In July 2009, Rangana Herath, Sri Lanks’s second highest Wicket Taker in Test Cricket was fighting against all the odds to return to the national team for whom he had made 14 sporadic appearances in almost a decade. While most of the players start thinking to ponder about the life beyond cricket at that Age, Herath was desperate to get one last chance to show his worth to the national team.
Luckily for both Sri Lanka and Herath, Kumar Sangakkara was the captain in those days, a master tactician who could identify the valuable players, he pressed the selectors to include Herath in the team as Muttiah Muralitharan was injured before a crucial series against Pakistan at home.
Herath who was playing club cricket in England during off season of Sri Lanka’s Domestic Cricket just to keep himself fit got a call to play the first test and within 24 hours, Herath was playing the test Match.
Fast forward to Oct 2017, As Sri Lanka was humiliated with probably the most prominent annihilation suffered by the home team in the history of the game a month ago at the hands of India. The Islanders were also on the verge of losing another test against Pakistan, as they set a meagre 136 to chase down and win the first test. At this moment, Herath showed his class as he bowled with a lot of vigour and venom and turned the whole chase upside down. When Sarfaraz and Haris Sohail tried to resurrect the innings and just when the partnership started to look threatening, he got Sarfaraz stumped.
A few balls later he cleaned up Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali, two very dangerous tailenders and when he trapped Mohammad Abbas LBW, he not only became the first ever left-arm spinner to take 400 wickets but also stopped the string of humiliation Sri Lanka suffered in recent times.
A bank Professional, Rangana Herath has been best known for his calm attitude among his peers. In the years after Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vass retired, he has been the flag bearer of the Sri Lankan bowling. Although some thought that after Murli’s retirement Sri Lanka would not be able to win test matches with spin bowling, Herath has proved all of them wrong as he carried hopes of million of Sri Lankans in a decade where the balance of World Cricket has continued to shift.
No Matter it was Colombo in 2009, Durban in 2011, Dhaka in 2012 or Abu Dhabi in 2017, Herath has been standing out man for the Sri Lanka. Whenever things have looked beyond control, the whole team has looked to the boy from Waduwawa.
A look at the percentage of wickets Herath has taken since 2009 will tell us the whole story. The leg-spinner has played 70 Out of 79 tests Sri Lanka played helping his team bag 26 victories (27 total) during this period.
Statistically speaking, Sri Lanka played 9 tests without Harath and were able to win only one of them stressing the importance of 39-year- old. Since his Rennainance, a second avatar in 2009, Herath has taken 364 wickets in just 70 Tests at 26.67. Along with Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad he has been the leading wicket-taker in International Cricket.
Herath has also set an example to those who call age as a barrier to their dreams. Since turning 35, he has taken a record 200 Wicket, most by anyone in the history of the game.
In spite of all these facts, there is one challenge which awaits Herath which even greatest of greats have failed to fulfil, a tour to India. A three test series will be the biggest challenge for the spinner as his record against India hasn’t been quite impressive.
Considering India’s excellent run in last 24 months and their ultra dominance it will be hard for Sri Lanka to stop them and a huge responsibility to make the series a competitive will lie on the shoulders of 39-year-old. Herath also knows this will be a steep mountain that many experts have failed to climb but nothing have come easy to the man throughout his 18 years of glittering career, which unarguably sets him to be among the top three greatest bowlers ever produced by the emerald island.