“The main reason is I am having a bit of an injury with my knees and I am not sure how far I can go. In the last one and a half years I haven’t played consecutively in three Tests matches I am not sure whether I can continue,” Herath told the ‘Daily News’.
“In that case it is not fair for me to rest between Tests and play in Colombo. At the same time whoever takes my place will get the best opportunity for at least he will get two Tests to continue. Those are the reasons for my retiring after the first Test,” he said.
Herath has for the past six years or so been bravely carrying on the burden of his country’s fortunes as their match-winning bowler despite being handicapped by his two knees having undergone surgery.
“I had some injections on my knees a painful one where you replace the old blood and inject new blood and also this pain relief injections. At 40 plus it’s not easy to play three Tests consecutively,” explained Herath.
“I won’t get these pains regularly but once a year or twice a year. Just before the 2015 World Cup I had an injection. After that I never had an injection but I underwent surgery in both knees - arthroscopy where I had broken cartilage taken out that was just after the 2011 World Cup. I think this is the right decision at the right time,” he said.
100 TEST WICKETS AT GALLE
Herath said there was nothing special attached to quitting Test cricket at Galle except that he is one wicket away from taking 100 Test wickets at this venue.
“I am close to taking 100 wickets at Galle. It is where I started my Test career so it would be quite appropriate to end it there. I am always looking for a win. It would be a nice way to sign off with 100 wickets and a win.”
Only Muthiah Muralitharan has taken more wickets at this venue with 111 wickets (avg. 18.50) from 15 Tests. Herath who has played most part of his career in the shadow of the great bowler has 99 wickets (avg. 24.31) from 18 Tests.
In October last year Herath became the first left-arm spinner to take 400 Test wickets when he bowled Sri Lanka to a 21-run victory over Pakistan at Abu Dhabi.
Herath’s current tally stands at 430 wickets (avg. 27.95) from 92 Tests.
Sri Lanka team member wicket-keeper/batsman Niroshan Dickwella said: “He is a legend. I am proud to have kept wickets to him and played under him. He had a brief stint as captain as well. It is a great achievement to have taken over 400 Test wickets. He is also the number one bowler in the world.
“I am not surprised to be frank given his age and the amount of things that he had done for Sri Lankan cricket. When it is the right time you have to go and I guess he has made the right decision. We are happy for him. We do have some left-arm spinners in our ranks and they are training with the spin squad. There will be good youngsters coming up.”
SPINNERS WAITING ON THE WINGS
Herath was of the view that Sri Lanka won’t be starved of quality spinners after his departure.
“There are a few guys waiting on the wings like Dilruwan (Perera) and Akila (Dananjaya) who are already playing. Then there is Malinda Pushpakumara, Lakshan Sandakan and Jeffrey Vandersay. The back-up plan is good. They need a bit more time to get settled and the confidence while playing, then they will learn and will deliver their best,” said Herath.
“Just take my career the first 10 years although I played some Tests I was not consistent I was struggling even performance wise. But if you take my last 20 years you can see consistency,” he said.
Herath made his Test debut against Australia in 1999 and did not get a permanent place in the team until 2009 after Muralitharan retired. In his initial 10 years he played in only14 Tests and captured 35 wickets, but after 2009 he reeled off 395 wickets from 78 Tests averaging five wickets a Test. Herath has already retired from one-day cricket after the 2016 World Twenty 20.
The legendary left-armer is happy the way the Test side is performing and said, “We are not in the top three but we have been doing well that means we are playing with confidence. I am sure even without me they will continue the good work.”
Future plans? “Nothing special I work for a bank (Sampath Bank) and I need to go back and give something back to them.”