The Vaas factor
It is often heard to be said that Chaminda Vaas is the unsung hero of Sri Lankan cricket. I beg to disagree. He is an absolute champion cricketer, a role model for any youngster to emulate.

These days at international games in Sri Lanka and most of the world it is the TV commentators who select the "Man of the Match" and at the end of a series, the "Man of the Series". At the conclusion of the second test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa, last Sunday, the seven commentators discussed the candidates for the "Man of the Series".

Three names emerged - Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas. The pros and cons, the performances, the playing conditions, the obstacle factor to the opponents, were considered. No one disagreed that Vaas scored overall points to nudge ahead of the other two who also contributed much towards the team's success.

He was seen as the hero, toiling away on unresponsive pitches. His mental make-up is simple. He believes in God and himself. No matter what the hurdle is, his aim is to clear it.

For a pace bowler Chaminda Vaas is not well built compared to the others. The likes of Gillespie, Kasperwicz, Harmison, Oram are giants. Pollock, Hayward, Nehra, Pathan, Hoggard, Flintoff and many others who deliver of a long run are built for the job. In Sri Lanka, Nuwan Zoysa, Dilhara Fernando and young Fervez Mahroof who are currently in contention are tall and well built. Vaas gets off the blocks with a disadvantage.

When he appeared on the international scene some ten years ago, raw, having just discarded his school uniform, he had one exceptional gift. That gift was the ability to move a new cricket ball around, in the air, off the pitch and trouble batsmen. It was a good enough foundation for the teenager who believed in God and himself.

From then, to date, a great attribute he possesses is the willingness to listen. Not to all and sundry, but to those who matter, to those whom he knows can offer some knowledge, to develop and improve his game.

Left arm pace men offer something different to a bowling attack. They are not around in numbers. India at present has three of them and Sri Lanka two, but that is an exception rather than the norm.

Draw a graph relating to time and Chaminda's progress indicating strength, stamina building, adding varying deliveries to his repertoire, improving accuracy, it will show steady movement upwards. Now he is at the peak of his bowling powers on any type of surface world over.

The improvement shown in his batting is an indication of his commitment to the game. In the first test in Galle he was playing so well that a century was staring in the face. Above all, technically he looked so good. Then a sudden rush of blood, an attempt to hit the ball over mid off, a mistimed stroke brought to an end a polished innings.

He is being mentioned as an all-rounder parallel to Shaun Pollock. That is because his batting is coming good and he is a few runs away from two thousand test runs. Now nearing the final quarter of his international career would do no harm.

A couple of centuries are required to add to the flow of wickets. Then he will be in the company of Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee, Imran Khan and Ian Botham. Since being granted test status Sri Lanka has produced many outstanding players. Arjuna Ranatunge, Aravinda de Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan, stand out. Chaminda Vaas is not far from joining that group. His overall influence is the balancing factor amongst Sri Lanka's eleven national cricketers.


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