India November 14(IM): India host Sri Lanka in the first Test of the three-match series on Thursday at the Eden Gardens. The visitors come into this series after thumping Pakistan 2-0 in the Test series in UAE while the hosts beat New Zealand 2-1 in both ODI and T20I series. Bowlers play a significant part in changing the game. Off late, Sri Lanka have been missing bowling stalwarts like Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. These two names were game-changers during their playing days.
Ahead of the India-Sri Lanka series, we look at the top five Sri Lankan bowlers who carved a niche for themselves.
Muttiah Muralitharan: Famously known as the 'smiling assassin', the Sri Lankan legend is the highest wicket-taker in both Tests and ODIs. He has taken a record 800 wickets in Tests and has 534 ODI wickets to his name.
Not everyone knows that he began his playing career as a medium-pacer before switching to off-spin when he was 14-years old. He made his Test debut against Australia on August 28, 1992 aged 20 and took three wickets for 141 runs. His best performance in a match came against England at The Oval in in 1998 where he took 7 wickets for 155 and 9 wickets for 65. In 2004, he became the fastest and youngest bowler to reach 500 Test wickets.
His retirement in 2010 made for a fascinating thriller. Murali was eight short of the 800-wickets landmark when Sri Lanka played India at Galle. He claimed five wickets in the first innings and still needed one wicket to reach the mark, with India's last man Pragyan Ojha at the crease. Murali finally snared Ojha to complete his 800-mark.
Chaminda Vaas: Spearheading the Lankan bowling attack from 1994 to 2009, Vaas is the third highest Test wicket-taker for Sri Lanka. He has taken 355 wickets in 111 matches for the island nation. He is the first and the only bowler so far in the history of ODIs to grab an 8-wicket haul and two ODI hat-tricks. His figures read 8/19 against Zimbabwe at Colombo in December 2001.
He was known for his conventional swing and ability to seam the ball on flat tracks. He also has 3089 Test runs to his name with the highest score of 100.
Rangana Herath: Herath has taken over from Muralitharan as Sri Lanka's main wicket-taker in Tests. Herath is an orthodox left-arm spinner and his ability to bowl long spells shows why he has 405 Test wickets to his name. Since Murali's retirement, Herath has been the Lankans go-to bowler.
His 9/128 spell against South Africa in 2011-12 helped Sri Lanka to register their first Test win in South Africa.
At 39 years, age isn't by his side but he can add to his wicket tally in the upcoming India tour.
Lasith Malinga: Malinga and his round-arm action made it impossible for batsmen to decipher the line and length of his delivery. He gained a reputation for delivering in-swinging yorkers coupled with his unorthodox action.
He became the first - and, so far, only - international bowler to claim four wickets in four balls, when he took Sri Lanka to the brink of victory against South Africa in the 2007 ICC World Cup.
However, a chronic knee injury curtailed his Test career and he retired from the longer format in 2011 to extend his limited-overs career. He ended his Test career with 101 wickets in 30 Tests.
Ajantha Mendis: Mendis is unorthodox bowler and a mysterious finger spinner who shot to fame in the final of the Asia Cup 2008. His 6/18 in the final against India ensured Sri Lanka beat India by 100 runs after bundling out the rivals out for 173 runs in their chase of 274.
His sporadic form has cost him his place in the Lankan team but should he make a comeback soon, he can still be a cause of concern for the batsmen.