At about 16, a young Wanindu Hasaranga was a seam bowler and had the responsibility of opening the bowling for Richmond College. But destiny had something else in store for him. He witnessed a demonstration by his coach on how to bowl leg-spin and decided to follow in his coach’s footsteps.
He also had the belief and willingness to learn the nuances of a craft that demanded years of investment. His coach too believed in his protégé, and it didn’t take long for the duo to have an everlasting bond. “When you become a fast bowler, you need pace and strength. Reason I wanted to convert Hasaranga into a leg-spinner was because of his great arm-speed.
I had the belief of converting him into a great leg spinner,” Hasaranga’s coach Lakmal de Silva tells Cricbuzz. “When I did a demonstration on bowling leg-spin – since I was a leg-spinner myself – he believed, ‘if my coach can do it, why can’t I?’ So as time went on, he became consistent with his lengths and lines and developed variation.
“First impression and later the realisation of Hasaranga was that he loved taking on challenges. He has a lot of self confidence and learns quickly, that’s what made him stand out at a young age. The fourth ball he bowled bowling leg-spin went over the nets but he didn’t give up or quit,” he adds..
All the investment in the pace-to-spin bowling transformation workshop worked for the young prodigy as he succeeded in a local tournament. “At the age of 17, he played an Under-17, 50-over tournament and took 28 wickets in six games and that gave him huge confidence,” observes his coach. But such is the bittersweet nature of sport that initial success can be followed by a slide. In the case of Hasaranga, with time, batters began to decode his bowling in the nets and played him without much of a problem. So he put in the hard yards and developed a googly with a three-finger grip. Just that he ended up using so much of his new variation that he lost his ability to bowl the leg-break. ”
“He eventually mastered the googly. But after that the biggest challenge came since he used different grips to bowl his leggie (first, second and third finger) and the googly (thumb, first and second finger). As time went along his teammates at school started to differentiate the googly and the leg spinner very easily. Hasaranga asked, ‘what should we do about this?’ I said – we’ll first try every ball with a scrambled grip. Eventually, he started mastering the art of bowling leg-spin.”
“Coming to Hasaranga’s biggest strength – which is his googly – compared to other leg-spinners, there isn’t a huge difference in release points of his googly and leg-spinner. Normally, when you bowl a googly, your hand position is higher than your normal delivery, but that’s not the case with Hasaranga. What makes Hasaranga standout are his speed and his consistency for a leg-spinner; he gets a great loop and dip when he bowls the googly. His wicket-to-wicket bowling, which is a combination of his lengths and speed, always prompts batters to play him off the front foot.”
Over the last five years, Hasaranga has vindicated his coach’s belief in him by picking up truckloads of wickets in international cricket. Not just as a bowler, but he is also well-known for his useful batting and fielding skills. Hasaranga’s all-round skills also caught the attention of quite a few bidders at the IPL mega auction, with RCB buying him for a whopping sum of INR. 10.75 crore. The spinner is repaying the trust shown by the Bangalore franchise as he is their highest wicket-taker in the ongoing IPL 2022.
But among all the accolades and accomplishments of his pupil, the one moment that stands out for his proud coach is Hasaranga bagging a hat-trick on his international debut versus Zimbabwe in Galle.
“The most unforgettable moment I have of Hasaranga is when he took a hat trick on his international debut in 2017 vs Zimbabwe in Galle. I was there at the stadium watching and I felt very happy since Galle was Hasaranga’s home ground since he played most of his games there for Richmond College.”