How perseverance helped Herath

Rangana Herath breaks into the top ten in ICC Test rankings for bowlers
By Rex Clementine | December 31, 2011

Rangana Herath
Rangana Herath was instrumental in Sri Lanka's win at Durban. © AFP/File/Lakruwan WANNIARACHCHI.

DURBAN - Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath made his Test debut in 1999 but the presence of the indispensable Muttiah Muralitharan meant that he was in and out of the team. Sri Lanka could call up the part-time left-arm spin of Sanath Jayasuriya as well when necessary and therefore Herath was hardly needed to represent the country, as the selectors often opted for leg-spin as the next best option after Murali.

Rangana Herath with Tillakaratne DilshanWhilst doing pretty well in domestic cricket, Herath also represented Hampshire and Surrey in county cricket and played league cricket in England for several years. His moment of glory finally arrived in 2009 when Muralitharan was injured for the home series against Pakistan and perceiving a weakness in the opposition against left-arm spin bowling, newly appointed captain Kumar Sangakkara requested the selectors to bring Herath down from England.

After arriving in Colombo less than 24 hours before the first Test in Galle, Herath bowled Sri Lanka to victory in the first Tes, winning the Man of the Match award and toured India later that year for a three-Test series. The emergence of off-spinner Suraj Randiv, with age on his side, put doubts about Herath’s place in the side again. But to a side that lacked experience badly, he was considered vital and he got the nod ahead of Randiv as the No.1 spinner in the team since Murali’s retirement last year.

Earlier this year, he completed 100 Test wickets during the third Test against Australia at SSC, becoming only the fourth Sri Lankan to achieve the milestone.

He has done pretty well this year, being the highest wicket taker for Sri Lanka in Test cricket with 41 wickets in ten Tests at an average of 29.07.

The domination of pace at Centurion and the hardness of the Durban wicket prompted the team management to ponder an all seam attack for Durban. But the fact that spinners Graeme Swann and Harbhajan Singh had done well in the last two Tests played in Durban, made them progress with Herath. He repaid that faith, bowling Sri Lanka to a famous victory which will be spoken of for many more years to come.

In the modern day of heavy bats, flat tracks and the ability to scrutinise bowlers with the aid of computers, the spinners were said to be requiring the ‘X factor’ to succeed. The ability to bowl the doosra or ‘the carom ball’ was considered the key for success of spin bowlers.

Sangakkara, after his hundred in Durban, called Herath ‘an old fashioned spinner’ and the ‘workhorse’ of the team and that is exactly what he proved to be; persevering with patience, letting the batsmen make the mistake. In the end, the rewards were outstanding for not very often a spinner wins the Man of the Match award in South Africa.

He picked up four wickets in the first innings, as Sri Lanka restricted the Proteas for 168 and then picked up a five-wicket haul to be named Man of the Match.

"When you take the spin bowlers who have had success over the years, you need to get your basics right. All what I did was to stick to my basics and things worked for me," Herath told journalists after his match-winning performance.

"What I have got to say is that in this Test everyone put in a good effort to help us win. Scoring almost 350 was vital in the first innings and then we got a big lead by bowling them out cheaply," he added.

His match-winning performance also earned him a place in the top-ten ICC Rankings for bowlers. Herath is now ranked the seventh bowler in the world.

© Rex Clementine/The Island

Comments

James Jesudasan's picture
Member since:
27 November 2009
Last activity:
6 years 3 weeks

Very happy for the guy. He deserves this recognition finally.

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