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by Saksham Mishra & Cricket World Thursday 19 March 2020
At 39, Rangana Herath is running with all he's got. He has just attempted a reverse sweep which took the under edge and beat the keeper. Herath is struggling to complete the second run. He puts in a full length dive but Ben Foakes whips the sticks off in the nick of time. The third umpire rules him out. Sri Lanka are bowled out for 250. England win by 211 runs.
The wily spinners receives a standing ovation as he walks back to the dressing room for one final time. The Barmy Army shows their support too.
Minutes later, he is presented with a goodbye note and a shirt with all the players signing on it. He then walks out with his family at Galle, the place all began for Hearth. He's gifted with a coin to commemorate the achievement of becoming the first left-arm spinner to take 400 Test wickets.
Just like the dive Herath put in his last Test match, despite knowing well that even if he made it, there was little to gain with his team trailing by over 200 runs, Herath always had his work ethics in place. This is Herath in a nutshell. Giving it all he has.
How else do you keep yourself motivated when competing with the highest wicket-taker of all-time, Muttiah Muralitharan for a spot for the better part of your career.
After making his international debut in 1999, he was seen as a support act to Muralitharan for more than the first half of his career, though he shone individually time and again. The most memorable of them being his performance against Pakistan in 2009, when his 4 for 15 got Sri Lanka an improbable win, as Pakistan were bundled out for 117 chasing 168.
Most of the time during that period, though, he was the stock bowler whose accuracy was his USP. Herath piled up the pressure from one end by drying the runs as Murali was the one that ran away with the wickets.
It was after Murali's retirement that Herath became Sri Lanka's go-to bowler. His accuracy and subtle variations made him a success even at places where conditions did't always favour spin bowling. On Sri Lanka's tour to South Africa in 2011-12, Herath's match haul of 9 for 128 took the team to their first-ever Test win in South Africa.
"For me, Rangana Herath is the greatest cricketing role model that Sri Lanka has produced because of the challenges he has had to overcome, stepping out of Murali’s shadow into the light, really making that position his own and conquering the world," when Kumar Sangakkara, possibly the greatest cricketer to come out of Sri Lanka, says this about someone, he's ought to be special.
"I’ve known Rangana since he was 15 years old. I played school cricket against him and then we played at age-group level together for Sri Lanka. We’ve remained strong friends. One of the things that always impressed me is his innate ability just to get on with whatever his responsibilities are. He has never complained, never looked for excuses."
Before Herath retired in 2018, he was the last cricketer who made his Test debut in the 90s still playing at the top level. He say goodbye to cricket as the highest wicket-taker among left-arm bowlers in Test cricket with 433 scalps.
The understudy had become the master.
©Cricket World 2020