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Another bowling milestone for lone warrior Vaas

NEW DELHI, Friday - For a bowler living in the shadows of a legendary bowler like Muttiah Muralitharan, the achievement of Chaminda Vaas taking 300 wickets in Test cricket is something one has to admire.

Chaminda Vaas

Vaas's feat was engulfed by Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar's world record for the highest number of Test centuries that it never got its due recognition in the Indian media.

What makes his achievement so special is that in the elite list of 20 bowlers who have crossed the 300-wicket mark he is only one of two left-arm fast bowlers. The other bowler undoubtedly is Pakistan's king of swing Wasim Akram.

After Akram left the scene five years ago it has been Vaas who has become the most effective left-arm swing bowler ever to grace the cricket field.

When Vaas made his international Test debut 11 years ago Akram was at the helm and was a dominant figure in world cricket. Akram at least had the support of Waqar Younis whose raw pace complimented his swing and seam.

Vaas was a lone warrior in that aspect for he never had a constant opening bowler to share the new ball for a long period of time as the Pakistan duo. They say fast bowlers hunt in pairs, but for Vaas it was not the case. He had to bear the cross alone as several promising fast bowlers came and went.

So when Vaas said: "I am really glad to achieve the 300-mark. I have been waiting for it for a long time. I think I achieved it with hard work and determination" you had to believe the man for he was not one to sham his duties.

"I think I have another two to three years of cricket left in me and I will be happy if I can achieve the 350-mark," said the 31-year-old fast bowler who is fast approaching his 100th Test match for his country. He has so far played in 90.

Vaas is one of the few bowlers in international cricket who have taken over 300 wickets in both forms of the game. What has kept Vaas going has been his dedication towards cricket.

"I love this game very much. I really want to do well in every game I play. I achieved this landmark because of my commitment to the game. I wouldn't have come all this far if not for the hard work and training I have put in ever since I started playing for my country," said Vaas.

"When you play cricket for a long time with age you have to cut down your speed. I can still bowl fast, but you have to adjust your pace according to the pitch. I have been reading pitches well. That is why I am still playing Test cricket," he said.

Vaas thinks the reason why he was first selected to play for his country was because of his consistency.

Highlight of career

The highlight of his career no doubt was the 14 wickets he took at the SSC in 2001 to submit West Indies to a crushing ten-wicket defeat despite Brian Lara's two brilliant knocks of 221 and 130. Vaas' figures in that memorable Test were 7 for 120 off 32.2 overs and 7 for 71 off 25 overs.

His performance made him only the second fast bowler after Pakistan's Imran Khan to take 14 wickets in a Test in the subcontinent.

This performance alone stands out vividly in Vaas' memory because the only other occasion he captured ten wickets in a Test in his career was at Napier in 1994-95 where he took five wickets in each innings against New Zealand to bring Sri Lanka its first Test win overseas.

Vaas also excelled with the bat making a maiden Test fifty in the next match and was then looked at as an all-rounder who could serve the game for a long time following the retirement of Ravi Ratnayake. But it was not to be.

For Vaas concentrated more on improving his bowling skills than his batting. It is only of late that he has come to realize that his contributions with the bat could also be equally good as his bowling.

In a career as long as Vaas' there has to be a lot of disappointments too along the way. He has been waylaid by injuries but his biggest disappointments were in New Zealand in 1997-98 and in the home series against Bangladesh this year.

"I should have got wickets in those conditions but I just couldn't make it," he said. Vaas's wicket-taking deliveries have been a deadly inswinger which he uses as his stock ball.

He also bowls a carefully disguised off-cutter and has lately added a reverse swing to his armoury with which he took the majority of his 14 wickets against West Indies.

He took time mastering it after learning the art from Akram. On the current tour of India, Vaas met T.A. Sekhar, the head of the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai who showed him a few flaws that had crept into his bowling.

"He showed me a few areas that I have to correct in my run-up. I have still not got it right yet," said Vaas.

He is also indebted to his school coaches Noel Jansz and Carlton Bernadus and Rumesh Ratnayake, the former Sri Lanka fast bowler who was initially the national fast bowling coach before taking up an appointment with the Asian Cricket Council.

Another former Sri Lanka fast bowler Champaka Ramanayake who took over form Ratnayake has done some work with Vaas on his bowling helping him to iron out certain faults.

"When you play for a long time you tend to get into certain bad habits like in your follow through, run up and delivery point. Champaka analysed my faults on the computer and showed where I was going wrong. I got them corrected in the nets," said Vaas.

The future

What of the future? "I think we have a good crop of fast bowlers coming up. Bowlers like Dilhara Fernando and Lasith Malinga. We have to look after them very well and pace them out carefully so that they can play for a long period," said Vaas. "There are a few young fast bowlers also who have still to be introduced to international cricket.

You'll have to play them gradually." Vaas reckons Fernando has the ability and the talent to take his place in the national team after he retires. "You'll have to give him more time to get to a stage where he will become a match-winner," he said.

Vaas said Sri Lanka needed a good club infrastructure to develop and improve its cricket. His elevation to the Sri Lanka vice-captaincy for the on-going tour of India, Vaas sees as a challenge.

"It is a new experience for me. I have taken the challenge thrown to me by the selectors. I think I can do a good job if ideal with it properly," he said.

Being a close family man he says he is greatly indebted to his parents, siblings, his wife and the cricketers who have played with him. "Without their support I wouldn't have been able to achieve this feat."

		T	O	R	W	BB	Ave	5wI	10wM 

v Australia		11	404.1	1127	37	5/31	30.45	1	0
v Bangladesh	3	69	241	7	3/36	34.42	0	0
v England 		9	359.2	951	33	6/73	28.81	1	0
v India		11	409.3	1123	25	4/20	44.92	0	0
v New Zealand	8	311.5	837	36	6/87	23.25	4	1
v Pakistan		16	570.5	1586	46	5/99	34.47	1	0
v South Africa	10	309.3	800	26	6/29	30.76	1	0
v West Indies	7	256	676	43	7/71	15.72	3	1
v Zimbabwe	15	574.3	1332	48	4/56	27.75	0	0

in Australia		5	210.1	607	16	5/31	37.93	1	0
in Bangladesh	1	32	101	0	-	—.—	0	0
in England		3	145.1	434	4	2/121	108.50	0	0 
in India		5	162.5	454	11	4/20	41.27	0	0 
in New Zealand	6	238.2	658	30	6/87	21.93	4	1
in Pakistan		9	370.5	1076	39	5/99	27.58	1	0
in South Africa	5	162.3	522	11	3/79	47.45	0	0
in Sri Lanka	46	1532.4	3879	156	7/71	24.86	5	1
in West Indies	2	66 	203	4	2/54	50.75	0	0
in Zimbabwe	8	344.1	739	30	4/56	24.63	0	0
TOTAL		90	3264.4	8673	301	7/71	28.81	11	2


1st wkt: G.W. Flower (Z), 1994-5  
50th wkt: M.H. Dekker (Z), 1996  
100th wkt: B.C. Strang (Z), 1999-00  
150th wkt: M. Kaif (I), 2001  
200th wkt: A.J. Tudor (E), 2002  
250th wkt: J.N. Gillespie (A), 2004  
300th wkt: G. Gambhir (I), 2005-06




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