Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath named in an elite International Cricket Council (ICC) Test XI of the Year to be skippered by England’s Alistair Cook is cutti ng edge definition rocketing the 38-year old island nation’s spinner’s status quo in the international firmament. In a composition that sees four England players including Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes, and two Australians David Warner and Adam Voges followed by Kane Williamson of New Zealand and R. Ashwin of India picked by a 3-man panel comprising Test stalwarts Rahul Dravid, Gary Kirsten and Kumar Sangakkara, Indian captain Virat Kohli, the man who has been the batting sensation of 2016, is a notable omission. Cook has been bestowed the honour of captaining the ICC Test team for the third time while Dale Steyn is there for the eighth time in nine years for his impeccable fast bowling while Joe Root, David Warner and Kane Williamson have got the nod for the third successive year.
From a Sri Lankan perspective, Rangana Herath’s selection is an anointment of the super bowler the left arm spinner has risen to in the last few years having at one time led the ICC Test bowling chart and currently third in the table. Becoming the only bowler to take 50 wickets in 2016 is an achievement that sets the Sri Lankan apart among the bowling genre this calendar year highlighting his consistent wicket taking ability. If Muttiah Muralitharan was in his day regarded as one who could spin the ball even on ice, Herath, by his own right has spun his way in to a type of phantom odyssey in the art of spin bowling that has had the rest of the cricket world marvel at his wizardry. His triumphant moment was when Herath ran through a strong South African batting line-up for a match haul of nine wickets to bowl Sri Lanka to a historic maiden Test win in South Africa in the second test match in 2011; a feat that had even eluded the spin magician Murathiran. He was equal to the task in ODI cricket.
His breathtaking three wickets in four balls in breaking the back of New Zealand to fire Sri Lanka to the 2014 T-20 World Cup title propelled Herath to th forefront of world bowlers as a great match winner. His ascendancy reached a mountainous summit when in November 2016 he became only the third bowler in Test cricket history to take 5-wicket hauls against all Test playing countries against Zimbabwe. It was a series capped by two personal milestones in leading from the front as the captain marking a champagne career. If the captaincy mantle in filling the gap of the injured regular captain Angelo Mathews was a ‘reaching for the moon’ high for Rangana Herath, in doing so becoming the oldest Sri Lankan player to lead a Test team for the first time and from any country since Tom Graveney in 1968, was further cherry ripe stuff as far as personal milestones go. Herath, in the Everest of his career would endure to posterity as a record breaker as well as historic anointments. The honour of being slotted in an ICC team is indeed the ultimate in driving a cricketer’s dream; from small beginnings at the hometown school to the city metropolis and playing for your country; braving the ups and downs from the low road to the high road and sitting on that mountain top.
ICC Test Team of the Year 2016 (in batting order):
- David Warner (Australia)
- Alastair Cook (England) (captain)
- Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
- Joe Root (England)
- Adam Voges (Australia)
- Jonny Bairstow (England) (wicketkeeper)
- Ben Stokes (England)
- R. Ashwin (India)
- Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)
- Mitchell Starc (Australia)
- Dale Steyn (South Afric
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-