Once on the fringe, Herath walks into sunset as a Test great

From being a temporary fixture in the Sri Lankan team, Rangana Herath went on to become the most successful left-arm spinner in Test history.

430 and counting: Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath will be hoping to add more wickets to the tally in his last Test.   -  reuters

One of the easiest ways to engage Kumar Sangakkara in a conversation during the pre-2009 phase was to bring up Rangana Herath’s name.

“He’s a good bowler, a very good bowler,” the Sri Lankan great would say. And then he would shrug his shoulders.

Those were the days when Herath was never a permanent fixture in a Sri Lankan attack where the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan was the lynchpin.

And when Herath, on an SOS, travelled from England where he was playing league cricket, to join the Sri Lankan team for the Test against Pakistan at Galle in 2009, Sangakkara was the captain.

That Test marked the turning point in Herath’s incredible journey. Muralitharan was not playing and Herath grabbed four for 15 as Pakistan, chasing 168, folded for 117.

City of destiny

Rangana Herath established himself as a potent weapon under Kumar Sangakkara's captaincy.   -  AFP


The picturesque Galle with its fort, the sea and the wind, has been the city of destiny for Herath. He began his Test journey here in 1999, scalped four in the Australian first innings.

It was here that he revived his career. And Herath will play his last Test, beginning Tuesday against England, at Galle.

He’s 40 now and is the most successful left-arm spinner in Test history with 430 wickets in 92 Tests at 27.95 including 34 five-wicket innings and nine ten-wicket match hauls.

From someone on the fringes of the Sri Lankan team, he, remarkably, is now a great for all ages.

An old-fashioned spinner

Rangana Herath emerged from Muttian Muralitharan's giant shadow to emerge as the most successful left-arm spinner in Test history.   -  getty images


Former India leg-spinner L. Sivaramakrishnan, on an invitation from Bandula Warnapura, then a leading administrator in the emerald isle, coached Herath in his early days in Sri Lanka.

Siva told Sportstar, “Herath was attentive, disciplined and worked hard on basics.”

Siva added, “Herath is an old-fashioned spinner with flight, dip and deception. He has control, enjoys bowling long spells.”

While he could turn the ball away from the right-hander, Herath developed the carrom ball. “He is a pioneer among the left-arm spinners for bowling the carrom ball, it would turn into the right-hander, was quicker and had extra bounce. He also has the arm ball,” Siva said.

Herath uses these weapons to be effective against the left-handers too. He varies his pace and length, uses the crease, and delivers from different angles. 

Emerging from Muralitharan’s giant shadow, the little Herath will now drift into the sunset with his own legacy.

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