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July 24, 2009
Chaminda Vaas, Sri Lanka's most successful fast bowler, ended his Test career during an emotional farewell at the SSC after the third and final Test against Pakistan ended in a draw with the hosts winning the series 2-0.
Vaas, a 111-Test veteran, was given a standing ovation by the spectators, who stayed behind after the end of the match, when he was presented with a memento and one million rupees by Sri Lanka Cricket chairman DS de Silva.
"This is an emotional time for me. I have played international cricket for the last 16 years with pride and performed at the best of my ability," Vaas said. "I can confidentially say that I have given my 100 % to my country. In return cricket has made me what I am today. I am grateful for all that I have received. I've always adopted a non-confrontational and non-controversial approach in my Test career and I do not intend doing things differently today."
Vaas said he began his Test career at a time when Sri Lanka was nowhere in the top league and was proud to have contributed to his country's progress. "After 15 years Sri Lanka has made giant strides and is able to rub shoulders with the best. While many people have contributed to this transformation, I am proud to have played my own little part in this process," he said. "I may not have been the most talented cricketer to play for Sri Lanka but I've worked hard on my game and was able to produce good results. There is no substitute for hard work."
While thanking the past captains he had the privilege of playing under, Vaas singled out Arjuna Ranatunga as one who had a strong influence on his career. "He was such a strong leader and had a great influence in me." Vaas also said current captain Kumar Sangakkara was already showing signs of becoming 'a great captain' in the short time he had been in charge.
Vaas also thanked the support staff for enabling him to play international cricket continuously without any serious injury.
"No one forced me to retire from Test cricket. I am thankful that I got the opportunity to play in my last Test. This is the best time to retire from Test cricket and concentrate on ODIs and Twenty20s because the young fast bowlers who are emerging are doing pretty well.
Vaas said taking 14 wickets in a Test at the SSC against Brian Lara's West Indies in 2001 was the most memorable moment of his career. He picked Wasim Akram as his role model and chose Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara as the two most difficult batsmen to bowl at in world cricket.
Vaas said that if he was to start his Test career all over again he would prefer to be a batsman and lamented his lack of focus on his batting in the early part of his career. "I realised how important batting was only in the latter part of my career and I enjoyed batting in the last four to five years."
Bowling in tandem with Muttiah Muralitharan, Vaas said, was a privilege. "I should say that most of Murali's success was due to me bowling at the other end and keeping things very tight. It was an honour to play with such a world-class bowler."
Having been overlooked for the ODI series against Pakistan, Vaas said that he would fight his way back into the team. "I haven't played ODI cricket for 11 months and during that time all the young fast bowlers have played very well and grabbed the opportunities with both hands. I am going to work hard to fight for my place. I'll be back very soon."
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge
Plays of the day from the tri-series match between Zimbabwe and South Africa
Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?