BATSMAN Mark Vermeulen, who could play his first Test in more than 10 years after being included in Zimbabwe’s 25-man training squad for the visit of South Africa, credits the hard work and time spent in domestic cricket tournaments for his remarkable comeback.
Vermeulen was the second-highest run-getter in the first-class season, scoring 580 runs at an average of 64.44 with one century and four fifties for Mashonaland Eagles.
The 35-year-old right-handed batsman also carried on with that form with the Zimbabwe A, managing scores of 107, 36 and an unbeaten 47 during the two four-day matches against Afghanistan.
“I had to work really hard,” Vermeulen told NewsDay Sport after a net session with the national team at Harare Sports Club yesterday morning.
“I put in a lot of time in the nets, hitting a lot of balls to get myself in the best shape possible,” he said.
“I’m 35 now and I don’t have too many more years left in me so I felt I needed to give myself the best chance to play Test cricket again by putting on those extra yards.
“The hard work paid off as I managed to do well in our domestic competitions and more recently with the Zimbabwe A during the series against Afghanistan. Hopefully if I’m selected I can do that against South Africa and get some runs for the team.”
Vermeulen was in 2008 cleared of arson on psychiatric grounds after setting fire to the Zimbabwe Cricket Academy pavilion at Highlands Country Club and part of the ZC headquarters at Harare Sports Club in 2006.
He successfully argued that at the time he set the fires at the two buildings, he was suffering from problems related to epilepsy caused by being hit on the head by a cricket ball during a match in Australia.
Vermeulen, however, made a brief comeback when he played in one-day internationals against South Africa in 2009.
In 2011, he lost his contract with Mutare-based franchise Mountaineers due to disciplinary reasons.
He briefly turned to amateur golf for solace a year later before being thrown yet another cricket lifeline after Midwest Rhinos signed him ahead of the 2012-13 season.
Vermeulen joined Mashonaland Eagles at the start of the 2013/14 season and immediately made an impact at the Harare-based franchise under current national team coach Stephen Mangongo.
“I sort of drifted away a bit from the game after what happened, but I have always loved the game of cricket. I just kept on telling myself that I should give it one last big effort to get myself back into playing Test cricket again. It’s every aspiring cricketer’s goal to play at the highest level and I’m obviously very excited to be back in the squad.”
The forceful top order batsman said he had been encouraged by the support he had received from his teammates and was looking to impart some of his cricket knowledge to the younger players.
“The support from my teammates has been pretty good. The guys are enjoying my company and I’m enjoying the environment as well.
Hopefully, I can be able to pass on some of the knowledge I have gained through the many years I’ve been in cricket to the younger players,” Vermeulen said.