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The world's leading wicket-taker, his likely successor, and three from the 80s
March 22, 2010
One area where Sri Lanka has never been short of talent is spin. Since the time of Tommy Kelaart, regarded as the greatest left-arm spinner the country has ever produced, Sri Lanka has had a surplus in the department. From the time he made his debut, in 1890, Kelaart destroyed all opposition with his accuracy. He was the first bowler to take 1000 wickets in club cricket, and when he ended his career at 55 in 1926, he had over 2000 wickets. Kelaart was followed by Lucien De Zoysa, a legspinner who figured prominently in the national teams of the 1940s and 1950s. Another legspinner, Gamini Goonesena, divided his time between representing his country and playing for Cambridge University, Nottinghamshire and New South Wales till the 60s.
Throughout the 60s up until the mid-70s, spinners like Abu Fuard, Neil Chanmugam (offspinners), Anurudda Polonowita, Fitzroy Crozier (left-arm spinners) and Somachandra De Silva (legspin) dominated the game. De Silva was part of a three-pronged spin attack - along with offspinner Lalith Kaluperuma and left-arm spinner Ajit de Silva - that formed the nucleus of Sri Lanka's bowling in the early years after they got Test status. While Kaluperuma and Ajit de Silva cut short their budding careers by undertaking an illegal tour to South Africa and receiving 25-year bans, Somachandra continued till the mid-80s before the national selectors decided that it was time to start grooming young spinners.
Of the lot, left-arm spinner Don Anurasiri was the best, but he was not a match-winner. It was not until the arrival of Muttiah Muralitharan in 1992 that Sri Lanka had a spinner who could rattle entire teams with his unique brand of bowling. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who bowled Sri Lanka to victory in the home series against Pakistan and New Zealand last year, missed out narrowly in the list of those in the running.
We'll be publishing an all-time Sri Lanka XI based on readers' votes to go with our jury's XI. To pick your spinners click here
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