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Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are doing a fantastic job in one-day cricket for India: Rangana Herath

In this candid interview with Hindustan Times, Herath speaks about his intentions to concentrate on his banking career, why he opted to retire when the management had given them the green-light to pick and choose games, regrets of not winning a Test match in India and much more.

cricket Updated: Nov 06, 2018 09:17 IST
Rex Clementine
Rex Clementine
Hindustan Times
india vs west indies,rangana herath,kuldeep yadav
File image of Yuzvendra Chahal (left) and Kuldeep Yadav.(AFP)

The retirement of veteran spinner Rangana Herath later this week will end Test cricket’s link to the 20th century as he is the last active player to make his debut in 1990s. The curtain will come down at his beloved Galle International Stadium. Galle is a special place for Herath. It was here he made his debut in 1999. Then 10 years later, he made a memorable comeback to the team against Pakistan. It was also in Galle the left-arm spinner took a hat-trick against Australia in 2016 and helped Sri Lanka to their last win against India bowling them out for 112 when they were chasing 176 in 2015. A member of the exclusive 400-Test wicket club, if Herath adds five more wickets in his last Test to his tally of 430, he will retire as world’s seventh highest wicket-taker.

Over his 19 year career, Herath has served nine Test captains. He started off when the team was a strong force and has seen them struggle in recent times. He himself had a brief spell as skipper and has earned the admiration of both colleagues and opponents. In this candid interview with Hindustan Times, Herath speaks about his intentions to concentrate on his banking career, why he opted to retire when the management had given them the green-light to pick and choose games, regrets of not winning a Test match in India and much more. Here are the excerpts.

HT: Assuming the Galle Test was the second Test of the series would you have played two Tests against England?

Herath: It would have all depended on my fitness. Honestly, it would not have mattered whether it was Colombo or Galle. Fitness was the key and I would have made a call looking at how I felt.

HT: But you need only one more wicket to complete 100 Test wickets in Galle. Only James Anderson (Lord’s) and Muttiah Muralitharan (Asgiriya and SSC) have taken 100 wickets or more in a single venue.

Herath: Great if I can get it. Obviously Galle has been a special place for me for so many reasons. A lot of good things have happened there. I salute everyone who made it possible. My colleagues, coaching staff and everyone.

HT: You have played a key role in some of Sri Lanka’s famous wins. What do you cherish most?

Herath: Winning the World T20 in 2014. I have played two World Cups (2011, 2015) and three World T20s (2010, 2012, 2014). We have reached finals on a few occasions but the 2014 win was special. I also cherish winning a Test series in England for the first time in 2014. Everyone talks about my bowling, but not about my batting. Angelo and I shared a 149-run stand for the eighth wicket and that turned the game in our favour. Great memories. Then I was Man of the Match when we won a Test match for the first time in South Africa in Durban. In Mahela Jayawardene’s last Test match, I took 14 wickets against Pakistan. That is also special. Beating Australia 3-0 was superb. I will also remember how we defended 176 against a strong Indian batting unit in 2015. I took seven wickets in the second innings.

HT: Any regrets?

Herath: Not winning in India. I have been part of the side when we won all over the world, but not winning in India was a bitter pill to swallow. We had a good chance in Ahmedabad in 2009. We took a massive first innings lead of 350 runs. But Sachin Tendulkar and Gautam Gambhir scored hundreds in the second innings and saved the game. That’s an opportunity missed I feel. Should have won that.

HT: In recent times, India have enjoyed the upper hand against you across all three formats. Their spinners are having a massive impact on the game.

Herath: They are having a huge impact. I like Ashwin. He is a fantastic bowler. He has so much variation and control. He is a smart bowler. I am really impressed with Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja. I could not believe when Jadeja was initially dropped from India’s ODI side. But the two wrist spinners have done really well in white ball cricket. They have excellent control and bowl to superb lengths consistently. Lakshan Sandakan can learn a lot from the two of them. The control they have is amazing. It is important to have wicket taking options in limited overs cricket. Kuldeep and Chahal are doing a fantastic job in one-day cricket for India.

HT: Where do you rate Ravindra Jadeja among left-arm orthodox spinners?

Herath: He has a smooth action. Good arm speed, pace and the ability to turn. Batsmen have to take a risk if they have to step out and play him. He is close to take 200 Test wickets and has only played 30-odd Test matches. The problem is when India play away from home, his opportunities are less. In modern era, Jadeja is the best left-arm spinner in the world.

HT: Not so long ago we were discussing the prospect of perhaps you playing 100 Test matches. Captain Dinesh Chandimal recently said that he wanted you to play for five more years. What prompted you to quit now?

Herath: It would have been nice to play 100 Tests. Only a few guys have done that. But my fitness is not great. Both my knees have been operated. I have started getting a severe back pain after I play a Test match. I am also 40. Galle would be my 93rd Test and to play seven more games it would have taken another 18 months. Too tough on the body.

HT: Is fitness the only reason for you to quit or you see the emergence of some young spinners?

Herath: This is the only series for us at home until next August. After the England series we will be touring New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. Mostly we are away from home. For the younger guys to play these next two Tests will boost their confidence before they go on these tours.

HT: Do you see potential in the spinners in the current side?

Herath: They have obviously got skill and talent. They may have a few technical glitches here and there. When you play games only you feel comfortable and gain confidence. Players improve with opportunities. They have to lose the fear and get comfortable with situations.

HT: You recently completed Sri Lanka Cricket’s Level 2 Coaching Certificate. Is that an indication that you will be taking up coaching?

Herath: I have been a banker for close to 20 years now. I work for Sampath Bank. I want to concentrate on my banking career. I hope I have a role to play with the bank. After this Test match, I will speak to the bank management and make a call. I am currently working as Business Promotions Manager and probably I will do something away from cricket.

HT: How has the team improved since the arrival of Chandika Hathurusingha?

Herath: I have worked a lot with Hatu. I played under him for Moors SC in 1999 when he was captain-cum-coach. His specialty is that he can identify talent and then make most of it. He can fine tune a player and bring the best out of someone. He is a brilliant coach. He has got excellent communications skills. He is an aggressive coach and that’s his style.

HT: The team has struggled in white ball cricket in the last 24 months. How can they come out of that slump?

Herath: Winning and losing doesn’t mean that we have no plans. The head coach has some very good plans for the World Cup. Don’t forget that we are playing the World Cup in England. Where to train, how to train, how to handle match situations. Hatu has got plans for all of that. We have the talent. We have done well in England on recent tours. I believe we will bounce back by the time the World Cup comes.

HT: Australia and South Africa struggled to compete in Sri Lanka during recent tours. Can the team dominate England as well?

Herath: I believe so. We had a good home series against Australia and South Africa. In cricket confidence is a big thing. Spinners will play a big role I feel. We have very good options to bank on. We have the advantage over England.

HT: Talking about your comeback in 2009, you were playing league cricket in England and you didn’t have a contract with SLC. You were suddenly called up 48 hours before the Test match against Pakistan when Muttiah Muralitharan was injured. At that point you had gone off the radar as other spinners like Ajantha Mendis and Suraj Randiv had emerged. How did you keep yourself motivated?

Herath: I believed that if I were good enough to play Test cricket at the age of 21, I have some skill. For me to get picked at the early age of 21 was because I had potential. Getting dropped is not easy. But that allowed me to work on my game. I gained much experience at the time when I was out of the side than during the period from 2009 onwards when I was part of the side. When you get dropped your focus is more to make a comeback. The time in the wilderness from 2000 to 2009 made me tougher.

HT: After you had established yourself in the side, many were surprised when you were axed for the Kandy Test against Pakistan in 2015 where Sri Lanka played four seamers.

Herath: You have to be realistic. I guess they played the best combination for that game. No one owns a place in the side. Everybody is equal. When you play this game, you should have fewer regrets.

(The writer is a senior Sri Lankan sports journalist)

First Published: Nov 06, 2018 09:13 IST