Rangana Herath: It was a pleasure playing alongside the heroes

I have been in international cricket (for nearly two decades), and have played with some of the biggest names.

Rangana Herath.   -  AFP

I started playing cricket at the school level. As a young student, I would play and watch a lot of games and then fell in love with the game. Later, when I started my professional career for Kurunegala Youth Cricket Club, I came close to two of my childhood heroes, who helped me get better as a spinner.

Ranjith Madurasinghe traps Sachin Tendulkar in front in the one-off Test between India and Sri Lanka in Chandigarh in 1990.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

 

One of them was former Sri Lanka international Ranjith Madurasinghe, and the other one was domestic-level legend Ajith Ekanayake. In his first-class career, Ekanayake has taken 674 wickets. Their guidance helped me a lot in my early days as a young spinner. Over the years, their tips helped me to get better as a left-arm spinner and they are still my inspiration.

I have been in international cricket (for nearly two decades), and have played with some of the biggest names and now it hurts when we see Sri Lanka faring poorly.

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.

I feel it is important to stick to the basics and proper guidance at the junior level. I am grateful to Madurasinghe and Ekanayake for helping me in my formative years and it has been a pleasure playing alongside the heroes.

As told to Shayan Acharya.