Captaining the Sri Lanka cricket team for the first time in his distinguished career at the age of 38 was a challenge and a new experience to Rangana Herath, one of the greatest left-arm spinners in the game.
“I enjoyed every single moment of it and I did really enjoy the captaincy,” Herath told the Sunday Observer after arriving from Zimbabwe yesterday. Herath took over the captaincy for the two Tests from Angelo Mathews who was injured and could not make the tour.
“I had played under a lot of captains like Sanath (Jayasuriya), Mahela (Jayawardene), Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara), (Tillakaratne) Dilshan, Hashan (Tillakeratne) and Angelo (Mathews) and gained experience from them. That experience helped me a lot coupled with the little bit I had captaining Moors SC to the Premier league title,” he said.
“It was easier to captain when every single player was performing and contributing a lot to the team. I must thank the players and the supporting staff for our success in the series.
“If you take individually Kusal Perera, Kaushal Silva, Dhanajaya (de Silva), Asela Gunaratne, Dimuth Karunaratne every single player contributed in every single game. Players like Upul Tharanga who came to Test cricket after a long time and Asela who played his first at the age of 30 I saw some difference in him he played a matured innings in both Tests.
“Of the bowlers most credit should go to Suranga Lakmal because on those flat tracks it’s not easy to bowl but he bowled his heart out. Even Lahiru Gamage he gave the kind of confidence to the team and he looks a good prospect for Sri Lanka, Dilruwan (Perera) and myself every single player contributed in some way that’s why we won the two Tests,” Herath said.
Sri Lanka went to Zimbabwe hoping to gain experience of playing on fast bouncy pitches for the series ahead against South Africa but to their dismay the Zimbabwe wickets were not quite what they expected. “Compared to the first Test there was some assistance for the spinners in the second where there was some turn. The first Test pitch was a batting paradise and it was good even on the fifth day,” said Herath.
However Herath was confident that Sri Lanka would perform well in South Africa following their successive victories over Australia and Zimbabwe.“If you take the Australian series the 3-0 win gave us a lot of confidence for the Zimbabwe tour. Every single player contributed as a team. Now that we have beaten Zimbabwe and won five Tests in a row I am sure that confidence will help us for the South African tour. I am 100 percent certain about the confidence of our players that they will do well in South Africa,” said Herath.
The veteran of 75 Tests and 351 wickets is not part of the one-day squad having retired from the shorter formats last year to concentrate fully on Test cricket where he became only the third bowler in history after Sri Lanka’s Muthiah Muralitharan and South African fast bowler Dayle Steyn to take five wickets in an innings in a Test match against all nine Test playing nations.
Herath achieved that feat in the second Test against Zimbabwe at Harare when he returned figures of 5 for 89 in the first innings and followed it up with a magnificent figures of 8 for 63 in the second innings to subject Zimbabwe to a 257-run defeat and with it a 0-2 whitewash of the series.
“I would say it was a kind of a high achievement. I didn’t know that I was the third player to achieve that feat but I am really happy with that performance because I haven’t had a five-wicket haul against Zimbabwe and it was the first time I played against them. I am really happy to join that club with Murali and Steyn,” Herath said.
What of his future?
“I have gained a lot of confidence in the last two series I played taking 28 wickets against Australia and 19 against Zimbabwe.
“I am always planning to take it series by series and try to do my best each time. It’s a much easier target than planning for six to twelve months. As long as I am contributing 100 percent it’s much easier to continue playing for the team,” said Herath.
To Herath’s credit it must be said that he is playing five-day cricket with pain in both knees that have undergone surgery.
“The pain is always there while playing but I am managing well thanks to the supporting staff with masseur, physio and trainer. The coaching staff has given me the full freedom to do whatever I need to do,” said Herath.
“I am taking a lot of vitamin tablets, glucomin, fish oil and at some stage I also take pain killers as well that’s how I manage myself. I don’t take the pain killers often only when I am playing,” he said.