February 2004

Now listen here ...

Quiet, religious Chaminda Vaas admits that he doesn't mind getting stuck in

Quiet, religious Chaminda Vaas admits that he doesn't mind getting stuck in

Chaminda Vaas: 'Off the field I'm very quiet'
(c) AFP

You had another tense series against England. Is there a particular feeling of animosity between the teams?
No, it's not only England. It's whoever comes to Sri Lanka. Out on the ground, the same thing happens with everyone. Off the field, everybody's happy and friendly. We spent time with Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan and they're very good to us.

What about the incident between Nasser and Murali?
Things can happen on the field. You don't have to worry about it. If Nasser said something to me, I wouldn't take it personally. But Murali's a different person, a different character. Everyone was talking to him and saying just calm down. Don't worry about it, we'll try to sort it out. We'll try to win the match then see what action we're going to take.

We've noticed you now disguise the ball before you bowl it.
That's one I learnt from Wasim Akram. When you want to bowl reverse swing you have to hide the ball because the batsman can see which is the shiny side, and which is the rough side.

You bowled quite a lot of reverse swing in the series against England.
I started to learn when Pakistan toured in 2000. It's taken me six months to learn and it's not an easy job. You have to put the ball in the right spot all the time.

How did the Pakistan team react when you asked them for advice?
They wouldn't tell me actually. When I talked to Wasim he said: "I'll tell you when I've finished my career". So I just watched videos and I started grabbing things. I worked with Saliya Ahangama, the former Test fast bowler, and Champaka Ramanayake, the fast bowling coach, helped me a lot.

Did you always want to be a cricketer?
No, before I started playing I wanted to be a priest. So from my early days I went to the seminary. There came a time when I didn't know that I could make it so I turned to being a cricketer. I think God created me as a cricketer so I'm happy that that's my calling.

How did your family feel about your career choice?
From my early days my parents didn't like me being a cricketer. They pushed me to study. After the Under-19 tour of England in 1992 they began to say OK, do whatever you want but make sure that one day you'll be secure.

Did your faith ever make you feel alienated in the dressing room?
When I started playing all the Sri Lankan players were Buddhist but there had been a time before when there had been a lot of Catholics in the team, so they weren't afraid of Catholics. When I started playing everyone was good to me and I didn't worry about being different. There are a lot of Christians playing in the side now. Dinusha Fernando and Dilhara Fernando are Catholics and whenever I have time I talk to them about it and sometimes we go to church together.

Do you pray before you go out to bat?
Before the match everybody prays in the dressing room, whether they're Buddhist or Catholic.

You seem pretty quiet off the field - does your character change in the middle?
Yes. I think it's natural, being a fast bowler, that you simply have to be more aggressive on the field. That aggression is inside, it comes from my body. Off the field I'm very quiet.

What has been your most satisfying achievement?
Winning the World Cup in 1996. And taking 10 wickets in New Zealand for our first Test win overseas because before that I was very nervous; I was a kid really.

What was the secret to Sri Lanka's World Cup success?
Before the tournament we'd built up a good team with Arjuna Ranatunga, Hashan Tillekeratne, Asanka Gurusinha, Roshan Mahanama, and we were like a family. Whatever we would do, going out for dinner or whatever, we did all together. And as the World Cup approached we had a joint faith that we could win. I think our togetherness was why we were able to win. Playing in the subcontinent gave us a good chance and we believed in ourselves.

What do you do to relax away from the cricket?
I have a two-year-old daughter and I love playing with her. And I like to go out with the family, either down south to the beach or up country.

We hear that your singing is legendary.
I like singing, singing helps me to relax all the time. I really like Sinhalese music so wherever I go I have a small cassette which I take with me and I'm just learning to play a guitar now. The team enjoy it, wherever we go we have a singsong in the bus which I lead.