'Was in tears when Dennis Lillee said I won't play for my country. Reminded him of it later,' reveals legendary SL pacer

Published on Jul 20, 2022 02:51 PM IST

A legendary Sri Lanka bowler, who took 761 wickets for his country, recalled when Dennis Lillee turned him down at the MRF Pacer Foundation.  

Chaminda Vaas and Dennis Lillee. (Getty Images)
Chaminda Vaas and Dennis Lillee. (Getty Images)
By, New Delhi

The legendary Dennis Lillee has played an instrumental role in giving world cricket some of its finest fast bowler of all time. Lillee, the former Australia pacer and one of the most fearsome fast bowlers of his era had joined the iconic MRF Pace Foundation in 1987, and over the years, helped shape some phenomenal fast-bowling talents who would go on and do great things for their country. Most of Lillee's judgments were right – such as when he told Sachin Tendulkar he would be better off concentrating on his batting – but there also were occasions when he was wrong.

Chaminda Vaas, one of world cricket's greatest left-arm pacers was one such case. When a young Vaas arrived at the MRF pace foundation in the early 1990s, Lillee was not too positive of his abilities. In fact, watching Vaas bowl in the nets, Lillee told the pacer that he did not have what it takes to be an international cricketer, something that left Vaas distraught. But the legendary Sri Lanka quick decided to prove Lillee wrong, and embarked on a career no other Sri Lanka bowler has managed to match. 28 years after Vaas made his Sri Lanka debut, he opened up on the chapter with Lillee, explaining the incident in detail.

"What happened was that after a practice session at the MRF Pace Foundation, Dennis Lillee analysed our game. So while analysing my game, Lillee said I would not be able to play for my country. So I was a bit upset, I had tears in my eyes. But when someone says something, I always take it as a challenge. So I wanted to prove a point to Dennis Lillee that he was wrong. I took it as a challenge. And, as you know, I ended up playing for 15 years for the national team," Vaas told Khaleej Times.

During a 15-year-long career, Vaas played 111 Tests and 332 ODIs for Sri Lanka, bagging a total of 761 wickets. Vaas holds the record for the best bowling figures in ODIs – 8/19 against Zimbabwe. He revealed that during his playing career, each time he met Lillee, he would remind the Australia great of his prediction, only to receive praises in return.

"When I met Dennis Lillee later, I reminded him of his prediction. That was after I played about 60 odd games for Sri Lanka. I met him in Australia. He said, 'I am very proud of you'. Then after I played 100 Test matches, I met him again and I reminded him again of his comment that I was not going to play for my national team. He said that I was exceptional," added Vaas.

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