The 39-year old Herath is now a household name in world cricket for his brilliant left-arm spin in the longer version. However, his successes only came after a lot of struggle and sitting idle in the dressing room for the majority of his career due to legend Muttiah Muralidaran’s heroics around the globe. In an interview with Dhaka Tribune
, Herath shared how he overcame the struggles before becoming the first left-arm spinner to take 400 wickets in Test matches. The most successful left-arm bowler in Test history, Herath also explained the reasons as to why Bangladesh is close to his heart. Here are the excerpts…
You have not played any matches since the tour of Bangladesh. How are you spending your time these days?
Through practising. I practiced even (Friday). There was a domestic T20 tournament. I do not play those. There is longer-version domestic tournament ahead, so I am preparing myself for that.
You have been playing domestic cricket for around 20 years now. How do you keep yourself motivated?
You have to because that's my only place to prepare and keep ready. There is no option for me other than domestic longer version to keep myself fit as I am not playing limited-overs cricket. It is not enough just to train but match-practice (is important) too.
Talking of motivation, how did you manage that in international circuit when you had to sit out with Muralidaran going great guns? You played just 22 matches in between 10-11 years….
It has all been possible because of patience. I waited for my time. Wanted to see the end and waited for the opportunity. See, I made my Test debut when I was 21 years old, how many do you find are able to do that? I was lucky to play for the country at that age. So when luck went against me, I waited for the time. I must have had the talent which made me play for the country at the age of 21. Realisation of reality had made the job easy for me. Murali is one of the best bowlers of all time and he played in my time, so there was very little opportunity for me. I was able to make myself understand that very quickly for which frustration could not get the better of me.
You are an inspiration to many cricketers who are not getting enough chances despite having the talent…
I had read somewhere “Herath made his own identity despite having someone like Muralidaran in front of him”. That had touched me a lot. I never thought that way before. It is true that Muralidaran had come in my life but I have been able to stand out as Herath so I don't see a reason why others cannot do the same. It is very much possible if you are honest to yourself.
What are the performances which you cherish the most?
There are many to be honest. (Those) nine wickets (against Pakistan). Man of the match in the first Test win on South Africa soil, series win against England in England (are) something I cannot forget. Seven wickets against India in Galle is also memorable as India play well against spin. And the four wickets against Bangladesh in the last Test and making contribution in the win is special to me.
You must also remember your performance against New Zealand during the 2014 World T20 in Bangladesh?
That’s my best performance in limited-overs cricket (five wickets for just three runs). We had scored very low (119) in that game so we needed something extraordinary to win that game. I had ran out [Martin] Guptill which had turned the game for us. I had two run outs along with the five wickets. Winning the World T20 was also special apart from that game. Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara), Mahela [Jayawardene], Lasith [Malinga], all the cricketers from our generation were eager to win a World Cup. So Bangladesh has a special place in our heart.
You have been able to play only a few years with Mahela and Sangakkara before they retired. How was the experience?
I feel blessed to have been able to play with a few generations of cricketers. Played with Arjuna [Ranatunga], Aravinda [de Silva], Sanath [Jayasuriya], Chaminda [Vaas], Marvan [Atapattu] when I started. They all are extraordinary cricketers. Later played with Sanga, Mahela. I have known Sanga since I was 14-15 years old. Have played a lot of school cricket together. He (Sanga) backed me to revive my career along with Murali. I have learned a lot watching Mahela. All together I am very lucky.
The toughest batsman you bowled to?
It is tough to tell that way. There are many. It’s tough to bowl against AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli, they have brilliant footwork. They always try to think ahead of the bowlers and forces you to bowl in their areas.