaten 78 against South Africa, the men in orange have grown by leaps and bounds and Van Meekeren credits coach Ryan Cook for making the unit more professional.
“Well we have a good amount of professionals players with a contract in England or elsewhere. And the guys in The Netherlands are in a good programme these days,” said Van Meekeren.
“Besides from their club cricket they train nearly on a daily basis with our staff. Since Ryan Cook arrived coaches come to the players for one-on-one sessions instead of all going to one place all the time.”