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Rangana Herath has shouldered the burden of Sri Lanka’s bowling since Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement

Rangana Herath's statistics prove that he is up there among the best bowlers in the world © Getty Images
Rangana Herath’s statistics prove that he is up there among the best bowlers in the world © Getty Images

Rangana Herath has been one of the leading spinners in the world since Muttiah Muralitharan’s retirement. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines a few stats and assesses how dependent Sri Lanka are on the left-arm spinner.

 

Since the retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan in July 2010, Sri Lanka have only won five out of the 31 Tests they have played. While the loss of their long-time strike bowler has evidently affected them, Rangana Herath has taken over the mantle remarkably well and has been consistently doing the job for them. On Day One of the second Test against Pakistan, the Sri Lankan bowlers had their fair share of the pie; Herath finished with three for 26. It was one of the rare occasions since Muralitharan’s retirement that Herath found support in the other bowlers, otherwise it has been a one-man show.

Herath has not only been Sri Lanka’s leading bowler since 2010, but has also been one of the most consistent in the world. Let us have a look at the records of Sri Lankan bowlers since July 23, 2010 — the day after Muralitharan played his final Test:

Bowler

M

W

Ave

5WI

10WM

BBI

BBM

Rangana Herath

27

136

24.77

12

3

7/89

12/157

Suraj Randiv

12

43

37.51

1

0

5/82

9/162

Chanaka Welegedera

15

42

38.11

2

0

5/52

6/106

Tillakaratne Dilshan

26

26

46.30

0

0

3/56

3/8

Shaminda Eranga

9

26

35.53

0

0

4/65

5/127

Suranga Lakmal

16

25

60.08

0

0

3/55

4/78

Nuwan Kulasekara

9

21

37.33

0

0

3/48

5/75

Ajantha Mendis

7

20

44.55

1

0

6/169

6/169

Dilhara Fernando

7

12

59.33

0

0

3/74

3/122

Thisara Perera

6

11

59.36

0

0

4/63

4/151

Dammika Prasad

8

9

81.22

0

0

3/104

3/106

Angelo Mathews

27

7

75.14

0

0

2/60

2/60

Nuwan Pradeep

5

6

89.16

0

0

3/62

*stats include the first innings of the second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Nuwan Pradeep recorded his best three for 62 in that innings; hence the match figures column hasn’t been filled.

 

This table makes Herath’s workload evident. In the period of consideration, he has taken 136 wickets, which is 93 more than the next best. In fact, if you look at the top four, Herath is the only one who continues to be in their Test line-up. Both Suraj Randiv and Chanaka Welegedera last played Test cricket in 2012. Tillakaratne Dilshan retired from Test cricket last year; although it is fair to say that he was a part-timer and would be used in the longer format only in times of need.

The statistics do reveal how consistent Herath has been, but they also expose Sri Lanka’s bowling stocks. There has been no stability in their fast bowling department whatsoever. The most successful fast bowler has been Welegedera, and he averages 38.11. This list features eight fast bowlers alone (barring Mathews). There have been others who have come and gone too. In the spin department, they have had a few worries as there hasn’t been an effective back-up for Herath. Apart from Randiv and Ajantha Mendis, who feature in this list, Seekkuge Prasanna and Sachithra Senanayake have played one Test each.

Whenever Sri Lanka have ended on the victorious side in those five Tests, Herath has been their single biggest match-winner. Here is his record in those five Tests won by Sri Lanka since July 2010:

M

W

Ave

5WI

10WM

BBI

BBM

5

49

13.97

7

3

7/89

12/157

This is simply an amazing record. Herath has taken 49 wickets in five matches at an astounding average of 13.97, which includes seven fifers and three 10-wicket match hauls. Four of those wins have come on home soil, where he has flourished. But, even when Sri Lanka wrapped up a famous victory against South Africa at Durban in 2011, he took nine wickets to set-up the win.

Leading the world

Herath has very quietly gone about his business and the 35-year-old hasn’t been spoken of a lot when compared to some of his contemporaries. Here is a list of the leading wicket takers in Test cricket since July 23 2011:

Bowler

M

W

Ave

5WI

10WM

BBI

BBM

James Anderson

44

178

27.34

7

2

6/17

11/71

Graeme Swann

40

164

29.93

10

2

6/65

10/132

Stuart Broad

39

155

27.18

8

2

7/44

11/121

Saeed Ajmal

27

143

25.22

9

4

7/55

11/111

Dale Steyn

28

139

22.55

8

1

6/8

11/60

Rangana Herath

27

136

24.77

12

3

7/89

12/157

*stats updated until the end of Day one of second Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka

 

Herath’s average is second to only Dale Steyn in this list. He has also taken the most fifers when compared to the top five bowlers. But, if you look at the top five names, you would notice that they steal a lot of the attention in the lead-up to a series or a Test. Herath goes almost unnoticed although he has matched them at almost every step.

Sri Lanka can rely on him in Test cricket as he remains their go to man. Yet, they have to remember that he is 35 and may not have too many years of cricket ahead. Thus, it is imperative that Sri Lanka find a suitable back-up. Their fast-bowling department has been struggling for long and if Herath goes or is injured, they may really struggle even further.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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