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Rangana Herath finished his final Test sliding on his front in one last effort to make his ground. It was not quite enough – his run-out capping a 211-run defeat for Sri Lanka – but although there was no famous farewell at Galle, his favourite venue, Herath was happy it was “the right time” for him to retire from international competition.
“As always, losing is not a good result but this is part of the game,” he said. “We [wanted to] have played much better cricket, as we used to play. Hopefully the guys will come back strongly for the second and third.
Herath had taken Test cricket series-by-series for about two years now, but it was the realisation that he had not been fit enough to play a three-Test series right through over the past 18 months that prompted his decision to retire after the first Test. For several years he has been nursing knee injuries, and had also picked up a back complaint more recently.
“It’s an emotional situation, but all in all everybody has to take a decision at the right time. I’m thankful for all those years that I have played, all the people behind me, especially team-mates, Sri Lanka Cricket, I must thank every single person who’s behind me.
“It’s been a privilege and honour to play for my country, because in Sri Lanka we have 22 million people, so very few get the opportunity to play for Sri Lanka, so that’s a remarkable achievement and honour for any player.”
Herath finished with 433 Test wickets, the most by a left-arm bowler, putting him eighth on the all-time list. He was presented with a plaque from his team-mates, as well as a shirt and a trophy, and a coin to commemorate being the first slow left-armer to 400 Test wickets.
Although he has hung up his boots for Sri Lanka, Herath is still planning to turn out for his club in domestic cricket – once he has worked out arrangements with his employer, Sampath Bank, of course.
Asked if he would miss it, he said: “Of course, playing cricket, yes. I wish to play some first-class cricket, but we’ll see how it goes in the coming months. Firstly I need to go back to where I work and have a bit of a chat, but I wish to play more cricket, not full time.
“I’m so proud for Sri Lanka, especially playing for this team, with the people, we get to know each other. The game has given me a lot so I have a lot of respect for the game.”
His captain, Dinesh Chandimal, finished the game nursing a grade 1 groin strain that could make him a doubt for the Pallekele Test, where Sri Lanka will also have to contemplate how to re-balance the side in the absence of Herath.
“It’s a very hard day for us, we all know how much Rangana has done for the team and Sri Lanka cricket,” Chandimal said. “It’s a very emotional day today and we wish him a really good future. We’ll have to say sorry to him, we couldn’t give him a good farewell in his last game.
“Rangana was a really big part of our test team. He has done so much for the team, especially when it comes to off the field, when we have a problem we go to him. He gives good advice, a tremendous man and one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever seen.”
Despite a heavy defeat, one that saw England end a two-year run without a victory in away Tests, Herath was confident that Sri Lanka had the capacity to hit back. “I’m 100% confident in the talent we have,” he said. “If you take the recent past, against South Africa and Australia, we have had a very good winning mindset, so we need to get that back.”