Mumbai: Rangana Herath, the 38-year-old left armer has anchored the sinking Sri Lankan ship after the retirement of stallwards like Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jaywardene. It is the dream of every spin bowler in Sri Lanka, to even be able to match the class of spin king Muttiah Muralitharan, but to be called as his successor is a whole new achievement.
There is no doubt of Murali’s superiority over Herath as their careers coincided. But for a major part of Herath’s career was spent in sidelines as the Murali took the centrestage. His rise has been slow, just like his run-up or loopy flight or for that matter, his running between the wickets.
The turning point came when Muralitharan got injured in 2009. The legend himself, recommended Herath to skipper Sangakarra. On legend’s recommendation, Sangakarra called Herath to play in the limited overs format. The rest is history. Herath spun Sri Lanka to a victory claiming 5 for 67 and winning man of the match. Herath rose to career high no. 4 position in ICC test rankings for bowlers after the New Zealand series in 2015.
“Test cricket is dying” is a phrase commonly heard in today’s cricketing world. Stands only fill to watch player’s machismo or their unorthodox play, but Herath, the old war horse, is not a box-office material. He is a traditional bowler who has managed to rise above everyone else. He does not possess a doosra or carom ball. When he is referred to as ‘slow left arm orthodox’ they mean the last word. Herath’s bowling action is easy. He thrives on variations of flight. He often uses an arm ball as variation to dart one in. These are the basics of left arm spinner, but Herath has the special ability to read the batsman early and alter the line and length of the ball. He created a niche for himself, his own style, the Herath style.
“When I’m bowling, I don’t stop thinking. Batsmen aren’t afraid to step out and hit you. If you are thinking about every one of your six balls every over, you give yourself the best chance to succeed,” Herath was once quoted as saying by Cricinfo.
In the last series against Australia, Herath claimed 28 wickets in 3 tests with an astonishing average of 12.75 helping Sri Lanka whitewash Australia first time in test history. “(Sri Lanka’s) main weapon is Rangana Herath. Other than that, they don’t have any other bowler to get wickets for them,” Murali told Cricket Australia before the series started. Herath climbed to 5th position in ICC test ranking for bowlers after the series. Only James Anderson, Ravichandran Ashwin, Dale Steyn and Stuart Broad are above him.
Sri Lanka started the series at no. 7 position in ICC test rankings and climbed to no. 6 after the series. Meanwhile, Australia’s consecutive 9 test defeats in Asia since 2013 has resulted in them dropping from no. 1 to third position. Heading into the series, Herath was facing a knee problem but his efforts were phenomenal said the skipper Angelo Matthews.
“He couldn’t run and he couldn’t jump. He was just landing the ball on one leg and he is unbelievable. The batsmen are having a nightmare facing him no matter how well they play spin. Credit should go to this man. He has been a great team man as well,” Mathews said after the end of the third Test.