Packing a lethal left arm

HE'S deceptive and dangerous, and he's Chaminda Vaas. The man can sting and he does so with his swing, that's late and effective. This Vaas is class.

Chaminda Vaas ran in with a lovely rhythm, his release was smooth, and importantly for a left-armer, he got his deliveries to pitch in line, a huge factor in his successful leg-before shouts. The fact that he could swing the ball in, or get it to straighten or leave the right-hander put the seeds of doubts into the batsmen's minds, translating into wickets. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

It's hard not to admire Vaas. A quality left-arm paceman, he has lived under the giant shadow of Muttiah Muralitharan for most part of his career, his sterling displays often overlooked.

This has not bothered the lion-hearted Lankan one bit. He's been around on the international scene since 1994, and such has been his zeal for the job, that he's still firing, still worrying the best.

While express bowlers Brett Lee and Shane Bond stole the thunder, Vaas, with 23 scalps, quietly walked way with a much-cherished record — the most wickets (23) in a single World Cup.

Sri Lanka's display in Southern Africa was a bit like a curate's egg, good in parts. However, Vaas was one consistent factor in the Lankan performances; he seldom let his skipper or his team down.

He ran in with a lovely rhythm, his release was smooth, and importantly for a left-armer, he got his deliveries to pitch in line, a huge factor in his successful leg-before shouts. The fact that he could swing the ball in, or get it to straighten or leave the right-hander put the seeds of doubts into the batsmen's minds, translating into wickets for Vaas.

We also got to see a whole bag of tricks from Vaas as he kept 'em guessing - the suble changes in pace, the slippery yorker, the occasional short ball, the clever use of the crease. Vaas was just magnificent. Importantly, he pitched the ball up, luring the batsmen into the drive and nailing them.

What makes Vaas' showing even more praiseworthy is the fact that there was so little pace support for him from the other end in the crunch games - Dilhara Fernando, Pulasthi Gunaratne and Prabath Nissanka disappointed for most part.

And with off-spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan having an ordinary World Cup by his standards, the weight of expectations on Vaas was enormous. The combative instinct in him shone through forcefully in the competition as the left-armer got it right.

And records came his way — when Vaas sent three Bangladeshis packing with the opening three deliveries of the Group `B' match at Pietermaritzburg — it was the first time such a feat had been accomplished in ODIs. And he went on to grab another wicket in the same over, the men in green not quite knowing what hit them.

Only last year, Vaas had ripped through the Zimbabwe line-up at the Sinhalese Sports Club Stadium, with eight for 19, and this time he took out six batsmen for 25 in 9.1 probing overs.

That destructive act may have come against minnows, but Vaas was on song against the heavyweights too, his three for 34 against the Aussies in the semifinal at Port Elizabeth standing out for the sheer mastery of skills. The 29-year-old Vaas, a bit of a fitness freak, does understand the nuances of his craft well, and can plan and plot a batsman's downfall.

And you can glimpse that desire in his eyes. Throw up a challenge, and Chaminda Vaas will seldom be found wanting.

S. Dinakar