Sunday, 14 January 2007

Mad Mark

The recent adventures of mad Zimbabwean batsman Mark Vermeulen have provided plenty of good copy - especially here. Trying to attack spectators with a metal spike, walking up to Robert Mugabe's house and demanding entry of the AK47 toting guards, burning down Zimbabwe's national cricket academy - all mind-bending stuff. With Vermeulen facing 25 years in gaol for the latter offence, Telford Vice has written an excellent look back at his problems. The article is largely sympathetic, but does include a few new tales from the life of one of cricket's strangest characters:

While batting for Prince Edward School in 1996, Vermeulen was given out lbw. He was adamant that he had edged the ball onto his pad, and he made plain his displeasure by ripping the stumps out of the ground and locking himself in the dressing-room. There would seem to be more to this incident, because he was suspended from school, axed from the Mashonaland Schools team, and barred from playing for Old Hararians, which had an arrangement with Prince Edward to include boys from the school in its club sides.


In June 2003, Vermeulen was sent home from Zimbabwe's tour to England after he defied an ostensibly reasonable instruction that he travel on the team bus from Chester-le-Street to the squad's Durham hotel.


Vermeulen's bad mood might have been prompted by the fact that he had become just the 13th player in Test cricket to record a pair on the same day. But he couldn't have been too bleak earlier in the tour at Hove, when he scored 198 against Sussex and then refused to field a ball because "it's too cold".

While it all might seem quite amusing from a distance, the fact is that this is a man with serious problems. Telford finishes but warning that Vermeulen is not the only Zimbabwean cricketer living a troubled life:

Another Test player, well respected and admired, has fallen victim to self-mutilation and slashes his arms with a razor blade. Still another player, who is easily counted among Zimbabwe's greatest, punishes himself for a poor stroke by refusing fluids and running long distances.

Sometimes cricket is not at all a funny old game ...

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