Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13

Herath's 'modesty' at odds with stats

Rangana Herath, the leading wicket-taker for 2012, has not yet mastered self-belief. If his numbers are anything to go by, it is time he began counting himself among the world's best

Andrew Fernando

December 22, 2012

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Rangana Herath continued his excellent run in Galle, Sri Lanka v New Zealand, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day, November 19, 2012
Despite having surpassed Graeme Swann's 2012 haul with a five-for in Hobart, Herath named Swann the premiere spin bowler in the world © Associated Press
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Among the current Test crop, Rangana Herath is perhaps cricket's least likely athlete. Barely 5'7" with a physique better befitting a shopkeeper, at a glance, or at first meeting, no one would guess he was 2012's most successful bowler.

He has piled up 60 wickets at 22.03 this year, and with only one more Test to play before year's end, he will remain atop the list. His name may barely register in a conversation about the best bowlers in operation, but he will not be irked by that. It is not that Herath takes no pleasure in personal achievements; he knows his international tally by heart, and has a firm eye on the Test bowler's rankings, where he is fourth. But he is aware of his own limitations - sometimes to a fault.

Despite having surpassed Graeme Swann's 2012 haul with a second-innings five-for on a barely helpful Hobart surface, Herath named Swann the premiere spin bowler in the world in the lead-up to the Boxing Day Test, citing Swann's consistency over the past two seasons. The numbers do not bear Herath's modesty out.

It is almost natural to wish to apply a caveat to the volume of Herath's recent riches, given his seemingly pedestrian method. He does not impart a great deal of spin on the ball, and he lacks Swann's height or Saeed Ajmal's trickery. He is said to be the father of the carrom ball, but in that, he is like Buddy Holly or Nikola Tesla - the man whose genius inspired a swathe of better presented, more successful imitators. He removed David Warner with that ball in Hobart, but even Herath does not seem taken with the delivery, especially in Tests, where it is often out of sight. As such, it is difficult to reconcile Herath's harvest with the apparent skill on display, and the most obvious criticism to hurl is that his plunder has been reaped on a buffet of turning home tracks.

Though that may be true, the others high-up on the wicket-taker's list have also played on pitches that suit their bowling. Swann has played 14 Tests to Herath's nine, and has also bowled in two more Tests in Asia than Herath. Three matches were in the UAE, where Ajmal and Abdur Rehman so brutally laid bare England's susceptibility to spin. He played twice in Sri Lanka, before taking on West Indies and South Africa at home. And the four Tests in India to finish the year were largely on tracks even more tailored to suit spin than is normal in the subcontinent.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad are also in this year's top five, but they have played more Tests and have significantly higher averages, and although Vernon Philander has also only played nine matches, New Zealand, England and Australia are hardly daunting destinations for bowlers of his ilk. Only Saeed Ajmal, who has played six Tests, all in Asia - and whose haul in the three-match series against Sri Lanka was identical to Herath's - can hope to claim parity with the left-arm spinner on statistical grounds. It is also worth noting that in three fewer Tests, Ajmal is 21 wickets shy of Herath's tally.

Herath may not lack in awareness of his own game, which he has built upon the pillars of flight, dip and subtlety. He has filtered those qualities almost to a formula that spin bowling coaches might buy by the bottle, to gift to a burgeoning generation of youngsters more occupied with the mystery and variation that is valued in Twenty20 cricket. But Herath has not yet mastered self-belief, and if his numbers are anything to go by, it is time he began counting himself among the world's best.

In his first match in Australia, he has already achieved what Muttiah Muralitharan could not in five attempts; a five-wicket haul. Yet in the first innings in Hobart, Herath's bowling was defined by its restraint. There was little turn on offer, but perhaps such rigid service to economy and accuracy does not befit Sri Lanka's primary match-winner. He prefers to have men on the fence throughout his spells as well, but he has been effective across all formats when batsmen have tried to attack him, and past evidence suggests he will become even more of a threat if batsmen are tempted to hit him aerially. For now, though, he remains unambitious when the pitch is still ill-suited for spin.

"Whatever the situation, you have to react to it," Herath said. "In Australia in the first day and second day, you need to bowl a bit tight and help others. Especially the fast bowlers - not like in Sri Lanka. That's how wickets behave here. When I got some assistance in the second innings, I got five wickets. There's something different in the first and second innings."

In the four matches Sri Lanka have won since Murali's retirement, Herath has thrice delivered the game's most telling contribution. During the recent series against New Zealand, the captain Mahela Jayawardene nominated Herath the second-best Sri Lankan bowler he has encountered in all his years in the game. With 41 wickets in 2011 as well, Herath has made more breakthroughs than any other bowler in the last two years. At the MCG, if he can play like the bowler who owns that record, perhaps a pace attack lacking penetration will have less to do, and Sri Lanka could be that much closer to that maiden Australian win.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent

RSS Feeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by TYJAY on (December 25, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

he must always attack. Good Luck....

Posted by nazeeem on (December 25, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

Dear Writer, What do you mean by "shopkeeper" ? Whom are you demeaning ? The shopkeepr or this cricket star? Shopkeeper is not a lesser leveled citizen or this cricketer ! Please filter your article before publishing.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2012, 21:02 GMT)

He has improved immensely after the retirement of Murali, he was always a tight bowler but now has become a wicket taking bowler. well done. i htink he's number 2 in the rankings. not 4

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 24, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

@Chris_P, thanks for clarifying. Lets hope the Boxing Day test match will be exciting.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 24, 2012, 7:51 GMT)

@Sinhaya, you're right, the MCG was it as it was my first visit there, I saw the Kiwis at the Gabba. I do know Ajmal performed miserably & was totally uninterested in trying to overcome the unresponsive wicket, ergo my doubts about any spin bowler doing well there. The SCG, while somewhat helpful isn't anything like the spinning pitch of 15 years ago. I get to quite a few shield games there & the spinners don't really run through sides like they used to. Really, you need a quality fast bowler to lead your attack much like Steyn did for the Boks.

Posted by PKosgoda on (December 24, 2012, 0:24 GMT)

Most fans talk only about the henchmen that Jokers have always picked (irrespective their erratic performances both at International & Domestic level though promising quality players have come out of schools yearly ) because they take no effort to find the truly talented players who've maintained consistency from their junior level up to now (Higher level). Sometimes these greedy henchmen who have no concern for future of SLan Cricket were included in the Team at times they were suffering from severe injuries (split webbing, broken fingers). Some veterans can be seen move around the field like wounded soldiers. This Cricketer basically a 5th-day bowler that can take wickets only when the batter is in the attacking mood has caused SL's failure to win both the home-series against ENG&NZ since his inability to dislodge quality batters. If the J&Ps can't drop this henchmen hailed by some should be partnered by either Ajantha, Sachithra, MalindaP, Bandara, Dulanjana Mendis.

Posted by Prabhash1985 on (December 23, 2012, 17:35 GMT)

No man is born perfect. It's experience that carves the talent. Herath doesn't boast, he is a humble man. He is a genuine spinner.

Posted by charithdasun on (December 23, 2012, 5:48 GMT)

Herath is a fine bowler.He not in the murali's class.But he has done real good services for SL.To bowl srilanka in to a win in second test match in south africa last december.Probably be his best achievement.If SriLankan batsman can give him some runs maybe he wil able to be deliver in australia as well.

Posted by Nishamili on (December 23, 2012, 5:39 GMT)

Well done!! Ranga... Try a few more wickets at the 2nd test against Australia.

Posted by Gloryof96 on (December 23, 2012, 4:26 GMT)

All pitches will be responsive for spin on 4th/5th day at the worst but some pitches in the subcontinent will be responsive from ball 1!

Aus is always hard to beat in Aus and if they are to be beaten, that team has to be great but make no mistake Aus will not bend down in 2 and serve u the match on a silver platter!!

@gstring7 (lol) If Herath is over rated ....... geees, wonder how over rated are some of his countrymen playing the game!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

"@wellrounded87: Cricket began in England on greentops that slowly deteriorate into turners as a test progress" - while this is correct - that's not how it "SHOULD" be as you insist. Like any international game it has evolved as it SHOULD have. Had most cricket folks had similar high-nosed predilections about how the game should be, we'd still be playing amateurs vs professionals debate, and MCC handbook would have ruled the leg-glance illegal. (which btw would mean England would neither have the services of a certain South African batsman as their greatest import, nor his signature 'switch-hit' .. oops!). 'Turners' are as much a test of cricketing skills as green-tops. For all those complaining about Herath being overrated, get a life! Everyone doesn't become a Warne or Murali. His talents might not as obvious as Ajmal or Swann but he's a fine bowler, par with the best spinners in world cricket today. PS: Adelaide has 'always' been the flattest deck in AUS. #getyourfactsright.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 23, 2012, 3:57 GMT)

@Chris_P, but hang on, I know SCG traditionally favored spin and later drifted away around 2005 but again as per the recent domestic stats, it has favored spin yet again right? Anyway, I know that it was Pakistan the last Sub continent team to beat Australia at the SCG and that dates back to late 1995. So that is a worry for us as since 1995 November, only England has beaten Australia at the SCG (2003 and 2010). I think MCG may be our better bet for an upset. I still say the tests will be 2-0 Australia.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 23, 2012, 3:26 GMT)

@Chris_P, I also want to wish NSW the very best as a Sri Lankan since our best coach has now got the NSW coaching job. I saw your comment here http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/story/597716.html and see my reply too. It would be great if Chandika Hathurusingha (CH) can help NSW win a domestic trophy sooner. Hopefully if he helps that happen, may be he might end up becoming Australia's coach one fine day (probably five years), or I may be dreaming too much haha. I am sad we are unable to utlize our own resources and NSW has cashed in. Great strategy!

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 23, 2012, 3:19 GMT)

@Chris_P, are you 100% sure it was the Gabba? I recall Pakistan's last tour of Australia, 3 years ago where they played in Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart. Or are you referring to an ODI where Ajmal played at the Gabba? Looking at Ajmal's 23 tests so far to date, he has not played a single test at Gabba. If you can clarify what you meant about Gabba, that would be great. I wish if we can use Chandika Hathurusingha to get a wide insight of the SCG pitch, but his contract with NSW will stop him from doing so I feel.

Posted by KosalaDeSilva on (December 23, 2012, 2:52 GMT)

Herath is a great bowler... But every one forget there is a bowler called Chaminda Vass, who took most wickets on pitches made for murali. well may be Mahela know him?

Posted by Manojkra on (December 23, 2012, 2:27 GMT)

Herath is probably the best after great Mutthiah Muralitharan. The people who wanted to let down Murali want to let down Herath as well. But at the end, Murali became" THE GREATEST". Herath will follow him. Good luck HERA !

Posted by Prem2248 on (December 23, 2012, 0:27 GMT)

This 5th day-bowler has been in every National Team (either 1st or 2nd XI since 1999) without any notable performances in the domestic scene (the same applies for Welegedara as well). Any young left arm leggie who can spin more & extract bounce off the pitch will do better than him. Why he is preferred over Ajantha & Sachithra is a mystery to many SLan fans.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 23:40 GMT)

"In his first match in Australia, he has already achieved what Muttiah Muralitharan could not in five attempts; a five-wicket haul."..says a lot.. well it all says how murali was treated in early life.. it was not good place of visit to him at all by the env set by ausies. if not we we could win so early in Australia. rangana herath is having the best days of life. well if he will balls in next two heart out it will rewrite the story surely. but all batsman have the responsibility of score par to win. lets wait and see. all the best

Posted by big_al_81 on (December 22, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

I'm a bit baffled by this article suggesting Swann has somehow had an easier ride. He bowled as well as Herath in Herath's home country - average 22. He's also done it in far more places than Herath this year. In fact Swann had a hard time at home this year, when England were probably at their worst. He's a better bowler and so is Ajmal but Herath's doing really well and is worthy of his place in the current top 10, but he's never going to be a career match for Swann and although it's too early to say for Ajmal who is unproven, I suspect he's more threatening on more surfaces.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 22, 2012, 21:46 GMT)

@Sinhaya. I think you'll find it was the Gabba Ajmal had such a dismal match ( I saw him in action was very unimpressed with his attitude to the unresponsive pitch at the time, although a great bowler when the wicket is helping him). But, agree that the MCG has never been a great help to spin & Sydney has changed from the spinner's pitch it had has been for 20 odd years & is in some form of transition. While a very good bowler, I can't really see Herath running through sides down here (Warne has been the only spinner who has done so for the past 50 years). @wellrounded87. Sydney, at once stage used to turn as much as any sub continent pitch, at one stage, NSW used to play 3 spinners, but sadly, not now. But for the Lankan fans, in Herath you have a pretty decent competitive bowler, kudos for his efforts in 2012. For others, I wouldn't bother wasting time responding to gsingh7 who has NO idea about cricket.

Posted by wellrounded87 on (December 22, 2012, 20:05 GMT)

I don't know what you people are on about with the pitches. Adelaide did a lot for spinners as much as it always has Sydney and Melbourne will be rather turn friendly as the test goes on. It will never turn like the subcontinent because of the location. And nor should they. The subcontinent doesn't own cricket despite the BCCI's best efforts to swallow it. Cricket began in england on greentops that slowly deteriorate into turners as a test progress. This is the way it should be, stop complaining like preteen girls

Posted by Ray24 on (December 22, 2012, 19:35 GMT)

@gsingh - Herath is over rated. Even Yuvraj can bowl better, like he did tonight in the T-20. He took 3 wickets, which Herath couldn't. True, but Herath didn't play tonight. The point of the above absurdity presented by me is to prove that Indians are sore losers. They are at the present position just because of the money they have and hence the power they exercise over all decision making, including umpires. Believe me, Indians only have good statistics, that's it. Very few players they have produced are class, only Kapil, Gavaskar, Dravid can stand out. Please don't say Sachin, the statsman.

Posted by chrisriemers on (December 22, 2012, 19:12 GMT)

gsingh7 i think you have been watching some other form of cricket recently. just don't thrash players when you cannot even HOLD the cricket ball in a proper way. every cricketer is unique in his own way. that's why we watch this wonderful game.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 18:45 GMT)

Irrespective of whatever else, Herath certainly doesn't lack in spirit, whether bowling, fielding or batting.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 18:34 GMT)

@gsingh7 really herath being overrated. you got to be kidding. herath is underrated. not overrated like jadeja or ashwin.

Posted by zan_69 on (December 22, 2012, 18:21 GMT)

Whoever said HERATH overrated spinner don't know the game of cricket. also i see the persons jealously over hearth.NO wonder india lost against England.they used more than 6 spinners and no one able to scare Englishmen's.Shame on you INDIA.lol

Posted by bddhika_harindat on (December 22, 2012, 17:57 GMT)

Some Aussie fans comment about Austrlian pitches not being spin friendly anymore. Never mind, we should not expect these picthes to have lot of turn, because Aussies don't have such classy spinners, that's the reality. But If Ragana Hearth can take wickets same like what he has done in the last two years regardless of the help from the pitch, then he's a true master. Why do western world cricket fans scare when an asian fellow is rising up the ranks??? Be honestl,. these Aussie and English people are jealousy about his true ability and we know Indian people always hate Srilankan cricket, so we don't need Indian comments about Rangana's performance.

Let's wait and see how, SL will do in Melbourne.

Posted by matchfixerpknn on (December 22, 2012, 17:51 GMT)

@gsingh7, Pakistan are 1 level below India? Is that why we managed to beat England 3-0 in a neutral venue and you all managed to beat England only once in your home conditions and crowds? Pakistan has beaten India more times in tests and ODIs. Check the stats kindly. India simply could not beat England B team today in Mumbai. Such is the low level to which Indian cricket has sunk into.

Posted by Huggakhan on (December 22, 2012, 17:35 GMT)

@gsingh7: pakistan are one level below india? Really? What says? The fact that you guys got 8-0 thumping from Aus and England, when Pakistan still managed a relatively respectable 2-4 against the same oppositions? Or the fact that England trounced you AT HOME 2-1 while Pak did the complete opposite, drubbing them 3-0 against the exact same team... Please, the indian attack is mediocre to say the least. When you have unglamourized and honest performers like Ajmal, Rehman, Junaid Khan and Gul, then maybe one day you can rightfully say you guys are better. For what its worth, even the rankings reflect this fact.

Posted by Sachit1979 on (December 22, 2012, 17:27 GMT)

Rangana Herath is one of the survivors from extincting breed of classy spinners in International Cricket world today. There are not many left. It was just his misfortune that early days of his career were overshadowed by grand performances of master Muralitharan. But the lad still gets his chance and proves the world what he is. Great job Rangana. I hope he keeps the same form and penetration for another 3-4 years and plays for Lanka.

Posted by Prabhash1985 on (December 22, 2012, 17:24 GMT)

Herath is a very humble man. He never behaves as if he is a great player, but he really is. Skillswise, the monster is growing day by day, performing anywhere. Herath didn't have enough opportunities because of Murali, and when Murali retire, he specifically mentioned about Herath. It shows that even Murali firmly believed Herath will be his replacement. Rather than trying to play tricks, I wish Sri Lankan youngsters try to spin the ball more. It's good that they try tricks. But, a genuine spinner is needed with more spin. Murali is unique, but at least we need a young Herath for next decade.

Posted by Herath-UK on (December 22, 2012, 17:23 GMT)

Glad my namesake is doing so wonderfully well;hope he will bring the maiden win in Australia as he did in SA. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by priceless1 on (December 22, 2012, 16:16 GMT)

@gsingh7 Herats took 3,2,3,0 ( Just one over),3,4 wkts at an average Econ rate of 2.1 during the last Pakistan series , you call that doing poorly? he is a one who always does his job quietly ,he is certainly not an over rated or over paid player like many in the Indian team

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 15:01 GMT)

Let's face it, the Aussie pitches are not going to turn at all against subcontinent opponents. Now that Warne/McGill has gone pitches in Australia will never turn, which sucks for Herath because he is too short to get proper flight and bounce that is required to get wickets in Aus. Because Herath is a match winner, the Australians will ensure no pitch suits him, and will instead tailor make them for Siddle and the pacemen. I don't see how this rigged pitch preparation is any better than what Dhoni is doing in India. We will never see a turning track in Sydney again...

Posted by gsingh7 on (December 22, 2012, 14:07 GMT)

herath is overrated spinner , last time he played india , he was thrashed all round park, also he did poorly against pak team who are 1 level below india, hope that aus play him well as he cant spin big

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 13:47 GMT)

good read PUND.I believe Herath just need to add some more variety or way of taking wickets bit too early.Specially in first 2 days of a test match.He is just a little below par in that.But certainly he can cover up for that.But it is better if he develop on that area as well.So,then the batsmen will have no chance.

Posted by Balumekka on (December 22, 2012, 13:24 GMT)

Herath is currently the most underrated bowler in international cricket. Forget about the record of most number of test wickets in 2012, taking 60 wickets at 22.03 in nine matches is a figure even Warne or Murali would have been proud of. His away performances that include SA last year and in Australia this season kept Sri Lankans competitive in away matches. Most important thing is he is aware of his limitations and being humble all the time.

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 13:23 GMT)

Herath please save your energy to 3 test in sydney . the best turning wicket in AUS as i believe . You are the one whos gonna get the man of the match trophy . If sl play well to draw the 2 test, definitely I will fly to see you there .

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 13:05 GMT)

Rangana Herath + Attacking Captain = Win for SL.. but mahela is too defensive (recently).. Hope Mahela will be the MAHELA that we used to knw..

Posted by   on (December 22, 2012, 12:58 GMT)

Weldone Herath! He will do well and he is the best spinner in the world!

Posted by SamRoy on (December 22, 2012, 12:50 GMT)

I thought Herath was 5'5". Him and Van Wyk look similar in height. Sehwag and Warner who are both 5'7" look significantly taller.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 22, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

I dont think MCG will be of much help for Herath. I recall very well how Ajmal had a forgetful test match at the MCG 3 years ago. But with Herath doing well in Hobart, I feel MCG might favor spin than Hobart. This time last year at the Kingsmead, Herath had a field day cos it was virtually like Galle. Herath might have an impact if at all from late day 4 onwards. Herath simply does not bowl the carrom ball. Going by his average outside home, it is mediocre. Herath has been instrumental in our 4 test wins since Murali retired, but he alone cant win us test matches. Michael Clarke and Hussey know to tackle Herath, but certainly not Watson and the rest of the Aussie batsmen.

Posted by No1fan on (December 22, 2012, 12:00 GMT)

If Herath played under an attacking captain like Arjuna Ranatunga, then he would have definitely had more self belief. Mahela J has been a very defensive and timid captain in his second go at the job - and this has hindered Herath. In Hobart, Herath was brought on far too late in Aus 2nd innings in Day 4. It's almost like Mahela J needs to ensure his opponents are getting a minimum number of runs in each session by leaving all those gaps with his deep set fields for Herath.

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