Sunday Times (Sri Lanka)

In the footsteps of great Vaas

- By Allaam Ousman

He idolises Sri Lanka legend Lasith Malinga because of his love for pace but 19- year- old Aaron William Benjamin dreams of following in the footsteps of left-arm bowling great Chaminda Vaas. Having already represente­d two national teams at age group level – Botswana Under- 15 and UAE Under-19 – the teenager is knocking on the doors of a place in the senior team in his country of residence UAE or Sri Lanka.

The left-arm seamer was born in Colombo, but his family moved to the southern African country when he was less than a year old, after his father Andrew’s job in accounting took him there.

Growing up in a Sri Lankan family, he started playing cricket at the age of six and by the time he was 13 he had already made Botswana’s U-15 side.

“When I was 10 months old, my parents decided to move to Botswana. It was a wonderful place to grow up, hosting a number of different cultures and people. I instantly knew this was the sport for me after watching the Sri Lankan team and specially Lasith Malinga in action,” Aaron who represente­d the Botswana U- 15 team in a series against Namibia.

The family moved again, this time to Dubai in 2015, and Benjamin won age-group honours in UAE too with the pinnacle of his career being playing the Youth Asia Cup.

“I continued to play cricket at a junior club level. In my second season, I had broken the record for the most wickets taken by a fast bowler, and as a result I earned a place in the U- 19 UAE National selection camp. After three months of intense testing and training an extended squad of 60 players was cut to the final team of 14 players. Finally the announceme­nt had been made and I was blessed enough to make to the UAE U- 19 national team,” said Aaron, who is studying business and economics at Middlesex University in Dubai.

His UAE campaign began in September 2018 participat­ing in four internatio­nal tournament­s - Bangladesh 2018, Malaysia 2019, UAE 2019 and Sri Lanka 2019. He counts among his highlights taking the wickets of the captain and vice captain on his debut against India Under-19. “This is a moment that will live with me as long as I play cricket,” he said.

“Being on a hat- trick at my home ground in Sri Lanka (UAE U-19 vs Tamil Union U-23) and having my family watch me represent the country at the Dubai Internatio­nal Stadium (UAE U-19 vs Iran U-19).”

Asked what made him pursue cricket as a career, he said: “Watching legends like Lasith Malinga and Chaminda Vaas represent Sri Lanka, made me believe that I could also play cricket at an internatio­nal level if I worked hard enough.”

Fortunate to be coached by the legend Chaminda Vaas himself, Aaron also treasures receiving the best bowler award from Indian spin great Ravichandr­an Ashwin (2018), the emerging U- 19 player award from former South African great Jonty Rhodes (2019) and the best team award from another Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara.

He had been offered the chance to go to Sri Lanka for a trial after being spotted by a talent scout, only for it to fall through because of the travel restrictio­ns cause by the pandemic. At a time when Sri Lanka has a dearth of left- arm pacers after the departure of Vaas, Aaron Benjamin, also known as ‘ Benjy’, has the potential to fill the void.

At a time when Sri Lanka has a dearth of leftarm pacers after the departure of Vaas, Aaron Benjamin, also known as ‘Benjy’, has the potential to fill the void.

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 ??  ?? Aaron Benjamin - Sri Lanka’s next Chaminda Vaas?
Aaron Benjamin - Sri Lanka’s next Chaminda Vaas?

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