ZIMBABWE international cricketer Mark Vermeulen has been slapped with a 10-year ban from the game in the United Kingdom after a violent confrontation with fans at the weekend.
The 27-year-old Vermeulen lost his temper and hurled a cricke
t ball towards spectators during his club Werneth’s match against Ashton in the Central Lancashire League (CLL) in England on Sunday.
The CLL management committee announced on Wednesday it had banned Vermeulen with immediate effect after getting reports from the umpires and the league’s chairman and secretary who were present at the match.
Vermeulen, however, yesterday said he had been unaware of his punishment until this paper contacted him.
“I’m not aware of the ban yet but I think 10 years is a bit extreme,” Vermeulen told IndependentSport by phone from the UK.
“I’m going to appeal and I hope what happened in Lancashire will not wreck my career as I’m returning to Zimbabwe with a target of making it to the World Cup next year.”
Vermeulen said he went haywire after suffering a torrent of taunts from a section of Ashton fans who he believed were drunk.
One fan is believed to have told Vermeulen that “if you take your sunnies off you’ll be able to see where you are bowling” following a wide delivery by the Zimbabwean.
“Some people in the crowd were drinking too much beer and were there to cause problems,” Vermeulen said.
“They were having a go at anyone on our team and it’s unfortunate all they wanted was to cause trouble.”
He however could not explain why he failed to control his temper like his teammates who he claims were also taunted. Nor could he say what the actual words that incensed him.
“I was targeted three times and the final straw that broke the camel’s back was when I dropped a catch. I just said to myself: ‘I’m sick and tired of these people and I must sort them out.’
“I lost my temper and from where I was fielding I just threw the ball towards the troublesome people. I just got angry but I regret it had to happen that way.”
Vermeulen was later arrested after an incident at his flat and spent the night in police cells in Oldham before he was released without any charge the following morning.
He will arrive back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning.
According to media reports from England, Vermeulen was allegedly aggressive towards other players during the match and had to be calmed down several times before he infamously flung the ball towards a section of Ashton fans that included women and children.
Luckily no one was hurt. Vermeulen had to be forcibly restrained by his club officials, as he appeared to charge towards the Ashton fans that had reacted angrily, the reports say.
Another Werneth member, a policeman, had to whisk him away from the ground to avoid further chaos.
Werneth skipper Darren Shadford had to concede the match, which incidentally was the last of the season.
The former Zimbabwe Test player’s career in England could be over as he is unlikely to secure another job as a professional cricketer. He had been offered another contract as a professional at Werneth before the fracas.
Vermeulen’s ban and the details of his violence have been formally communicated to the England and Wales Cricket Board, which was expected to endorse the punishment.
It could not be established if Zimbabwe Cricket would also take action against the Test player.
The right-hand batsman, who once captained Zimbabwe’s Under-19 side, is not a stranger to misconduct.
In 1996 Vermeulen was banned from representing his school Prince Edward for uprooting his stumps after getting a poor lbw decision.
He was then sent back home during Zimbabwe’s tour of England in 2003 after he refused to travel with the rest of the squad when leaving the ground.
“I have apologised to my team mates, who all support me, as well as the CLL leadership and the whole Lancashire community and all cricket fans. I’m sorry,” Vermeulen said.
“I hope Zimbabwe will give me a chance to play again. I’m returning to Zimbabwe next week and I hope I can concentrate on fighting my way back into the national team.”
Vermeulen made his Test debut for Zimbabwe against Bulawayo in November 2002, while his last appearance was versus Sri Lanka in the same city in May 2004.
He featured in his first ODI against Sri Lanka in Sharjah and his last one was in Bulawayo against England in December 2004.
“Cricket had been on a downward spiral like everything in the country, but I hope things have started improving,” Vermeulen said. “We’ve got so much talent in the country and I believe I’m going to play my part to turn things around.”
He added: “If most of the experienced players who left were to be fused with the talented youth currently representing the country, I believe Zimbabwe has the potential to be in the top half in Test cricket.”