Sri Lanka has always been a nation that has produced high-quality cricketers. Be it batters or bowlers, their performances spoke volumes in international cricket. Sri Lanka won the Cricket World Cup against Australia in 1996, the ICC Champions Trophy (co-champions with India) in 2002, and the ICC T20 World Cup against Team India in 2014.
They used to be a phenomenal force to be reckoned with across all three formats of the game. The legendary players in Sri Lankan cricket include Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Sanath Jayasuriya, Chaminda Vaas, Rangana Herath and others. Case in point, some of the names carved out a niche for themselves and went on to become one of the best in the business.
Now in this article, let’s take a glimpse at the top five Sri Lankan spinners of all time.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan
Muttiah Muralitharan is undoubtedly the best bowler in the history of the sport. He is also the leading wicket-taker both in Tests and ODIs. Overall, he has taken a record 1347 wickets in international cricket (800 wickets in Tests, 534 wickets in ODIs and 13 wickets in T20Is).
Murali who operated as a right-arm off-break bowler is among the greatest to ever spin the ball. He took wickets when it mattered the most. What really made him special was his special ability to turn the ball sharply not just in sub-continent conditions but on any surface.
Be it home or overseas, he was often unplayable. He would often unsettle the batters by bowling wicket-taking deliveries. He was the go-to man for the captains he played under. Muralitharan took 67 fifers, 22 ten-wicket-hauls in Tests and 10 fifers in ODIs.
2. Rangana Herath
Rangana Herath operated as an orthodox left-arm spinner during his heydays. He was easily the second-best spinner in the history of Sri Lankan cricket and was best known for his substantial success with regard to Test cricket.
Notably, his biggest strengths are his accuracy and his potential to bowl long spells. On top of that, he included a ‘mystery’ ball to his armory, a type of delivery that is a tad quicker and moves rapidly back into the right-handed batter.
Rangana Herath has had a stellar career wherein he represented the Sri Lankan cricket team in 93 Tests, 71 ODIs and 17 T20Is. He accounted for 433 dismissals in Tests including 34 fifers and 9 ten-wicket hauls. Herath took 74 wickets in ODIs and 18 wickets in T20Is.
3. Sanath Jayasuriya
Sanath Jayasuriya was one of the important pillars of the Sri Lankan national cricket team. He was one of the best-attacking openers during the playing days of his cricketing career. He is immensely credited for having transformed ODI cricket with his batting exploits.
His all-round contribution to Sri Lankan cricket shall never be forgotten. The former slow left-arm bowler relied more on subtle variations in pace than on sharp turn and on top of that, he was pretty accurate in his line and length.
As a result, he was able to take a truckload of wickets in international cricket. Sanath Jayasuriya took 98 wickets in the longest format including two fifers whereas he has taken 323 wickets in 445 ODIs including 4 fifers. He took 19 wickets in 31 T20Is.
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4. Ajanta Mendis
Ajanta Mendis was one of those spinners who made an instant impact with the ball when he made his debut for Sri Lanka. For the first couple of years, it was literally tough for any batsman to pick his line and length.
Even though when a batsman tried to go for a big shot, he was beaten all ends up. He had a wide range of deliveries in his armory. He was one of those rare breeds of spinners who could bowl the off-break, googly, leg-break, flipper, top-spinner and carrom-balls.
The former unorthodox spinner played 19 Tests, 87 ODIs and 39 T20Is. He took 70 wickets in the longest format including 4 fifers and 1 ten-wicket-haul whereas he took 152 wickets in ODIs including 3 fifers. He took 66 wickets in 39 T20Is including 2 fifers.
5. Dilruwan Perera
Dilruwan Perera comes next on the list in terms of leaving a long-lasting impact as far as the spin-bowling is concerned. The former Sri Lankan cricketer represented the national cricket team across all three formats of the game.
He operated as a right-arm off-break bowler and right-handed batsman during the playing days of his career. He performed really well in Test cricket compared to the other two formats. Dilruwan didn’t get enough opportunities to showcase his mettle in white-ball cricket.
He represented the country in 43 Tests, 13 ODIs and 3 T20Is. Overall, he took 161 wickets in Test cricket including 4 four-wicket-hauls and 8 five-wicket-hauls. On the other hand, he took 13 wickets in ODIs and 3 wickets in T20Is.
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