Who would make the best T20 team of all time? Decisions were made and it’s time to play world chief selector for the day…

As T20 cricket celebrates its 15th year anniversary in the summer of 2018, it’s time to make those hard selection decisions in order to finalise the best T20 team ever seen on a cricket ground.

This list celebrates the outstanding exponents of the T20 format since it began. There are no restrictions on who can be there, the only criteria being that it’s a balanced-looking team made up of a sensible amount of batsmen, bowlers, all-rounders and of course… has a proper wicket-keeper. That said, in general, it’s particularly rewarded players who have made a lasting contribution over a longer period rather than those who were brilliant for a year or two and just faded away.  It’s also a little biased towards those who have consistently performed at international level rather than just shining for domestic franchises.

 

The Best T20 Team: Here’s the XI

 

  1. David Warner (Australia) – Batsman

Warner famously made his debut for Australia in a T20 match back in 2009 before he had played a first class match in Australian State cricket. He hit 89 off 64 balls and was unsurprisingly the man-of-the-match. He never looked back after that.

He was good for the Delhi Daredevils for a few years after securing an IPL contract but it was at the Hyderabad Sunrisers that he really came into his own, captaining the side to the 2016 title. So often in that campaign it was him getting the side off to a flyer with vicious cuts, pulls for six and hard-running, always on the lookout to add an extra run here and there, whilst adopting a Brendon McCullum style of all-out-attack captaincy.

No-one has a higher ratio of MOM awards to matches played in the IPL than Warner. He has a career strike rate of over 140 in both T20s and T20is and six T20 centuries.  One of the very best outfielders in the world; quick as a hare, deadly throwing at the stumps and a safe pair of hands on the boundary rope.

  1. Chris Gayle (West Indies) – Batsman

If ever there was a player T20 cricket was invented for, it was the left-handed Jamaican. Never one to be too fussed about blocking, leaving, rotating the strike or pacing an innings, the freedom to swing the bat hard from ball one is right up his street. If it’s in ‘the arc’, it’s going to disappear.

Was instrumental in the West Indies’ T20 World Cup win in 2012 and though he was a little out of touch in the latter stages of their 2016 repeat, his century against England was crucial in getting his side out of the Group Stages.

His exploits as a ‘T20 mercenary’ have taken him to just about every domestic competition in the world, allowing him to bludgeon a record 22 centuries in the format and a further 80 half-centuries. No-one has more fifties in domestic T20 matches than him either, with 67.

  1. Virat Kohli (India) – Batsman

The best T20 team of all time needs a number three who can do the lot: anchor the innings, build partnerships,  be thee at the end, master a tough run chase. Enter Virat Kohli.

Perhaps more than any other player, Kohli plays a hybrid style of T20 cricket in that it has elements of T20 and 50-over cricket. So yes, he plays the big shots when needed and if slogging is required, he’ll go down that route occasionally as well. But he hasn’t forgotten that there are many ways to skin a cat as regards getting runs in this format. Few players steal as many singles, turn ones into twos and twos into threes than the super-fit, super-quick Indian skipper. Iron wrists and quick-thinking allow him to place the ball pretty much wherever he pleases.

Similarly, few players think about the tactics and maths behind the game like him, which contributes to him being arguably the deadliest batsman in a run chase. It’s like he’s decided what he’s going to do and how the chase is going to pan out while everyone else is playing ‘let’s wait and see what happens’.

The result is a number 3 spot for the most runs scored in T20is and an average that at 50, is at least 10 more than anyone else in the Top 30 of most international T20 runs scored.

Electric fielder in just about any position. Favourite for man-of-the-match in just about any game he takes part in.

  1. AB de Villiers (South Africa) – Batsman

When AB looks at a cricket ground he sees angles, gaps, opportunities. He sees the obvious scoring zones and then he sees the not-so-obvious ones that are often the most profitable ones. After all, the obvious ones are likely to have a fielder somewhere in the vicinity, the less obvious ones often don’t.

But what sets AB apart from the rest is that he has the shots to place the ball anywhere- a real 360 degrees player. Have a look at his wagon-wheel and you’ll see what we mean.

What’s also remarkable is how one delivery he can play a shot straight out of a Test Match batting manual, the next it’s a Dilscoop straight over the keeper’s head for six. Like Kohl and Warner, he’s lightning between the wickets and would be mentioned in any debate about the greatest fielder ever to have played the game.

There’s a reason why since acquiring him in the IPL a few years back, the Bangalore Challengers have refused to let him go.

  1. MS Dhoni (India) Wicket-keeper and captain

It’s testament to Dhoni’s cricketing brain, quick-learning and resourcefulness that he seemed to figure out this T20 malarkey quicker than anyone else. Not only as a batsman (and wicket-keeper) but as a captain, too. After all, it was on his watch that India won the inaugural T20 World Cup and that the Chennai Superkings dominated the first few editions of the IPL. He set unusual fields, he opened with spinners, he took gambles and moved players up and down the batting order according to the unique circumstances of the game, including himself.

But his efforts with the bat shouldn’t be forgotten. Not one to go bang, bang, bang from ball one, he often even let a few deliveries go, knowing he could always catch up towards the end. At that stage he could get out his arsenal of flat sixes over long on, slices over point and his famed helicopter shop. The ultimate T20 finisher.

 

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  1. Andre Russell (West Indies) – All-rounder

If you were to take career-long T20 performances into account, then this number six spot could be occupied by either of his West Indies all-rounder team-mates Dwayne Bravo or Kieron Pollard.

But for a period of about three years (2013-2016), Russell was the most valuable T20 player in the world. He often opened the bowling, batted anywhere between 4 and 7 and fielded in all the key positions.

It was during this period that he won the Big Bash with the Sydney Thunder, the IPL with the Kolkata Knight Riders and the T20 World Cup with the West Indies. His fans would argue it was no coincidence that whatever team he was at went on to win the tournament.

He was like a panther patrolling the cover region and bowled fast, straight at the wood or just outside off stump. His batting was of the more agricultural variety where he was never really sure where it was going to end up. But he hit it so hard it didn’t seem to matter. An absolute must in any best T20 team.

  1. Shahid Afridi (All-rounder)

One of the easier selections in our best T20 team of all time.

It’s a shame that Afridi never made it to 100 games in this format at international level, falling two short. But then again, he’s not the sort of man to waste time worrying about numbers.

His 97 international wickets are a world record and for the best part of a decade any team playing Pakistan would often win or lose according to how well they played his four overs of leg-spin in the middle overs. Leg-spinners in name because very often they were viciously top-spinning darts delivered at various degrees of pace that brought bowled, caught behind, LBW and stumped all into the equation.

By the time T20 cricket came around, Afridi had decided he wasn’t that fussed about being a proper batsman anymore. Almost as if he hadn’t acquired the Boom Boom moniker for nothing and wouldn’t want to let his fans down by doing anything other than swinging for the hilltops each delivery.

There was however one notable exception. Or two to be more precise.  During the 2009 T20 World Cup Afridi decided he desperately wanted to win the competition. Out of nowhere he was promoted to Number 3 in the semi-final against South Africa and took the promotion seriously. Rather than just looking to entertain, he rolled back the years to hit an excellent 51 that remarkably didn’t feature a single six. He repeated the trick in the final, again batting at 3, again hitting a half-century as Pakistan beat Sri Lanka. He was man of the match on both occasions, also chipping in with two wickets in the semi and one in the final.

As a Pakistani he wasn’t allowed to play in the IPL beyond the first couple of editions for security reasons but featured in plenty of other domestic leagues playing his unique brand of T20 cricket. No-one has more T20I Man of the Match awards than Afridi’s 11.

  1. Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka) – All-rounder

Yes, we know. Three genuine all-rounders is probably one too many. But the first two are impossible to leave out and Thisara Perera deserves his place in the team, too.

A big burly man, he bowls straight and simple and wields his bat like a lumberjack would an axe. Like Russell, he probably couldn’t tell you where the ball is going to end up but when it’s a few rows back in the crowd it doesn’t really matter. He strikes at close to 150 in T20 cricket, is particularly punishing towards spin and is one of those players for whom the game is never over while he’s still at the crease.

Finished the job off at the T20 World Cup final where Sri Lanka beat India, hitting a straight six to make sure there was no final twist. Has had no shortage of IPL offers over the years, unlike many of his Sri Lankan team-mates, testament to his value in this format.

  1. Andrew Tye (Australia) Bowler

Plenty of players have decided that bowling as many varieties of delivery as possible in an over is the way forward. England’s Jade Dernbach is one of them.

But very often that’s just resulted in lots of ways of disappearing around the ground. Not Tye.

His slower bouncers, knuckle balls and Yorkers are better executed and better disguised than those of other bowlers and at times he’s just downright unplayable.

If there’s one area of criticism that can be levelled at Tye it’s just that it all happened a bit late for him. He had to wait till his 26th birthday to make his First Class debut in Australian State cricket, he made his debut for Australia at 29 and his first IPL contract came at the age of 30.

Still, it was soon enough to star for the Perth Scorchers for a few seasons and win the BBL with them on multiple occasions.

  1. Sunil Narine (West Indies) Bowler

Sunil Narine’s action has been questioned on quite a few occasions and he’s missed a few Series and tournaments as a result of either being suspended or voluntarily taking time out of the game to work on remodeling it.

But when he’s been out in the middle he’s been at times unplayable. A real mystery spinner, he was one of the first to regularly bowl the carom ball, alongside flippers and top-spinners thrown in with a few knuckle balls.

Like a few other West Indies stars he sometimes gives the impression he’s not that bothered about any of it. But don’t be fooled. You don’t have an economy ate of under 6 in T20 cricket unless you work hard on your game and bowl like every game means something.

He was crucial in the West Indies’ first T20 success but missed out on the second to work on his action rather than getting into hot water over it before it had been remodeled. A key member of the Kolkata Knight Riders’ bowling attack for year after year in the IPL, including the two occasions when they won it.

As an added bonus, he’s actually started opening the batting as well for the past couple of years. It’s all a bit hit and miss but he certainly doesn’t die wondering; it’s not unusual for him to hit 30 off 15 balls or 50 off 30 and get his side off to a flyer.

  1. Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) Bowler

It was probably one of the most iconic sights in T20 cricket for over a decade. Malinga kissing the ball before running in, chain round his neck bouncing everywhere, before that weird sidearm action delivered the ball straight at the batsman’s toes at breakneck speed.

Like Tye there were plenty of variations but unlike anyone else in this team there was also raw pace when he was in that way inclined. Combine the two and you have the most lethal fast bowler the game of T20 has ever seen.

He was a member of the Mumbai Indians’ three IPL winning teams and ranks second for most international T20 wickets taken with 90. For good measure, with Matthews, Jayawardene and Sangakkara all taking a ‘been there, done it’ approach to captaincy, he was skipper of their 2014 World Cup winning team, keeping things simple in terms of tactics and as ever, leading by example with the ball.

 

 

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