If Sri Lanka had not been blessed with a certain Muttiah Muralitharan, other spinner of his generation who would have worn the International cap far earlier than he eventually did, was Rangana Herath.
Born on 19 March 1978 in the ancient royal city of Kurunegala, Rangana Herath was a prominent face in Sri Lankan domestic cricket and eventually the national team, during his career.
The left-arm orthodox bowler and left-handed batsman, also played forHampshire,Kandurata Maroons,Moors Sports Club,Surrey,Tamil Union Cricket and Athletic Club, and Wayamba.
Herath also earned international achievements such as CEAT International Bowler of the Year 2015, Dialog Cricketer of the Year 2016, Dialog Test Bowler of the Year 2015 and 2016.
After showing his charisma in school level cricket, Herath started his professional career by playing for Kurunegala Youth Cricket Club and Moors Sports Club at the age of 20.
He also worked as a clerk in a bank to earn his livelihood but he never sidelined his first love, cricket.
He played a total of 261 first class matches and claimed 1042 wickets, having a best of 9/127.
His 68 5-wickets and 14 10-wicket hauls are evidence of his consistency in first-class cricket.
Herath broke into the national side in 1999 against Australia.
Herath, while playing in two Test matches in the series, deceived the visiting Australians with a delivery that darted the other way and took impressive 6 wickets in the series.
He made his ODI debut in 2004 against Zimbabwe, but failed to justify the standards set by him as in tests. He finished taking 2 wickets in a series of 3 matches.
Rise to glory
He got his moments to savour in the series against Pakistan and New Zealand, where he took 15 and 8 wickets in a series of 3 and 2 matches respectively.
His unrelenting accuracy, and his ability to subtly vary his pace and flight made him a potent force even overseas, where the tracks are believed to be more pacer-friendly.
On Sri Lanka's tour to South Africa in 2011-12, Herath's match haul of 9 for 127 helped the team to their first Test win in South Africa’s soil.
Next season he also had an impressive tour of Australia, bowling long spells, taking wickets and blocking runs when the fast bowlers struggled to exercise any sort of control. He was the leading wicket-taker in Tests in 2012, with 60 at an average of 23.61. He was conferred with the Cricketer of the year honour in SLC awards 2013.
A year later in 2014, Herath single-handedly spun Sri Lanka to the semi-final of the T20 Cup in Bangladesh with a mesmerising bowling spell, reading 3.3-2-3-5. With some classic flight and guile, he just toyed with the opponent batsmen in the tournament.
After being understudy to Muralitharan for close to a decade, there was pressure on him to put in brilliant performance in each and every opportunity thrown towards him.
It was not his performance that he was sent back in the wilderness after few test matches, but the availability of other talented players overshadowed him.
Herath’s bowling arsenal kept on sharpening and his records validate the claim.
In 2016, he became the oldest player and second Sri Lankan to take hat-trick in Test cricket.
The only other Sri Lankan to achieve the feat before Rangana Herath, was Nuwan Zoysa. He was honoured as ‘Test Bowler of the year’ in Dialog Cricket Award in 2016.
After regular captain Angelo Mathews pulled out of Zimbabwe tour in 2016 due to an injury and Dinesh Chandimal too made himself unavailable, Herath was handed over the captaincy of the Test side, making him the oldest ever Sri Lanka captain since Somachandra de Silva in 1983.
Herath revealed his intentions to retire from ODIs and T20Is after 2016 ICC T20 World Cup but continue to play the longer format of game.
Sri Lanka exited from the World T20 in the first round and Herath announced his retirement on 17 April 2016.
Until retirement, Herath played 71 ODIs, took 74 wickets with the average of 31.91. He played 17 T20Is, where he took 18 wickets with the best bowling figures of 5 for 3 against New Zealand in 2014 World T20I.