An illustrious international career which lasted for nearly two decades, Rangana Herath, has really seen the game evolve. When he made his debut in 1999, T20 cricket was an alien term. But as he walked into retirement from international cricket in November last year, Herath realised that the game has become more aggressive and challenging.
“These days, batsmen play a lot of new shots and score at a high rate,” he told Sportstar on Tuesday.
The 40-year-old former spin ace, who has 433 Test wickets and 74 ODI wickets (along with 18 T20I scalps) feels that it is also important that the International Cricket Council and the home boards monitor the spinners at an early age to keep a check on suspected bowling actions.
How has life been after retirement?
I did level-II and level-III coaching courses, but there’s a bit of assessment to do (after the course over a period of time). Apart from that, I have been busy with my office. I work with Sampath Bank for almost 20 years now. Even now, as we speak, I am working in the bank. So, after retirement, I resumed my duties at the bank and played just one first-class game. That’s how it has been so far. I am enjoying with the family and there is a bit of more time to spend with them.
For an international cricketer, how difficult does it get to adjust to life after retirement?
Even before breaking into the national team or in the A team, I have been with the bank. I regularly attend office and there’s a lot of work. That keeps me busy. I retired from ODIs and T20s in 2016, so even at that time, I had a bit of free period so I would regularly attend the bank and spend time with family. Since I was habituated to that, after Test retirement, I did not struggle a lot to adjust to life.
In the last couple of years, Sri Lanka has been a side in transition. Does it disappoint you to see this state of Sri Lankan cricket?
As a cricketer, it is always (sad) to see your team losing whether you are playing or not. We would like to see the team winning but there are a lot of areas to improve. I know there are a few seniors like Mahela (Jayawardene) and Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara) who have retired from international cricket, but that cannot be an excuse. You (other players) need to step up and do your bit. When you are playing international cricket, especially for national team, that means you are in the right place. As a professional sportsman, you need to give your 100 per cent. So far, I have not seen 100 per cent effort from them yet, but I hope they will do so in the future because I know how capable guys they are.
After the exit of Sangakkara or Jayawardene, what has gone wrong for Sri Lanka?
There are a few areas that require improvement. If you look at the current team, we need to be consistent with our performances. The players are doing well but in patches. As sportsmen, they have to be right there always. If they are consistent, the whole team will benefit out of it.
Sri Lanka has always had a legacy in spin bowling. Do you think it is losing its sheen?
There are a lot of spinners coming up but to become a good spinner, they need to play regularly. Take the case of Dilruwan Perera. At the age of 35-plus (36), he is at the peak. For a spinner, more exposure helps in gaining knowledge and experience but it normally comes around the age of 30. But there are a lot of guys waiting in the queue. Akila Dhananjaya, Malinda Pushpakumara can do well but they need to play regularly.
You started playing cricket at a time when the game was different and now how much has the game evolved?
I can see that the game has become so different now. When I started in 1999, there wasn’t any T20 cricket. It was all about ODIs and Tests, now you can see, more competitive cricket. The batsmen are playing a lot of (newer) shots and are scoring at a high rate. But having said that, when the spinners have an opportunity--especially on the fourth and fifth days of a Test match--they still dominate. But I could see a stark difference in the game at the fag end of my career.
There has been a crackdown on bowlers with suspect actions in recent years. What do you think should be ICC's role when a bowler returns with a corrected action?
Whether it is the ICC or the boards controlling the cricket in the country, they should (help the bowlers). The guidance should be given from an early age and the action of each and every bowler should be controlled right from the junior level. You need to teach them the basics. You need to follow the rule of the game.
How can the monitoring be done at the grassroot level?
You need to be very careful in monitoring from the junior level. When you come to the first-class level, of course there’s more focus on you, but things are different at the junior level and that’s why it is important to keep an eye on the bowlers and also guide them. So, school-level and junior-level cricket is where the monitoring should start from. That’s when a cricketer actually shapes up.