Sri Lankan pitches favour spin bowling, and no doubt the island nation has produced some of the finest spinners, who made batsmen anxious with their accurate bowling. Not only do spinners leave the batsman confused but also win matches, single-handedly.
1. Muttiah Muralitharan
Muralitharan was arguably the best spinner to have graced the game. He completely owned the spin-friendly conditions and exhibited sheer dominance. The veteran Sri Lankan cricketer is the only bowler to have 800 test wickets under his belt. He even registered twenty-two 10-wicket hauls against every nation in red-ball cricket except Australia. However, his bowling action was constantly under scrutiny.
2. Rangana Herath
Herath took over as the leading spin bowler of Sri Lanka after Muralitharan’s retirement. One of the most versatile bowlers, Rangana Herath has five twelve-wicket hauls and twenty-nine five-wicket hauls. Despite starting his career late, he went on to become one of the leading left-arm bowlers of the team; in addition to that he also surpassed Vettori’s record of 326 wickets. It was in 2018 that, he bid adieu to the game after taking 433 wickets in 93 Tests and 73 wickets in the ODIs.
3. Tommy Kelaart
Regarded as one of the legendary right-arm off-spinners, Tommy Kelaart made his debut in 1890 and went on to become the first-ever Ceylonese bowler to club 1000 wickets in club cricket. It has also been said that his bowling average was five runs per wicket, and he bowled with utter accuracy that left the batsman stumped. One of his most cherished memories is when he sent W.G Grace at duck while playing at Galle.
4. Somachandra De Silva
The very first cricketer to receive the ODI cap for Sri Lanka and second for the tests, De Silva was an integral part of the first test team of the island nation. The leg-spinner also achieved the feat of becoming the first Sri Lankan bowler to grab five wickets haul, that came against Pakistan. Known as the longest-serving spinner, Somachandra took 37 test wickets in 12 tests in his brief international career.
5. Gamini Goonesena
The veteran Sri Lankan Spinner played for numerous clubs, including Cambridge University, Nottinghamshire, and New South Wales. In a career spanning more than 190 matches, Gamini took 674 wickets at an average of 24.37. He also has eight 10 wicket hauls, and 41 five-wicket hauls under his name.
6. Dilruwan Parera
Popularly known for his role as an all-rounder in the team, Parera’s right arm off break came in handy at crucial times. Parera reached the feat of clenching 50 wickets (in11 matches) and 100 wickets (in 25 matches) for Sri Lanka in the quickest time. He is the only Sri Lankan cricketer to score 50 runs and take 10 Test Wickets in the same match. Parera, alongside Rangana Herath, formed a deadly duo that devastated batsmen. However, he was dropped from the team because of his inconsistent performance.
7. Lucien De Zoysa
A leg spinner from Ceylon, Zoysa primarily played cricket in the late 1940s and 1950s. His bowling was supreme while playing against Pakistan since he grabbed the greatest number of wickets against Pakistan, and he was the first Sri Lankan bowler to have registered six wickets haul against Pakistan in 1950. During 1950-51 he was one of two Sri Lankan cricketers invited to play against Commonwealth XI. Lucien De Zoysa also tried his hands at commentary and went on to become a versatile commentator.
8. Ajantha Mendis
The Sri Lankan mystery spinner is regarded as one of the versatile spinners because of his unusual bowling action. He announced his own arrival to the international arena by grabbing 8 wickets against India in his test debut. He holds the record of picking the quickest 50 wickets in the ODIs (19 matches). He has registered 70 wickets in 19 test appearances and 152 wickets in 87 ODIs. He was seen as the next big thing after Muralitharan, but his injuries affected his international career.
9. Upul Chandana
The only Sri Lankan bowler to grab ten wickets haul against the Kangaroos, Chandana was a prolific leg spinner who was a part of the world cup winning team. He burst onto the scene after Muralitharan withdrew from the Australia Test in 2004 and ended up claiming a 10 wickets haul. At times he saved the matches with his bat, scoring some fruitful runs while being at the lower order. Chandana ended his career after claiming 37 wickets and 151 wickets in test and ODIs, respectively.
10. Don Anurasiri
Don Anurasiri was a left-arm orthodox spinner and had a noncontinuous career. Debuting in 1986, he was able to bowl for a long spell alongside the great Muttiah Muralitharan. Many believe that he did not show his full potential throughout his restricted career of eighteen matches for the state. However, he still showed some wonderful performances, like his ten wickets haul in the 1992-93 series against Australia, wherever he double claimed the very important scalps of Mark Taylor, David Boon and Allan Border. Anurasiri’s final appearance was in 1997-98 against the Republic of Zimbabwe.