It has been four long years since Muttiah has retired and the speculation has always been rife among the cricket lovers whether the legend has left his legacy in the form of Rangana Herath. The recent nine wicket haul by the slow left arm spinner has only added more fuel to such contemplation.
Both Herath and Muralitharan were late bloomers. Debuting as early as 1992 Muralitharan started to shine from the late nineties with a mesmerizing performance at Oval in 1998. The confounded English side witnessed a masterpiece from the legend as he finished off with 7/155 and 9/65 in the two innings. After that there was no looking back- Murali went on to butcher his opposition with his mysterious combination of off-breaks and Doosras.
Almost a similar tale has been fabricated for Herath. Although he started his career versus Australia in 1999, he made a comeback ten years later with a total of 15 wickets in the 3 match series against Pakistan. From 2009 onwards he has been a regular wicket taker for his side.
When Murali retired he was still at the peak of his career taking wickets at regular intervals. Herath acted only as his sidekick taking occasional wicket and thus relieving the pressure off the his senior teammate. It took time, but Herath rose to the occasion, stepped into the shoes of Murali and provided a firm support for the Sri Lankan bowling side.
In 2011 Sri Lanka registered its first win in South Africa, Herath bagging the Man of the Match award with a total of 9 wickets in the two innings. The next year saw Herath taking 60 wickets finishing off with an average of 23.61. By then the fans had started to see the reflection of Sri Lankas leading wicket taker in the dazzling performances of Herath.
At 36 Herath has managed to take 246 wickets in 56 tests-still a long way from scaling the massive record of 800. Even the most fanciful of his fans will fail to imagine Herath with a record equaling Murali and can console himself taking the 133 tests played by Murali into consideration.
The left arm spinner has proved to be a “mystery” bowler to most of his adversaries with the large number of variations up his sleeve which he delivers with the subtle mix of flight. Mendis had also been a challenge for the oppositions until they unveiled the strategy to thwart his carrom ball. But the enigma of Herath’s “slow” spin continues as the batsmen fail to identify the occasional fast ball darting towards the player catching him off guard.
At present Herath can claim to be only left arm spinner with a 9 wickets haul, a record pretty daunting by itself. Yet a deeper insight shows he has bagged only 39 wickets outside the subcontinent, just a tiny speck amidst his 246 victims. Muralitharan had a record of 188 among his 800 while Kumble had an astounding record of 201 among his 619. There is only one way to prove his mettle – Herath must improvise in the “less-spin-friendly” condition and continue his hunt overseas with the same display of flamboyance.