Andre van Troost – potentially the fastest bowler EVER – opens up on Big Macs… and retiring at 26!
It is not difficult for Andre van Troost to remember his instructions on Somerset. “Stick it up ’em, let ’em have it,” he chuckles, three decades later.
“Frankly, tactically that was it. When I hit someone, the slipcordon loved it.’
Van Troost’s story is one of cricket’s most tantalizing what-ifs. Born in Schiedam in South Holland, he was spotted by Somerset captain Peter Roebuck at the age of 15 and played for the county’s first team three years later.
He was huge, wild – and fast.
How fast? “I think it was close to 100 mph,” he says sports post while looking out over the VRA site of Amstelveen, where England plays against the Netherlands. “I’ve seen the fastest bowlers and thought, well, I was up there.”
Good judges disagreed. The then England coach, Micky Stewart, suggested Van Troost play Test cricket. But a four-year qualifying period turned to seven and his back gave way. He retired from the game at the age of 26.
Dutch destroyer Andre van Troost has opened up as one of the fastest bowlers ever
Ex-England star Mark Butcher believes a spell cast by Van Troost was the fastest he’s ever experienced
He was almost certainly the fastest bowler to never play a test match. He may be the fastest of all time. Former England batsman Mark Butcher believes a spell cast by Van Troost at The Oval in the mid-1990s was the fastest he’s ever experienced, suggesting Waqar Younis looked like a medium pacer.
“That match Butch mentioned, I think our wicketkeeper Rob Turner was halfway between the circle and the crosshairs and he was still shooting them here,” says Van Troost, holding his hands to his face.
Then there was the moment in 1995, the summer he says everything clicked, when Van Troost broke West Indian Jimmy Adams’ cheekbone during a touring match in Taunton.
“He didn’t play it too well and he didn’t wear a grille. He dove into a normal bouncer. As a fast bowler, you want to be intimidating, but when you hit someone, it’s terrible.
“I visited him in the hospital after that and the whole Windies team was standing around his bed when I came in. Oh my God. But they were pretty cool, really. They respect fast bowling so it was high fives, well bowled. Even Jimmy gave me a high five.’
Butcher added that the cruel spell made the iconic Waqar Younis look like a medium pacer
Today, Van Troost is 49, lives in Rotterdam and is CEO of Lely, a company that builds agricultural robots for the dairy industry.
He looks back on his provincial career with a mixture of affection and mild bewilderment. When he arrived in Somerset, he got a hotel room above a McDonald’s and lived off Big Macs.
And after improving his game at home on coconut mats set on hard gravel, he used his height and speed to generate an erratic bounce.
Where others aimed for the top of the stump, Van Troost aimed for ribcages and catches on the short leg. It was all he knew.
“When I did well, on good days, I was definitely the fastest bowler in county cricket. But I wasn’t always right. It clicked or it didn’t click and when it did I was terrified.
He discussed catching Brian Lara with his first ball to him in a NatWest Trophy quarter final
“Honestly, I could have played test cricket on a good day. On a bad day I wasn’t good enough for Somerset seconds. I had no idea what day it would be each morning – it depended on how many burgers I’d had.”
The performances started to pile up. Six for 48 against Essex in 1992 (when Nick Knight and Mark Waugh were among his victims). Six for 104 against Surrey (Graham Thorpe and Alec Stewart).
Four for 89 against the itinerant Australians in 1993 (Mark Taylor for a duck, Allan Border, Waugh again). Five for 47 against Surrey (Stewart again, Ali Brown).
He looks blurry for a moment as he remembers tricking Brian Lara with his first ball towards him in a NatWest Trophy quarterfinal.
And when Stewart Snr suggested Test cricket, Van Troost passed up the chance to represent the Netherlands. His brother, Luuk, later played in two World Cups.
Van Troost also fired Graham Thorpe (l) and Alec Stewart (r) in a 104-6 bout vs Surrey
Nowadays, Van Troost’s talents might have brought him a little more focused man management.
But in the 1990s, things were less regulated. “You go out after the game, you get drunk, you eat a curry and the next day you come as soon as possible,” he says. “I was really headstrong and I knew it. I was everywhere. I really enjoyed it too.
“When I tried to bowl line and length, as the supporters often shouted from the stands, I didn’t enjoy it for a moment.
‘I have learned so much. But towards the end it got a bit tedious, playing county cricket every day, driving from Durham to Essex and then back to Taunton.
“I’m surprised no one has ever committed suicide in the car by falling asleep at the wheel. But it was great, I had a great time.’