Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 January 2, 2013

Herath: An underappreciated hero

Not enough comic books have superheroes who are old, short, pudgy with a bad marine haircut, soft round face and pants slightly too high on the waist
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Not enough comic books have superheroes who are old, short, pudgy with a bad marine haircut, soft round face and pants slightly too high on the waist. But they should. And if they did, they could easily use Rangana Herath as their inspiration even though bowling slow left-arm is not an obvious heroic endeavour.

From a distance Herath probably looks more like a dad watching his kid play than 2012's leading Test wicket-taker. Perhaps it's even that that helps him. It's hard to fear a man when he looks like he should be wearing a Cosby sweater and driving a comfortable second-hand station-wagon.

Sixty wickets from ten matches should have people writing about you as a golden god, I mean seven five-wicket hauls in one year, wow, they should be building statues and changing the pictures on the money in Sri Lanka.

Instead Herath's heroics are seen mostly as a bowler dominating at home. Fifty-four wickets in his seven Tests in Sri Lanka. Yet, Michael Clarke didn't make a hundred away from home this year either. And while his exploits were far grander than Herath's, Clarke has been hyped since he was a teen, Herath has played Tests since 1999 without anyone taking much notice.

Much of that time Herath was the back-up to Murali, a decent job, but one with limited exposure. Murali was machinelike, and often two spinners at once, so there was often little need for Herath.

Now that he is almost the entire bowling attack for Sri Lanka, he essentially is Murali. But he's different as well.

Murali wore batsmen down with spin, bounce and relentlessness, Herath is a proper artist. His spell at the MCG to Clarke and Watson was as good and fruitless a spell a finger spinner can have in Australia.

At times it was like he had Shane Watson's powerful leg on a string, and would move it exactly where he needed it to cause the most amount of anxiousness to Watson. Each floaty ball was a grenade that seemingly gave Watson nightmares as it bounced near him. In real life, Watson would use Herath as a stress ball.

Even Clarke, who is in the sort of form that leads Charlton Heston to play you in a movie, was put through the works with Herath's fielding positions. Like a serial killer with a moral to teach, Herath put his on-side field together in a way that would cause Clarke the absolute-most damage mentally. From the outside it looked like a bowler that would make most club cricketers believe they could survive an over of Test Cricket bowling to the world's form batsman. But if you watched it closely Herath had found a weakness in Clarke, and was willing to wait all day for him to slip up.

Every ball Herath delivers is linked to another one, it's not a delivery, it's part of an overall plan. This game within a game with Clarke seems to be building with every innings. The more accumulated wisdom he gets, the harder it is for Clarke to handle him. Herath is a throwback to the old kind of spinners; sure he has a ball that goes the other way, but his talent isn't in magical balls or stunning deliveries, it's in hours of hard work and the incredibly clever brain of a master spinner.

It looks easy from afar, and it's not as sexy as a 150k yorker, but the fact that someone like Herath is not only in Test cricket, but can play it at this level, shows the amazing talent he has in his extremely mortal frame.

Herath had Watson and Clarke dropped. Not even including the time he should have had Clarke stumped if not for a flick of Clarke's lucky pad. Those two wickets could have changed the entire Test for Sri Lanka, perhaps even the series with Herath having an SCG Test strip next.

Instead Herath's masterful display ended with him losing the Test, the series, and no wickets the last time he bowled in 2012. His only victory was a catch that seemed mostly accidental and all the more awesome because it was him who took it.

Herath didn't become the leading Test wicket-taker in 2012 because of dodgy local tracks. He did it based on a lifetime of spinner's knowledge, battle-weary fingers and the art of subtle deception. The man works hard for every wicket he gets, and does it all without the gift of height or general athletic prowess.

In 2012 Herath was a hero. Even his final deed of 0-95 was heroic, even if it was in vain.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • peiris on January 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Sri Lankan selectors should seriously consider HERATH to be the next CAPTAIN as he is the only player with experience who could be sure of a place in the side. He is a thinker a man with a brain if you know what I mean.

  • CricketPissek on January 4, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    @Dean Frenkel - I do see your point. However, Herath has been so under appreciated over the past 13-14 years, that even this recent surge in praise by commentators doesn't quite do it. He may be only averaging 50 in the current Aus series, but he has had to many chances dropped off him! The SL batting, support bowling, and fielding have all let him down really. It's one of the reasons Murali did so badly in Australia too. Herath has had NO support, but he is wonderful to watch. If he was Indian, we would hear no end about how he is the reincarnation of Bishen Singh Bedi or something! Anyway, I don't think Herath cares whether he is unsung or sung about. He'll carry on doing his hard work and hope for a good tally by the time he retires.

  • ygkd on January 3, 2013, 19:09 GMT

    This Sri Lankan tour Down Under has not been a success, but then the warm-up opportunity was a less-than-impressive 3-dayer and there are always the over-riding problems back in SL to throw things into turmoil. However, despite all of this, Rangana Herath, along with quite a few of his team-mates, has shown himself to be a decent cricketer and, quite probably, a decent, humble human being as well. I wish him well.

  • Wardenlo70 on January 3, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    Thank you Mr. Kimber for appreciating our unsung hero Rangana Herath. I wouldn't say he is the best spinner that the world of cricket has today but I would say he is amongst the best in the world instead. However, sadly, we will not witness this working class spinner in 2013 because we have some stupid ODI's or T20's or SLPL nonsense and not tests. SLC does not consider him the shorter version stuff so he will be stuck in limbo during 2013 which is a crying shame. besides, I doubt he has many more years of test cricket ahead of him as he is nearing 35. A Disappointed SL cricket fan

  • faumi on January 3, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    He was always under rated not only in international level but even in the domestic circuit .He played for moors sc in Sri Lanka and he had all the ingredients to be a world class bowler but sadly was unnoticed.Now Rangana him self under rates his batting ability belive me he can really bat wel.Thanks kimber for taking time to write a wel deserved article.

  • udendra on January 3, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    So true!

  • Dean Frenkel on January 3, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    So Herath has become the flavour of the month - the super-model of the cricket fashion world. Where he was once under-estimated and under-appreciated, Kimber's article and a lot of fawning commentary has re-balanced itself and gone overboard in its attempts to deify Herath. The sudden realisation that he's taken the most wickets has triggered many to lose their bearings. I bet you that Herath won't get the most Test wickets in 2013. Finally I invite you to look at his bowling average in the current Test series in Australia. He has taken five wickets at 53 per wicket.

  • Woody Venkat on January 2, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Love Ranga so much seriously such a crafty operator. A throwback test match spinner.

  • dodgylocaltracks on January 2, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    "dodgy local tracks"? Why is it when subcontinetal strips are slow and turning its considered a dodgy track , yet when pitches in england, australia etc are fast, green and bouncy its not. Both suit the home team. So why is only one considered dodgy!

    mneh.

  • Swampy on January 2, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    Great article and a deserved appreciation of Herath. He didn't get a wicket in Melbourne but I thought he was the second-best Sri Lankan player in the test, after Sanga. His bowling was excellent, no one looked comfortable playing him and his attitude and commitment in adversity was superb. Hope he gets the wickets he deserves in Sydney.

  • peiris on January 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT

    Sri Lankan selectors should seriously consider HERATH to be the next CAPTAIN as he is the only player with experience who could be sure of a place in the side. He is a thinker a man with a brain if you know what I mean.

  • CricketPissek on January 4, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    @Dean Frenkel - I do see your point. However, Herath has been so under appreciated over the past 13-14 years, that even this recent surge in praise by commentators doesn't quite do it. He may be only averaging 50 in the current Aus series, but he has had to many chances dropped off him! The SL batting, support bowling, and fielding have all let him down really. It's one of the reasons Murali did so badly in Australia too. Herath has had NO support, but he is wonderful to watch. If he was Indian, we would hear no end about how he is the reincarnation of Bishen Singh Bedi or something! Anyway, I don't think Herath cares whether he is unsung or sung about. He'll carry on doing his hard work and hope for a good tally by the time he retires.

  • ygkd on January 3, 2013, 19:09 GMT

    This Sri Lankan tour Down Under has not been a success, but then the warm-up opportunity was a less-than-impressive 3-dayer and there are always the over-riding problems back in SL to throw things into turmoil. However, despite all of this, Rangana Herath, along with quite a few of his team-mates, has shown himself to be a decent cricketer and, quite probably, a decent, humble human being as well. I wish him well.

  • Wardenlo70 on January 3, 2013, 7:05 GMT

    Thank you Mr. Kimber for appreciating our unsung hero Rangana Herath. I wouldn't say he is the best spinner that the world of cricket has today but I would say he is amongst the best in the world instead. However, sadly, we will not witness this working class spinner in 2013 because we have some stupid ODI's or T20's or SLPL nonsense and not tests. SLC does not consider him the shorter version stuff so he will be stuck in limbo during 2013 which is a crying shame. besides, I doubt he has many more years of test cricket ahead of him as he is nearing 35. A Disappointed SL cricket fan

  • faumi on January 3, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    He was always under rated not only in international level but even in the domestic circuit .He played for moors sc in Sri Lanka and he had all the ingredients to be a world class bowler but sadly was unnoticed.Now Rangana him self under rates his batting ability belive me he can really bat wel.Thanks kimber for taking time to write a wel deserved article.

  • udendra on January 3, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    So true!

  • Dean Frenkel on January 3, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    So Herath has become the flavour of the month - the super-model of the cricket fashion world. Where he was once under-estimated and under-appreciated, Kimber's article and a lot of fawning commentary has re-balanced itself and gone overboard in its attempts to deify Herath. The sudden realisation that he's taken the most wickets has triggered many to lose their bearings. I bet you that Herath won't get the most Test wickets in 2013. Finally I invite you to look at his bowling average in the current Test series in Australia. He has taken five wickets at 53 per wicket.

  • Woody Venkat on January 2, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    Love Ranga so much seriously such a crafty operator. A throwback test match spinner.

  • dodgylocaltracks on January 2, 2013, 21:36 GMT

    "dodgy local tracks"? Why is it when subcontinetal strips are slow and turning its considered a dodgy track , yet when pitches in england, australia etc are fast, green and bouncy its not. Both suit the home team. So why is only one considered dodgy!

    mneh.

  • Swampy on January 2, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    Great article and a deserved appreciation of Herath. He didn't get a wicket in Melbourne but I thought he was the second-best Sri Lankan player in the test, after Sanga. His bowling was excellent, no one looked comfortable playing him and his attitude and commitment in adversity was superb. Hope he gets the wickets he deserves in Sydney.

  • ben on January 2, 2013, 20:10 GMT

    at last cricketing world had come to know about Hera.... another 10 wicket haul in Sydney Go Hera.

  • Jack Mendel on January 2, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    Agree - Nice article. I remember when he came to England did pretty well in a very pedestrian attack. Think that he is very good to left and right handers which is important, and he seems to get some nice dip and drift. I remember him castling Pietersen in England at least once. Took people a little by surprise.

    He seems as if he is the opposite to Murali, in the sense there are no mystery or tricks, but similar in a weird way with consistency and reliability. Throw him the ball and he will bowl all day. If only he had someone at the other end who could build up some pressure..

  • Praveen on January 2, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    great article. it is bemusing that when Asian players have a great year, the performances are questioned saying it was done on home turf. While the same theory does not apply to cricketers from non-asia. Clarke has scored most of his runs in his home country just like Herath has picked wickets in Sri Lanka. he picked a 5 wicket haul in hobart too

  • nival kolamage on January 2, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    wow! this is great kimber! after late-roubuck, you are the one i most admire here in cricinfo. just for the fact you care to think n write about 'minnows' and unlikely heroes. and writing about my country(Sri lanka) itself in a manner like this feels great. especially coz even after winning a world cup and having shown competitiveness and success in many a world events, Sri lanka as a whole often gets the stepmother's treatment which of course is multifactorial. i loved the way you once wrote about mathews being a charismatic cricketer in your blog.even at times in the ball-by-ball commentary, i wondered why herath often get less adjectives and praise. when he bowls them, they are often just pitched and going away and batsmen playing a careless shot. many a thanks Kimber, even if this'd not get published, thank you! and i just want to tell you, your style suits u and it works brilliantly. they should be published in the main site.

  • praveen on January 2, 2013, 16:04 GMT

    Great read.Agree to all of your point.Even the second highest wicket taker Swaany played same amount of games in sub continent as Herath just shows how well he bowled.And even in the last test of last year,he took 10 wicket haul to win SL first ever victory in SA soil in something special and shows how well this guy can bowl in any conditions in any part of the world.

  • Joe Britto on January 2, 2013, 14:59 GMT

    Herath is indeed a class spinner. Being young and talented he requires a good skipper to nuture and encourage him. If properly groomed and protected, he can be Sri Lanka's match winner for the next decade.

  • Chatura Ranaweera on January 2, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    It's good to see the media taking more interest in a top class bowler - definitely one of the best around in world cricket right now. I think it is not unusual for the media to take little interest given the often superficial criteria that drives their interests. Jarrod is somewhat unique in his views, refreshingly so, and so it is nice to see him pick up this topic. But let us not forget that just because the media does not pay him much attention, that does not mean that the opposition does the same.

  • Pulasthi Pathirana on January 2, 2013, 13:28 GMT

    Well written article. Hats off to the author. Herath was the unsung hero in post Murali era of Sri Lankan cricket. People often talked about the brilliance of Sangakkara and class of Jayawardena yet this man went without noticing much, more often than not delivering goods. Add to that, without Herath Sri Lanka could have been eliminated in the T20 semi final where he produced a match winning spell against Pakistan taking three important wickets. Little man with a ig heart, the name is Rangana Herath. Salute!

  • bindumal on January 2, 2013, 13:27 GMT

    well said mate! Herath will play for 5 or 6 years in future(maximum).if it happens world will apreciate him more . And kimber, thank you for following sl cricket so close. You may be the next tony greig!

  • alex on January 2, 2013, 13:23 GMT

    Excellant. Herath is an artist. Just like sehwag is. But more ups and downs. Same thing with herath. He is clever though. I know the secret why certain bowlers lucky again certain batsman.

  • Nuwan on January 2, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    excellent article! Herath is a class act :)

  • bill_nakahanamura on January 2, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    I hope you publish this comment. I'd be surprised if you do, that would become the first time ever after writing since years. And all im gonna do is quote

    "Not enough comic books have superheroes who are old, short, pudgy with a bad marine haircut, soft round face and pants slightly too high on the waist. " "From a distance Herath probably looks more like a dad watching his kid play than 2012’s leading Test wicket-taker. It’s hard to fear a man when he looks like he should be wearing a Cosby sweater and driving a comfortable second-hand station-wagon." "In 2012 Herath was a hero. Even his final deed of 0-95 was heroic, even if it was in vain."

    Thank you, this made me genuinely laugh

  • Anonymous on January 2, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    Thank you so much for the brilliant article. Herath is a working - class hero.. Always does his job very well but hardly anyone notices it. If SL had any success post Muralitharn test era , they owe that largely to Rangana Herath. Unfortunately he will not be able show his heroics again next year thanks to SLC scrapping the SA and West Indies tests. He will be a forgotten man again most of next year!

  • Heshan Aravinda on January 2, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    what an article!! hats off to Mr.Kimber.As a srilankan i'm pretty happy with this appreciation of underrated Herath.It's not only because he's the leading wicket taker,it's because the fair amount of workload he had throughout the last year and half with not much support from others.It really was a terrific effort from a man with plenty of heart,efficiency and hard-working.I hope he'll be continued the job at 2013 as well.

  • Uppercut07 on January 2, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    Finally! Someone giving the recognition, Herath deserves. He probably the 'best' spinner in the world today. Shame he doesn't get the support that Ajmal, Swann get from their respective batsmen to take the game to the 4th, 5th days of a test. If he did, he would've been even more successful!

  • Vibz on January 2, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    Good Article on Herath, also it shows hard work is not appreciated in Srilankan cricket most of the time. He can go on for few more years with the passion and heart he shows.

  • Kishor Kumar on January 2, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    Good article

  • YusufKhan on January 2, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    Agreed

  • inxia on January 2, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    So pleased so see someone talk positively about Herath. His bowling action is so smooth and it's really enjoyable watching him work batsmen out. He is an intelligent left-arm spinner, which makes him the opposite of Sulieman Benn.

  • Toogsie on January 2, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    He is seen as the batmobile to Batman, the shield to Captain America, the hammer to Thor, yet he never attains the popularity or accreditation he deserves. Herath bowled magnificently in 2012, carrying an extremely weak SL attack (to call the attack pedestrian is an insult to the word pedestrian) by using the guile of attrition and maintenance of a superb line and length. Here's to a test-deprived 2013 for Sri Lanka, with their premier bowler and batsman at the peak of their powers!!

    Cheers SLC, time for another India one day series...

    Toogsie

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  • Toogsie on January 2, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    He is seen as the batmobile to Batman, the shield to Captain America, the hammer to Thor, yet he never attains the popularity or accreditation he deserves. Herath bowled magnificently in 2012, carrying an extremely weak SL attack (to call the attack pedestrian is an insult to the word pedestrian) by using the guile of attrition and maintenance of a superb line and length. Here's to a test-deprived 2013 for Sri Lanka, with their premier bowler and batsman at the peak of their powers!!

    Cheers SLC, time for another India one day series...

    Toogsie

  • inxia on January 2, 2013, 6:22 GMT

    So pleased so see someone talk positively about Herath. His bowling action is so smooth and it's really enjoyable watching him work batsmen out. He is an intelligent left-arm spinner, which makes him the opposite of Sulieman Benn.

  • YusufKhan on January 2, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    Agreed

  • Kishor Kumar on January 2, 2013, 7:29 GMT

    Good article

  • Vibz on January 2, 2013, 7:32 GMT

    Good Article on Herath, also it shows hard work is not appreciated in Srilankan cricket most of the time. He can go on for few more years with the passion and heart he shows.

  • Uppercut07 on January 2, 2013, 7:59 GMT

    Finally! Someone giving the recognition, Herath deserves. He probably the 'best' spinner in the world today. Shame he doesn't get the support that Ajmal, Swann get from their respective batsmen to take the game to the 4th, 5th days of a test. If he did, he would've been even more successful!

  • Heshan Aravinda on January 2, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    what an article!! hats off to Mr.Kimber.As a srilankan i'm pretty happy with this appreciation of underrated Herath.It's not only because he's the leading wicket taker,it's because the fair amount of workload he had throughout the last year and half with not much support from others.It really was a terrific effort from a man with plenty of heart,efficiency and hard-working.I hope he'll be continued the job at 2013 as well.

  • Anonymous on January 2, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    Thank you so much for the brilliant article. Herath is a working - class hero.. Always does his job very well but hardly anyone notices it. If SL had any success post Muralitharn test era , they owe that largely to Rangana Herath. Unfortunately he will not be able show his heroics again next year thanks to SLC scrapping the SA and West Indies tests. He will be a forgotten man again most of next year!

  • bill_nakahanamura on January 2, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    I hope you publish this comment. I'd be surprised if you do, that would become the first time ever after writing since years. And all im gonna do is quote

    "Not enough comic books have superheroes who are old, short, pudgy with a bad marine haircut, soft round face and pants slightly too high on the waist. " "From a distance Herath probably looks more like a dad watching his kid play than 2012’s leading Test wicket-taker. It’s hard to fear a man when he looks like he should be wearing a Cosby sweater and driving a comfortable second-hand station-wagon." "In 2012 Herath was a hero. Even his final deed of 0-95 was heroic, even if it was in vain."

    Thank you, this made me genuinely laugh

  • Nuwan on January 2, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    excellent article! Herath is a class act :)