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.
It has been a lopsided contest so far between West Indies and India with the visitors reigning supreme in all three formats and they will be looking to finish on a high when the second and final Test begins at Jamaica on Friday.
The hosts have it all to do at Sabina Park after squandering the first Test by a margin of 318 runs and they will look to summon the same spirit that saw them vanquish England in the Caribbean earlier in the year.
The margin of defeat in the first Test shows the huge gap that currently separates West Indies from India and the Caribbean side will have to significantly raise their game if they are to level the series.
Here, we look at three key individual battles that they might need to win at Jamaica if they are to bolster their prospects of a win.
Roach vs Pujara
The performance of Kemar Roach was one of the rare bright sparks for Windies in their crushing loss at Antigua with the pacer picking up a five-wicket haul in the match.
Roach has been nothing short of stellar with the bat in the red-ball format since 2017 with the pacer picking up 67 wickets in his last 17 Test appearances at an average of only 20.98.
He was the Windies bowler who troubled India’s batsmen the most at Antigua and he can give them a decisive advantage at Jamaica if he can maintain his current form.
Roach got the better of Pujara in both innings in the first Test with the India top-order stalwart managing scores of two and 25. The Windies pacer will have to do it again with Pujara having the capability of playing the long innings if he gets settled at the crease.
Holder vs Kohli
While Kohli perished cheaply to a Shannon Gabriel bouncer in the first innings at Antigua, the India skipper made amends with an assured half-century in the second.
Kohli was starting to look in imperious touch before his dismissal on 51 but his ominous form suggests a big innings could just be around the corner. With his No1 Test ranking under threat from Steve Smith as well, the India skipper will be eager to add to his 25 tons in the format.
Kohli’s Windies counterpart Holder had a decent outing with the ball at Antigua but the talismanic all-rounder is capable of much more than the two wickets he picked up across the two innings.
Holder has had the better of Kohli on several occasions in the past with his shorter deliveries and the West Indies captain can do his side a big favour if he can repeat the same in the upcoming Test.
Hope vs Bumrah
West Indies were largely shambolic with the bat in the first Test with their second-innings capitulation for just 100 runs being a painful watch. The hosts will no doubt have to perform better with the bat to have any chance and they will be desperate for Shai Hope to rediscover the form he showed in 2017.
The Windies wicketkeeper batsman has not quite managed to hit the same heights in Test cricket as he has done in the limited-overs formats but he clearly has the capability to play the patient game.
Hope can score the big runs as shown by his twin tons at Headingley against England in 2017 but he will need to navigate the threat of Jasprit Bumrah first. The India pacer was in red-hot form in the second innings where he picked up sensational figures of 5-7 in eight overs to continue his extraordinary rise in Test cricket.
If Hope can help Windies win the battle against a rampant Bumrah, the hosts can surely ‘Hope’ to level the series.
India will look to add the finishing touches to what has been a completely dominant tour of the Caribbean when they lock horns with West Indies in the second and final Test at Jamaica beginning on Friday.
The visitors have been in rampant form throughout the tour with series clean sweeps in the ODI and T20 formats and they will look to do the same in the two-Test series which they lead 1-0.
Along with the series win, another vital 60 points in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) are on offer for Virat Kohli’s men at Sabina Park and it is hard to look beyond another India win at this stage based on current form.
Hosts look to regroup after Antigua thrashing
While Windies were comprehensively defeated in the preceding limited-overs clashes as well, the manner in which they went down to a 318-run defeat to India in the first Test was dreadful to say the least.
The young and inexperienced side led by Jason Holder showed barely any aptitude or application for the five-day format in a tame surrender at Antigua with their second innings performance highlighting their woes.
None of the batsmen were able to register even a half-century in the Test with the likes of Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer being the biggest disappointments in an ordinary batting effort in both innings.
The Caribbean side recorded a historic Test series win over England earlier this year but looked a shadow of that side in their capitulation at Antigua. They will need to raise their games drastically if they are to restore some pride in their displays.
India look to continue Windies domination
India will be looking to record its fourth consecutive Test series win on Caribbean soil when they take the field at Sabina Park after what has been an extensive period of domination against the West Indies.
India have won the last seven Test series against the Windies on the bounce with three of them coming in the Caribbean in 2006, 2011 and 2016. The last time West Indies managed to get the better of India in the Test format was all the way back in 2002 when the hosts prevailed by 2-1 in a five-match series against Sourav Ganguly and his men.
It is a far cry from the past where West Indies were the dominant side with 12 series victories out of 16 in meetings between the two sides leading up to 2002.
Focus on Pant, Agarwal for India
India’s display in the first Test at Antigua was a ruthless one but question marks still remain over the form of Rishabh Pant who has been given the unequivocal backing as the wicketkeeper of the side throughout the tour.
Pant has taken the gloves for India in all ODI, T20 and Test clashes so far against the Windies but his erratic form with the bat has come under increasing scrutiny. The youngster has done nothing of note with the bat bar one innings of 65 in the T20 series with his rash mode of dismissals inviting plenty of criticism.
With an experienced Wriddhiman Saha waiting patiently in the wings, Pant needs to justify his place in the squad soon and the spotlight will be on him at Jamaica. There will also be pressure on opener Mayank Agarwal to deliver after he mustered just 21 runs in the two innings at Antigua.
There isn’t much to ponder otherwise for Kohli and the team management with the visitors expected to retain the same playing XI for the second Test.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope (wk), Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Jason Holder (c), Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel.
India: KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah.