‘Babar Azam No.1 batter’, says Sri Lanka legend Vaas, also settles Sachin Tendulkar vs Virat Kohli debate
Chaminda Vaas spoke about LPL, how it can help Sri Lankan cricket develop more and his rating for Babar Azam among other modern-day greats like Virat Kohli.
After a loss in the opening match of the tournament, the Colombo Strikers registered their maiden win in the Lanka Premier League 2023 by beating B-Love Kandy. Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who also happens to be the star overseas recruit of Colombo, slammed his maiden LPL half-century to get his side off the mark on the points table. Hindustan Times caught up with current Colombo Strikers bowling coach and former Sri Lanka pacer Chaminda Vaas to know more about LPL, how it can help Sri Lankan cricket develop more and his rating for Babar Azam among other modern-day greats Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson.
How have been the preparations for the Colombo Strikers?
Preparations have been pretty good. The local players came for practice a few days before, so we have spent a lot of time as a group. The foreign players were engaged. A few Pakistan players joined after the Test series against Sri Lanka but overall, it has been quite good.
Babar Azam is the biggest name on your roster, wasn't he supposed to lead the side?
Babar wanted to play just as a batter and we respected his decision. Niroshan Dickwella is going to be our captain. If you take Babar Azam, we all know that he’s the number one batsman in the world (currently), and the way he performs and contributes to the team is amazing. All the youngsters can learn so much from him. I’m so excited to see him play in the Lanka Premier League. Apart from him, there is Naseem Shah. A top bowler in the world, and working with him alongside (Matheesha) Pathirana is great.
Babar has had a lot of success as an opener in T20s but of late, his strike rate has been questioned...
We know Babar Azam as an opener has been performing really well. His role is to get runs from the top. I’m sure that our team, head coach Simon Helmot and assistant coach Jerome (Jayaratna) need to discuss what suits the Colombo Strikers and what we need to get from him. We will use it and get the best out of Babar Azam.
How can budding Sri Lankan cricketers use LPL provide as a platform to develop into international cricketers?
The tournament will improve Gradually. This is only the third edition. You need to have competitive cricketers from various countries like Babar Azam and Naseem Shah. There are also a few coming from Australia and a few from South Africa like David Miller. They have been performing really well in different tournaments, and it’s good for the youngsters as well, being around them and sharing their thoughts. They can pick their brains and learn from their experience. When it comes to local cricketers, it’s up to them how they utilise and take their game forward
All-format players are slowly vanishing due to excessive workload. Your thoughts?
It’s all about fitness. If you really focus on a fitness regime then you can play all three formats at this level. Even running between the wickets has changed, how they run and how they convert ones into twos or twos into threes, is all about fitness. If you are physically and mentally in good shape then you can play all three formats and different leagues as well. Over the years, England, Australia, and India have adapted to situations and played these games smartly. Smart cricket is the way forward, as far as I’m concerned.
Will divert your attention to Indian cricket a bit... India’s top-order has an alarming weakness against left-arm seamers who can bring the ball back in, why is that?
If I’m playing, I’m doing the same thing. I’m trying to bring the ball in with a fielder at midwicket, get them (India's top-order) out LBW or bowled. Most left-armers naturally bring the ball in, bowlers like Trent Boult or Shaheen Shah Afridi, all try to bring the ball in. You have to do it at the right place at the right length. If you do that, most batters in the world, you can trap them when the ball comes in.
Virat Kohli too seems to have developed a few technical issues now. Can he still be the force he used to be four-five years ago?
Most people want Kohli to perform all the time. If he fails in one or two games, people react in a different way, because Kohli has been scoring right from the beginning of his career. A player can go out of touch, but there is no doubt about his class. Even on the West Indies tour, he has performed. He wants to improve and contribute to Indian cricket. I’m sure he will do well. Even in (Sachin) Tendulkar’s latter part, people expected him to perform in every match. But that can't happen all the time. Maybe that’s why Kohli is lacking right now. His fitness level and technique is really good, as far as I’m concerned.
Glad that you brought up Tendulkar's name. Can Kohli break his record?
Record as there to be broken, you know, you can’t keep records all the time. Different eras, different players, but the way I see it, Kohli is still young and has a lot of time. Age is just a number, and the way he’s performing, I’m sure he will do well for Indian cricket. We have seen different generations in which India has produced excellent cricketers.
Your predictions for the Asia Cup and World Cup?
It’s difficult to predict. It’s a different format, 50 overs of cricket in different conditions. Sri Lanka are trying to defend the (Asia Cup) title. India and Sri Lanka have won many Asia Cups, Pakistan only a few, but they are also contenders. All the teams are equal if you come to the 50-over format. If you have a balanced batting and bowling team, on their day anybody can turn things up with this format.