Can we say with certainty who the greatest is? Well, it’s all subjective anyhow but most of us can agree upon a few names.
T20 cricket took hold in the last decade and a half. We have seen many incredible performances but what has been a standout feature is the longevity of the top players.
It was thought T20 is a young man’s game. But as the years went by, 35-year-olds turned out to be the biggest match-winners.
So what would an all-time dream T20 team look like? Here is our attempt.
The Undisputed King of T20 cricket. You simply can’t imagine T20 cricket without the Universe Boss. Not only did he combine monstrous hitting with his disarming smile, he made cricket pure fun. If T20 was the biggest show in town, Gayle was its superstar. A two-time World T20 champion and franchise cricket legend par excellence.
His body is beginning to fail the strain of unforgiving hitting as he crosses 40 but he hasn’t called it a day yet. And hope he doesn’t for a long time. The top-scorer in T20 cricket with 12,808 in 384 games.
In many ways, Baz is singularly responsible for taking a promising product like T20 and pushing it the stratosphere of a billion-dollar industry. His 158 not out in the opening game of the inaugural IPL in 2008 captured the imagination of an entire generation across the globe and created the mega monster that is IPL.
Introduced the concept of fearless cricket in modern New Zealand cricket and is the biggest inspiration for the current crop of Kiwi players.
SHAKIB AL HASAN
The Bangladesh all-rounder is as valuable with the bat as he is with the ball. Fourth on the all-time wicket-takers list in T20 cricket with 346 wickets, Shakib also has more than 4,700 runs under his belt.
Many felt finger spinners will be found out in the T20 era but the star all-rounder has maintained an economy of less than seven after 298 matches. World-class bowler, and probably an even better batsman who is now a proper one-down player.
AB De VILLIERS
Mr 360 was born to play the format. The first batsman to truly exhibit an ability to hit all around the wicket from impossible positions, ABD showed what is possible. The most complete T20 batsman, De Villiers tripled his value as a wicketkeeper and one of the all-time great fielders.
It’s a shame ABD doesn’t have a major trophy to show for his efforts. But at least wherever he travels, the chants of “A.. B.. D” are louder than those for even local players.
DJ made T20 swoon to his beats. An indispensable player for any team, Bravo’s fearless batting, and clever change of pace made him an integral member of the Windies white-ball outfit until differences with the board led to his prolonged ouster.
Still, Bravo starred in two World T20 final wins and is still going strong as a valuable player in franchise cricket at the age of 35.
Russell is as big a showman as Gayle, and at his peak the greatest match-winner in the history of white-ball cricket. At his best, Russell bowls over 90mph, is an athletic fielder and the biggest hitter of the ball in modern cricket.
His bowling has taken a backseat due to knee issues but his hitting remains as big as ever; even after 301 T20s, Russell’s strike rate with the bat is an astonishing 170.
There can be no bigger box office entertainment than Lala. A young Afridi would have devoured T20 cricket had the format been there when he debuted in 1996 as a hard-hitting all-rounder. But by the time T20 cricket took root, Afridi had transformed into a wily leg-spinner. Has 333 wickets and 4,174 runs in the format after 303 T20s.
Most importantly, maintained an economy of less than seven runs an over. Man of the match effort in the 2009 World T20 final triumph proved why is still called Boom Boom.
MS DHONI (c & wk)
The Indian keeper is at his absolute best in the format – as a player and captain. His refreshing leadership during the victorious 2007 World T20 made India – which had yet to catch the T20 bug – fall in love with the format.
His association with Chennai Super Kings transformed into a deep connection with the fans and franchise, so much so that when CSK returned to IPL after a two-year suspension, Dhoni broke down during an interaction with the club. Dhoni, T20 and the yellow of CSK were all meant for each other.
Even before the concept of journeyman cricket had developed, Pakistan born South Africa spinner Tahir had travelled across the globe in search of competitive cricket.
It’s a testament to his fitness, longevity and adaptability that the age of the 40, he was the leading wicket taker in the 2019 Indian Premier League and the best-performing leg-spinner at the subsequent World Cup. His enthusiasm is what has taken him this far in his career and continues to fuel his next journey.
Slingy action, slower ball, pin-point yorkers, late swing. Malinga took the format of T20 and stamped his name all over it. A World T20 winner, Malinga became as valuable as top batsmen in franchise cricket.
Two incidents this year summed up the value of Malinga. First; he picked up 10 wickets within a 12-hour span across IPL and a domestic one-day tournament in Sri Lanka. Then in the final of the IPL, with two needed to win off the final ball, Malinga bowled a slower ball yorker to win Mumbai Indians the title by one run. There will never be another Mali.
Whatever Malinga knew, he taught Bumrah. The India quick was a product of franchise cricket, spotted and groomed by Mumbai Indians. Bumrah was so desperate to improve, he soaked up everything his Mumbai team-mate Malinga had to teach and turned himself into the most potent all-format, all-condition bowler in the world.
His bowling in the 2019 IPL final turned the game on its head. He has taken his pace and accuracy in T20 cricket to every part of the globe he now travels. Arguably, the best genuine fast bowler from India ever.