T20 Cricket was formally introduced to the world in 2003, when the England Cricket Board decided to launch the Twenty20 Cup with the slogan "I don't like cricket, I love it". After much initial hate from many parts of the world labelling T20 as “Arrive, swing at the ball, leave” or describing the format as “Death for the art of bowling”, the shortest format in cricket slowly started to win over the critics.
The crowd got invested in the 3-hour bonanza as things happened at a very brisk pace compared to the traditional Test and ODI format. Players began to innovate to counter their oppositions and before you knew it, the world was taken over by the T20 format with every country embracing the change eventually.
Although some took to it like fish to water, the format change was not easy for many players to adapt. “With new format, comes new responsibility” – was the T20 mantra. While some traditional Test players struggled initially, there was a new breed of stars coming around the corner who went on to mark themselves as T20 specialists.
Here we have a look at a line-up of T20 Greats who have played the format better than the rest – for country and for franchise.
Although there have been many great openers in T20 Cricket over the years, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum would, arguably, be the most destructive opening pair in cricket, let alone T20 Cricket. Two of the most fearless and powerful batsmen the world has ever seen, with over 18,500 runs between them, Gayle and McCullum could both easily strike the fear of life into any bowling line-up if they walk out of the pavilion together.
The leading run-scorer in the Indian Premier League (IPL), Suresh Raina edges fellow countryman Virat Kohli and many other top names to assert his position in the list. Having been the most consistent IPL performer over the entire duration of IPL and also holding the record for being the first Indian to score a T20 International century, Raina brings to the table a wide range of attributes justifying his selection among the T20 greats.
Brad Hodge is, undoubtedly, one of the most under-rated players in T20 Cricket. Having played for over 15 different teams in T20 Cricket, Hodge has applied his trade in various countries, conditions and in almost every top T20 league that is played on the face of the planet. With an average of over 37, Hodge certainly demands and deserves the respect he gets and even after the age of 40, teams vie to bank on his class and experience for their team.
There are not many batting lists which Michael ‘Mr. Cricket’ Hussey would miss out on. One of the most elegant finishers in the game, Hussey would easily stake a claim in almost every T20 squad in the world. His innings against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup semi-finals, when he scored 60 runs off just 24 balls to win an almost impossible match for his team, till date, remains one of the best-ever T20 performances. Be it as a finisher, or coming in at number 3 or stepping up to face the new ball as an opener, Hussey has never backed down from a challenge and more often than not has come out on top.
From Hussey’s elegance to Kieron Pollard’s ruthless raw power, such is the variation when it comes to T20 Cricket. It is not just the hard-hitting that classifies Kieron Pollard as one of the T20 greats, but also his all-round contribution through the match that separates him from the rest. Be it picking important wickets at crucial moments or his acrobatic catches and brilliant fielding in the deep, Pollard is always in the thick of the action during the match, which is exactly what T20 Cricket is all about.
“Thala”, “Captain Cool”, “Thalaivaa” or to elaborate the most successful T20 captain in the history of the game, MS Dhoni has earned every title gifted to him by critics and the fans across the world. His unorthodox captaincy and aggressive batting is an exclusive combination, which most captains around the world can only aspire for.
Giving the last over of a World Cup final to a newcomer like Joginder Sharma instead of an experienced Harbhajan Singh is exactly the kind of decision which sets Dhoni apart as a leader. A winner, warrior and one of the greatest finishers, there are not many attributes which Mahi lacks as a captain and as a number 7 batsman.
This might be a debatable pick for many, but the ones who have watched Umar Gul during his peak would certainly agree with this selection. With over 270 wickets in T20 Cricket, Gul was the type of bowler that a captain would want to close the innings with. With brilliant consistency, accuracy and most importantly the intelligence and know-how of death bowling, Gul had mastered the art of finishing an innings efficiently.
Mitchell Starc is, undoubtedly, the best fast-bowler in the world at present across all formats of Cricket. With an average of just under 19 and an economy of under seven runs per over in T20 Cricket, Starc stamps his authority with the ball irrespective of the opponent put in front of him. The 2014 ICC World Cup Man-of-the-Series winner can bowl yorkers at will, and at his pace of around 145-150kmph, it is almost impossible to dominate him during the death overs.
For all the controversy surrounding Sunil Narine and his bowling action, the West Indian has always been a handful for the batsmen to manoeuvre around, let alone hit him for runs. The sheer variety of deliveries that Narine possesses keeps the batsmen guessing with every delivery coming at them. To have an economy of under 6 runs per over in T20 is in itself a huge challenge as a spinner, and Narine couples it with an average of around 17 which is astonishing to say the least.
The Sri Lankan pacer, Lasith Malinga is undoubtedly the best fast bowler in T20 Cricket till date. His slinging action and ability of delivering yorkers at will causes batsmen more trouble than one can imagine. Add to this, his variation of the slinging slower ball and you have the perfect recipe to bamboozle even the best batsman out there. He becomes even more dangerous when he is bowling during the death overs with the tail-enders at his mercy. With over 375 wickets in the T20 format, Lasith Malinga will surely go down in the history books as one of the greatest T20 performers of all-time.