Stats: Examining why Sri Lanka will struggle to replace Rangana Herath
Herath has contributed to the vast majority of Sri Lanka's recent Test victories.
Rangana Herath has been the unsung hero for Sri Lanka over the years in Test cricket. The legendary cricketer is the only left-arm spinner to pick up more than 400 wickets in the premier format of the game. In recent times, no bowler has exemplified the saying, 'Age is just a number'.
With the iconic spinner in the final phase of his stellar career, let us take a look at what makes this man special for Sri Lanka and why they will find it difficult to replace him when he eventually retires from the game.
A conundrum for opposition batsmen
With batsmen dominating these days, it becomes rare for a bowler to enter the limelight. Sri Lanka have a tradition of producing mystery spinners. However, Herath does not have any semblance of mystery in his bowling. The left-armer's orthodox style of bowling makes him special and his record over the last few years is phenomenal.
Herath averages above 30 only against three opponents - South Africa, England and India. His economy rate is more than three only against India. These numbers tell you the story; he has consistently piled on pressure against varied opponents by operating in an accurate manner. The veteran spinner is extremely difficult to get away on the vast majority of occasions.
Herath's performances against all teams
65 percent of Herath's wickets have come on home soil. His record in Sri Lanka includes 25 of the 33 five-wicket hauls that he has picked in his career thus far. If Herath delivers, Sri Lanka's chances of winning increases manifold. Going by the numbers, Herath averages 18.9 in matches won when compared to his average of 43.7 in the games that Sri Lanka have lost.
He delivers a breakthrough in every 44 balls in matches won. However, in lost matches, his strike-rate shoots up to 83. Herath is also the kind of a bowler who can be unplayable as the match progresses. He is at his best when defending targets in the fourth innings of a Test match.
Innings-wise performance of Herath
After the retirement of Sri Lanka's most successful and celebrated cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan, Rangana Herath took over the mantle and seamlessly oversaw the transition phase in the team's spin department. With the stalwart not too far from hitting 40, Sri Lanka need to find an ideal replacement to fill the massive void left by the left-arm spinner.
Wickets picked by spinners since January 2012
Even though the Asian heavyweights unsurprisingly rule the charts, one has to discern the impact created by Herath. He has contributed to 286 of the 487 wickets picked by Sri Lanka during the same period. Were it not for his performances, Sri Lanka would have really struggled to win matches even within the comforts of home conditions.
The post-Herath era
Every top team have at least one quality spinner in their ranks. While India's recent dominance has largely come on the back of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, Pakistan's heavy reliance on Yasir Shah is well-documented. Aside from his contributions with the bat, Moeen Ali has also won numerous games with his off-spin.
Australia's recent improved showing in the subcontinent has been due to Nathan Lyon's class. Devendra Bishoo continues to be the spin mainstay of the West Indies lineup. If South Africa have Keshav Maharaj, New Zealand have also managed to unearth promising talents in Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.
Extra Cover: Under the SKanner - Rangana Herath
Similarly, Sri Lanka will be hoping that someone rises to the occasion and becomes ready to carry the baton from Herath. The current generation of spinners, who can make it count for Sri Lankan, include Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Tharindu Kaushal and Akila Danajaya.
However, apart from Dilruwan, the others are relatively inexperienced. The selectors should offer a longer run for all of them to showcase their talent and step into the shoes of Herath.