The news over recent days has focused on England players choosing to give up the first-class game, but Surrey’s Stuart Meaker has taken a step in the opposite direction by signing to play for Auckland in the Plunket Shield during March, as part of his preparations for the Championship season.
Meaker, who has been capped four times and toured New Zealand with England in 2013, has a reputation as one of the quickest bowlers in county cricket. He was approached after Surrey team-mate Sam Curran, who played T20 for Auckland during the Super Smash, recommended him, and could play in four rounds of New Zealand’s domestic competition.
“Auckland came in on the recommendation of Sam Curran, who was out there,” Meaker said. “They said have you got anyone that bowls reasonable gas and can come and play a few first-class games for us towards the end of the season. So they asked me to pop down and looks like I’m going off there for the whole of March.”
Meaker has been given permission to miss Surrey’s pre-season tour to Dubai in March, and hopes to benefit from playing first-class cricket in the run-up to the season. Surrey are not in action in the opening round of the Championship, waiting until April 20 before starting against Hampshire.
With Adil Rashid and Alex Hales making headlines over the last week by opting out of Championship cricket for their counties, Meaker’s decision to go abroad to focus on his red-ball game is something of a counterpoint.
“It’s a good build-up toward the start of the season,” he said. “Sometimes guys go away and play club cricket in Australia, this is just a step further than that, going off and playing some four-day games, getting some overs under my belt. That does unfortunately mean I miss out on pre-season tours and games, but there’s nothing quite like playing in an actual competitive four-day game to get you ready for the start of the year.
“I’ve been out there before with the England team, quite few years ago. We were set up in Auckland and that was my first experience of cricket in New Zealand. They had a really good set-up, really good facilities. It’s just a chance to play some different cricket at a historic club.”
Although his England prospects have receded, partly through injuries, Meaker is still only 29 and likely to be in contention across all three formats for Surrey.