Cricketer of the Year wants perseverance from youngsters Be patient and work hard – Herath


by Rex Clementine

Rangana Herath won the key award at Dialog Cricket Awards on Tuesday. (Files)

A bit of mystery has accompanied most young spinners who have made an impression at the big stage. Old Fox Rangana Herath has no mystery associated with his bowling, but forgotten virtues like perseverance has stood him in good stead and the ultimate recognition was on Tuesday at the Sri Lanka Cricket Awards Night where he won the prestigious Player of the Year award.

"It was a bit of a surprise, but after winning, I thought that I deserved the award," Herath told The Island yesterday.

Herath was the highest wicket taker in the world in 2012 ahead of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Saeed Ajmal. During the period of consideration for SLC awards, Herath’s left-arm spin had accounted for 46 wickets at 22.13.

Since making his debut in 1999, opportunities were few and rare for Herath. Either injury to star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan or Pakistan’s perceived weakness of playing left-arm spin bowling brought him occasional opportunities and despite fine efforts, Herath struggled to earn a permanent place in the side.

The emergence of talented ‘mystery spinners’ didn’t help his case either. But, for Herath perseverance was the key. Despite not being a contracted player during the years of struggle, Herath kept the selectors informed about his whereabouts and he was richly awarded in 2009 in the lead up to Kumar Sangakkara’s first Test as captain.

Muralitharan was injured and the selectors decided to rush Herath back home from England and having arrived in Colombo less than 24 hours before the Test, he helped Sri Lanka to a famous win in Galle against Pakistan.

"I made my debut in 1999 and I was 21 then. I knew I got there because I had talent. It’s hard when you don’t get opportunities regularly, but you need to be patient and work hard as you don’t know when you will get an opportunity. You have to be ready to perform when the odd opportunity comes your way."

In the post Muralitharan era, Herath has been the mainstay of Sri Lankan bowling. He has virtually played all Sri Lanka’s games since Murali quit Tests in July 2010. In 25 Tests since Murali retired, Herath has taken 129 wickets at 24.91. There have been some impressive moments in those three years including a memorable Test win on South African soil in 2011 where Herath was Man of the Match.

To date his loyalty to Sri Lankan cricket remains his best virtue. Being the highest wicket taker in 2012, Herath had the opportunities to make himself available for county cricket this season, but he declined the opportunity due to the rigors of county cricket in England. Herath at the age of 35 has undergone knee surgery and he remains focused to do his best for Sri Lanka. There was also an opportunity to play one-day domestic cricket in Bangladesh which too he declined after speaking to the selectors.

"I got a couple of opportunities. Playing county cricket is tough as you have to do a lot of bowling. I had a chat with the selectors and then decided not to go."

Primarily a Test Match cricketer, Herath’s case has not been helped by Sri Lanka Cricket bigwigs whose allergy to Test cricket cannot be even cured at the best of hospitals! Recently during a 12-month period, SLC cancelled as many as ten Tests including a high profile three-match series against South Africa at home.

"To tell you the truth, it is a massive disappointment. Recently we lost out on Tests in West Indies and then the home series against South Africa. That I would say, is a big drawback," Herath said.

The upcoming Test series against Pakistan in UAE in December/January is his biggest goal.

"I don’t have big targets and I always look at ways to help the team win. I have a responsibility towards the team and I am looking forward for the series against Pakistan. It will be tough. Pakistan seem to be having some vulnerability against left-arm spin. I don’t know why; maybe that’s got something to do with their technique. I am looking forward for the opportunity."


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