They say wine gets better with age. Rangana Herath fits that saying perfectly. The spinner, who made his Test debut for Sri Lanka in 1999, was a back-up to the great Muttiah Muralitharan till the legend’s retirement.
The back-up role had a telling say on Herath’s career. Herath would not play for four years between 2000-2004 and then for three years between 2005-2008. Till 2010, Herath would have only 78 Test wickets @37.56 with four five-wicket hauls.
But since Murali retired, Herath has become the front line spinner of the Test side. 2011 would start the phase of the new Herath. At 31 years of age, he would take 41 wickets that year, with another 60 in 2012 to make him Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker for that calendar year.
With 25 wickets in 2013, 56 in 2014, 37 in 2015, 57 in 2016 and 12 already this year, Herath has picked up 288 wickets since 2011 at an impressive average of 25.86.
Remarkably, Herath has 25 five-fors and seven ten-wicket hauls in that period. In the recently concluded first Test against Bangladesh, Herath would create history. He would overtake Daniel Vettori’s haul of 362 Test wickets to become the most successful left-arm spinner in Test history.
Vettori did it in 113 Tests and Herath has done it in 79. Sri Lanka’s Test captain has been the team’s go-to weapon for a long time now no matter what the conditions are. In the game’s history, where left-arm spinners have come at a premium, Herath has stood out by a mile and though he is 38, the will to succeed does not die. 366 Test wickets in 79 games @ 27.98 is no mean feat for a player who did not play regular Test cricket for close to 12 years since his debut.
Rangana Herath is the greatest left-arm spinner to grace the game. His record is his proof, his performances a constant reminder.