Lankan Spin Maestro Herath Set For Last Hurrah

Sports - Cricket
Rangana Herath, SriLanka Image source: skysports

The slightly portly figure, of medium height, waddles back to the bowling mark and gets ready to deliver the next ball…

He doesn’t look athletic. He seems more the type who you would find behind a bank desk, adding up figures or advising you to about interest rates.

Well, Rangana Herath actually works in a bank. And he had to take pay cuts when on duty for Sri Lanka. But that did not matter as playing for his country was of utmost importance for him.

Now at the ripe age of 40, Herath will call it a day at Galle after the first Test against England on November 6.

Herath will ride into the sunset with the knowledge that he is the best left-arm spinner in the world. He has 430 wickets currently and five more at Galle will leapfrog him to seventh in the all-time list of wicket-takers.

He has taken all but 36 wickets after turning 31 and has 230 wickets post age 35. This is a remarkable statistic but given the circumstances, it is not surprising.

Herath made his Test debut against Australia at Galle in September, 1999, the only player now from the pre-2000 era. What struck most about the young Herath was that he believed in the old-fashion virtue of flight and accuracy.

He was never a great spinner of the ball. But his variations in flight made up for the lack of extra spin. He also used the crease cleverly and all these factors made him a world-class performer.

But Herath was always under the shadow of the great Muttiah Muralitharan. He played second fiddle for a while before the fickle-minded selectors dumped him.

Herath lost hope after his contract was terminated by the Sri Lankan Board. In 2008, decide to pack his bags and play club cricket in England with Staffordshire.

But Sri Lankan cricket was undergoing a bit of turmoil around that period when captain Kumara Sangakkara remembered Herath and insisted on including him in the team.

The first Test against Pakistan was being played in Galle. One phone later, Herath was on the flight back home and ready for action.

He was now 31, the figure rotund but the mind sharper and even better than ever. Sangakkara’s hunch paid off and Herath was simply splendid. He had figures of one for 52 in the first innings but spun out Pakistan with figures of 11.3-5-15-4 in the second to register a great win for his country.

As the ageing Muralitharan faded out, Herath took over. He was now the premier bowler, often dismissing sides on last day turners and keeping Sri Lanka among the top teams in the world.

But all that bowling began to take its toll and Herath has been struggling with injury problems. His knees troubled him most while his fingers gotired.

He has not completed a full test series since 2017 and now has decided to take the final call at Galle. 

Galle has been a significant ground for the spinner. He made his Test debut and comeback there. He needs one more wicket to get to 100 on the ground, only the second after Muralitharan.

The turnout at Galle should be good see off a favourite son of Sri Lanka. Those quick, shot steps to the crease, the smooth action and the loud appeal will be on show one last time.

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Babu Kalyanpur

Babu Kalyanpur, ( Consulting Editor) has rich experience in both sports and business journalism. Babu has led news desks in Pune and Bahrain and writes extensively on his passion, sports and business besides current affairs and matters of importance to Pune.

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