'Discipline is the bridge to any goal'
It was early morning when a young boy and his father went up to Chaminda Vaas, one of the finest left-arm seamers the game has known, to learn the art of fast bowling at the outer nets of the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo yesterday. The fast bowling consultant of Sri Lanka Cricket warmly accepted the father's request and immediately took a look at the son's bowling and started working, even capturing footage to show the areas that need work. The 44-year-old, who was part of Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning side back in 1996, spoke to The Daily Star's Mazhar Uddin and, among other things, talked about his memorable career moments, Mustafizur Rahman and Bangladesh cricket. The followings are excerpts from the exclusive interview:
The Daily Star (TDS): Do you go down memory lane while teaching youngsters the art of fast bowling?
Chaminda Vaas (CV): Well, interestingly, I have finished playing and I am doing the same thing that I have done in the last 20 years. But it's very enjoyable and I am trying to teach the young kids what I have learned and doing my best to contribute to the younger generation.
TDS: You have picked up 355 Test wickets and 400 ODI wickets. What is the secret behind your success as a fast bowler in the sub continent?
CV: You have to be focused and dedicated in what you want to get from cricket, whether you want to achieve heights, just want to complete the game or you want to achieve the target. These are things that help you give hundred per cent in cricket and make your country proud.
TDS: You had a successful bowling partnership with Muttiah Muralidaran when the pitch was favouring spinners on most occasions. How did you cope with that?
CV: Being a fast bowler I never complain in my life and as a pacer you have to bend your back on every surface. We all know that in Sri Lanka and in the sub-continents, the pitches are prepared for their number one bowler. Obviously, Murali has been the number one bowler so I have to support him but I never complained and always wanted to support Murali throughout, as it's like a batting partnership. He has taken 800 wickets and I ended up taking 400 wickets. It's all about doing well, whether you are giving hundred percent, supporting someone and doing what you can do to win matches for Sri Lanka.
TDS: How did you master the art of reverse swing? Did any Pakistani bowler help you?
CV: I asked so many Pakistani fast bowlers but they never revealed the secret. I learnt from videos and finally learned from Wasim Akram, who showed me the art. Then I developed from what he told me and learned from myself.
TDS: Have you seen Mustafizur Rahman?
CV: Mustafizur is a good bowler and when he joined the Bangladesh team he started really well and took a lot of wickets. But with the amount of cricket played these days -- T20s, IPL, Big Bash, Test cricket and fifty-over format -- fitness is very important for a fast bowler. You have to be hundred per cent fit to become a fast bowler as it is not an easy job where you bend your back and bowl. I personally feel that fitness is the most important part of a fast bowler. I think he will be able to get back soon and should watch some videos of when he was doing really well. And I am sure he will be able to come up and do really well for Bangladesh.
TDS: Have you ever been approached from the Bangladesh Cricket Board for coaching?
CV: Well, there were some talks during 2016 between me and the BCB, but later I got to know that they have taken Courtney Walsh as the bowling coach. But I always want to give my service to whoever wants to have that and I would love to give something back to cricket; that's why I am working with the Under-19 team here in Sri Lanka. Like I said, I am very happy if anyone wants me to work on cricket.
TDS: How do you assess Bangladesh now from what you witnessed during your playing days?
CV: In those days, Bangladesh just started playing cricket but nowadays Bangladesh are a very competitive side and not an easy team to beat. They have valued most of the players and they are giving their hundred per cent and want to achieve heights. They want to perform for the country and are a young side as well. Every day they are learning and doing well and I am sure that if you put Bangladesh in front of any top team, it will not be easy to beat them.
TDS: How have you have managed to remain injury-free for more than 15 years during your career?
CV: Like I said discipline, is the bridge whatever goal you want to accomplish. I have always maintained discipline and I am very honest about my job. I never cut my training and fitness as I always believed that fitness is the number one priority for a fast bowler.
TDS: You have dismissed Sachin Tendulkar nine times in your career. Did you plan specifically for him?
CV: Well, you can't say that as he is a great batsman and people believe that he has given so much to cricket. He has scored hundred after hundred, scored over 15,000 runs and is one of the great batsmen. I have always admired him. On your day whoever comes to the middle, you are the best person as it's between bat and ball, so I had nothing against him. I am very lucky that one thing I have learned being a fast bowler is to put the ball in the right areas, so if he misses I get the wicket.
TDS: You have captained Sri Lanka for just a game. Any regret about that?
CV: I will never have regrets. One thing about being a cricketer is you always want to lead the side. As I have captained for a game for Sri Lanka I am happy for whatever I gave to Sri Lanka cricket over the past 20 years or so.
TDS: What is the proudest moment of your career?
CV: There are so many proud moments in my career but winning the world cup in 1996 is the proudest moment of my life.
TDS: You had a beautiful copybook bowling action. Did you develop the action or was it natural?
CV: Actually it was not natural as I had a mixed action when I used to play for the under-19s. I needed to adjust my action a bit with the bowling coaches and after that it started to become natural for me. Being a fast bowler, you need to adapt to different situations.
TDS: Which batsman was the toughest to bowl to?
CV: It's difficult to say but there are a few names such as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden. And I am lucky to have been a part of a Sri Lanka team with the great Sanath Jayasuriya in the team. It's not easy to bowl to these batsman -- the margin of error is very small when bowling to them.
TDS: You picked up eight for 19 against Zimbabwe [Colombo, December 2001] and Murali picked the last two. Any regrets for not getting all 10 wickets?
CV: Well I never regret in my life. We wanted to bowl them out early and I think that was the lowest total [38 all out] for a long time and something is better than nothing so I am happy about what I gave for Sri Lanka cricket. My wife was also thrilled as it was her birthday that day.
TDS: What was going through your mind when you came on to bowl when you took four wickets in four balls against Bangladesh in the 2003 World Cup?
CV: You can't plan everything and take wickets like that. Your ultimate goal in the world cup is to try and get early wickets. I was lucky that everything went well and obviously the fielders also took brilliant catches.