T20 was a format which was first implemented in England in 2003, and with the huge success it met with there, the ICC decided to add it alongside ODIS and Tests in February 2005 with Australia and New Zealand playing the first ever T20 international. Since then, there has been no looking back to this format as it has ensured the occurrence of 3 World Cups to see which team is the best in the world in T20 cricket.
Here are those batsmen who have reveled in these international matches the most
1) Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) – 1245 runs
The fiery New Zealand opening batsman and wicketkeeper is undoubtedly one of the best batsmen in T-20s in the world. Therefore it comes as no surprise that he holds the record for being the highest run-getter in the shortest version of the game.
Brendon McCullum’s mantra of batting has always been ‘Go for it’. He relies on his instinct, and that is why he has rarely failed to score for New Zealand as T-20s values those batsmen who are absolutely aggressive and innovative in their approach. As a result, McCullum is credited alongside Sri Lanka’s Tillakratne Dilshan to have invented the scoop shot over the wicketkeeper’s head and this shot has now become a common feature in the shorter formats of the game these days.
McCullum is also in the elite club of batsmen to have scored atleast one T-20 century. And his was one of the best of all-time, which was against Australia at Christchurch in February 2010 where he smashed an unbeaten 116 off just 56 balls, rattling the likes of pacers such as Shaun Tait and Dirk Nannes with the scoop shot and taking full advantage of a small ground. He also has eight fifties in this format, averaging an amazing 36.61 per innings at a strike rate of 132.44. Now McCullum’s aim would be to lead New Zealand with the bat when it comes to winning the T-20 World Cup in Sri Lanka this year after 3 failed campaigns.
Indian fans will remember him though for his 158 not out against Royal Challengers Bangalore, playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the inaugural IPL match of the 2008 season, which is till date considered as one of the finest knocks in all form of T-20 cricket.
2) Kevin Pietersen (England) – 1064 runs
This is also not as astonishing. Kevin Pietersen is also one of the most destructive batsmen of them all, if on fire. He is the second highest run scorer in T20 internationals with an average of 36.68 and a mind-blowing strike rate of 142.81, batting at No.3 for England more often than not.
He can hit the four or six equally with panache. That is Pietersen’s strength and it is no wonder that captains worry about his wicket the most, as through his body language he wishes to convey to the opposition “Look at me”. Besides, Pietersen’s ‘Switch hit’ which is another innovation in the game involving a shot to be played as a left-hand batsman almost immediately after the ball has been delivered, has won him accolades and many runs.
Famously, Pietersen was the architect in England’s World T20 victory in 2010 in the West Indies. He started off the tournament in not the best of forms, having scored just 33 runs in the first two games. But he hit back in style with two half-centuries on the trot, leading to wins in the Super 8s round against favourites Pakistan and South Africa, who were effectively knocked out of the tournament after this match. While he scored a crucial 42 not out off just 26 balls against Sri Lanka in the semifinal as he also prepared to celebrate his son being born around the same time. And the icing on the cake was a 47 in the final against arch rival Australia which saw England home by 7 wickets, as he finished with the man-of-the-tournament trophy averaging 62 with the bat.
England defend their World T20 title this year and he will be the key in them doing so, with a new captain in Stuart Broad and a different bunch of players likely to make it to the squad this time around.
3) Graeme Smith (South Africa) – 982 runs
Graeme Smith is known to be a Test batsman with several constructive double tons to his name, but he is an equally effective T-20 batsman if asked to be destructive. Being an opener, he has the advantage of facing a huge chunk of the 120 balls available in a normal T-20 innings, and this is what Smith has used to his liking.
He relies more on his power as he is muscular and mighty, allowing him to attack time and again. A strike rate of 127.53 is not at all bad considering South Africa’s batting lineup having the likes of Kallis, de Villiers, Boucher and Duminy and all of them are power-hitters. He averages 31.67 with five fifties in his name, three of them scored in Johannesburg.
Unfortunately for South Africa, the ex-captain’s performances were not inspirational enough to win them a World Cup with their best outing being semifinalists in 2009 in England, losing to the eventual champions Pakistan. Now that AB de Villiers is the captain and Gary Kirsten is the coach, South Africa’s mentality towards global events should change and Smith’s responsibility now is to be in top-form leading up to the event, so that he can fire in the event.
4) Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) – 953 runs
Mahela Jayawardene is a one of the finest batsmen in the modern game, reason being that he has been an equally prolific run-getter for Sri Lanka in all three formats of the game. In T-20s, Jayawardene has 953 runs at an average of 31.76 with one century to his name, therefore being amongst the rare breed of players to have scored a century in ODIs, T-20s and Tests alongside the likes of McCullum, Gayle, Raina and Dilshan.
In recent times, he has been promoted to open the batting in T-20s alongside Dilshan and that has turned Sri Lanka’s fortune in T-20 internationals with a semi-final appearance in the 2010 World T-20 followed by wins against England in England and Australia in two T-20s at home this year. Unlike most batsmen in T-20 cricket, Jayawardene relies on calculated aggression to score his runs and not complete aggression. That explains why he has a strike rate of 139.32, much higher than McCullum’s as well!
In the IPL, he has improved his batting in this format following stints with Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala. His auction this year is the most anticipated one and the team to acquire him will be a fortunate one for sure. While for Sri Lanka, he is likely to star in their World T-20 campaign at home this year.
5) Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka) – 894 runs
Tillakaratne Dilshan is the second Sri Lankan in this lists and deservingly so. If there is any format of the game where he is menacing, it is T-20 cricket. His free-flowing style of batting is what his teams needs from him, while the others at the most will rotate the strike. There is no thrilling sight then to see Dilshan thwack the ball with immaculate power on the offside and out of them all, play a scoop shot over the wicketkeeper out of nowhere.
The current Sri Lankan skipper averages 31.92 in 35 T-20 games at a relatively low strike rate of 126.62. But he has scored a hundred in T-20 cricket and that was a marathon effort against Australia at Pallekele last year, where he showed what he can do if in top form.
He was the man accountable for Sri Lanka being finalists in the World T-20 2009 in England as he unleashed the ‘Dilscoop’ for which his opponents had no answer. He had a run aggregate of 307 runs in the tournament, averaging 61.40 making him the man-of-the-tournament even though he failed in the final against Pakistan, getting out for a duck.
When it comes to the IPL, Dilshan is one of the most sought-after players having played for top sides such as the Delhi Daredevils in the first three years and the Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2011 and for the next two years to come. He would for sure, if the cricket calendar permits, use the IPL this year as an opportunity to prepare himself to lead the side not just as captain, but also as a batsman at home where Sri Lanka will participate in the World T-20 and hope that they can win after missed chances in 2009 and 2010.
6) Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) – 883 runs
There is a dearth of Sri Lankans in this list! Sangakkara is not far behind from two of the other senior members and batsmen of Sri Lanka, Jayawardene and Dilshan. But it is a shock to an extent to see him being the sixth highest run-getter in T-20 internationals because of his stylish but more conservative style of batting, irrespective of the situation.
Despite that, Sanga averages 31.53 and has a strike rate of 119.64 with six fifties to his name. He enjoys the responsibility of batting for the majority of the innings, as the rest of the batsmen look to be aggressive when facing the opposition. But his striking of the ball is incredible especially when Sri Lanka are chasing, considering the fact that he also has to keep wickets for Sri Lanka in this format.
He proves that T-20 can reward those players too, who are thinkers and do not just keep slogging every ball. As a result, his stature is so high that he was the main batsman for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL for the first three years, batting at No.3 and helping them come in the semifinals of the first season and now is the captain of the Deccan Chargers.
Sri Lanka’s batting thus looks a tall order for any opposition to get rid of, and that too in their home conditions if Sangakkara is added. It would be a major disappointment if the Lankans do not win the championship this year.
7) David Warner (Australia) – 775 runs
How can this man be forgotten? A sure shot T-20 specialist, Warner has made it big in the Australian side recently because of immaculate power hitting. When it is in the slot, Warner can smash any ball almost for a four or six if fortune is with him and in a span of a few overs can change the game single-handedly.
It was in T-20s that the ‘whirlwind’ Warner first made his international debut for Australia. It was against South Africa in Melbourne in 2009 and smashed 89 runs off just 43 balls, showing the world that he is the one to watch out for in the future that very day itself. He averages a lowly 26.72, considering that he opens the batting for his team but has a huge strike rate of 141.68.
So far, he has played in all 29 T-20 internationals Australia have played since his debut and so it is obvious that a batsman of his experience and reputation, is the most successful in this format for his country.
He is the only batsman to have hit two centuries in two consecutive T-20 games, which was for New South Wales in the Champions League 2011. And in the IPL, he was bought again by the Delhi Daredevils in the 2011 auction after turning out for them in the previous two editions as well.
As of Australia, they can only hope that Warner never changes his style of batting and be a match-winner for the team consequently.
8) Misbah ul Haq (Pakistan) – 721 runs
The Pakistan captain is another stunning inclusion in this record. When Misbah is watched carefully, he is more of a grinder rather than a hitter.
Yet, he turns out to be Pakistan’s most effective T-20 batsman of all time even ahead of Shahid Afridi and is another example of run-accumulators being good T-20 players as well, boasting of an average of 37.94 which is the highest of all the batsmen in this list.
Even at the age of 37, Misbah can still give a ball a whack if needed and a strike rate of 113.90 is a testimony to this.
His most memorable innings was the 43 he scored against India in the World T-20 final in 2007 in Johannesburg off just 38 balls, but unfortunately could not win the match for Pakistan as he tried to guide Joginder Sharma’s delivery over short fine leg only to give Sreesanth a catch as his team fell short by just 5 runs from clinching the championship.
Although Misbah had struggled to find a place in the ODI and Test sides not long ago, he was persisted with in T-20s as he has featured in all the 3 World Cups held so far.
Now that he is captain of the side and in the form of his life with the bat, he would look to repeat 2009 in 2012 with a second World T-20 title and that will be a perfect reward for the most consistent team in T-20 cricket.
9) Jean Paul Duminy (South Africa) – 715 runs
Jean Paul Duminy is an ideal T-20 player as he is a natural timer of the ball and has a great sense of placement, therefore having a large repertoire of shots in his armoury. Therefore, he deserves to have 715 runs in his name in this format as he is also successful in running between the wickets well enough, getting him ones and twos time and again.
He averages 31.08 from 32 games, possessing a strike rate of 125.43. Duminy made his T-20 international debut against Bangladesh at his home ground, Cape Town in the World T-20 2007 as an opening batsman. But it was in Australia in 2009 that he caught the attention of the cricketing world that he can be an efficient player in T-20s, scoring 78 runs off 48 balls in a losing cause at Melbourne and an unbeaten 69 runs off just 41 balls at Brisbane where again South Africa lost and he was the lone star in both the games.
Duminy is one of the few middle-order batsmen alongside the likes of Sangakkara and Misbah to succeed in T-20 cricket, since to score there has to be a huge amount of balls left to face. His ability to overcome this deficit is the prime reason why he was picked by Mumbai Indians in 2009 in the IPL for as much as $950,000 and the Deccan Chargers from 2011 onwards.
South Africa would rely on him to win them a global event for the first time since 1998, as the World T-20 is one of their best chances and this could happens if Duminy just does not hit, but hit hard.
10) Shahid Afridi (Pakistan) – 713 runs
And last but not the least, is Pakistan’s darling. It is Shahid Afridi who finishes this list being in the top 10 run scorers in T20 internationals of all time. He is the ‘ideal’ T20 player youngsters can idolize, since he is all about six hitting and the words ‘attack, attack’ are in his mind all the time when he is batting as his strike rate is a brisk 144.04.
He is inconsistent as seen with his average of a mere 17.82 in 45 matches, which is the lowest out of all the batters in this list. But ironically, he has been successful in all the three T20 world cups so far and in the 2009 final at Lords, after being promoted at No.3, Afridi remained unbeaten till the end scoring 54 runs off just 40 balls to guide Pakistan to the victory post and the title gloriously.
They missed out in 2007 by just 5 runs but made sure 2009 was not the same. Afridi’s fifties in the semi-final and final out of them all, were crucial in Pakistan winning a world title for the first time in seventeen years.
In 2010, he was the captain of the side and as a result his batting was affected to an extent. He usually likes to play with a mind not cluttered with responsibilities and as a result, Pakistan missed out a place in the final, losing to Australia in the semifinal of the tournament. Now that Afridi is no more captain and is a much improved performer, after stints with Hampshire in England and Melbourne Renegades in Australia in T-20 cricket, he is likely to once again make a devastating impact in the World T-20 this year with the bat and not just the ball.
Another T-20 World Cup win and Afridi will certainly go down as one of the finest cricketers Pakistan has ever produced, and the most entertaining the world may have ever seen after already possessing records of the fastest ODI century ever scored in history and the most number of sixes in ODI cricket as well.
There are some players who are missing out such as Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Virender Sehwag and AB de Villers because they have not performed well enough in T-20 internationals for their country and as a result their teams too have suffered. However, these 10 batsmen are the most exciting to watch in the modern game, although Misbah may be an exception to this. A batsman these days has to be judged by his contribution in the shortest format of the game as these runs will determine to a huge extent whether they will be remembered by their fans or not, by the time they end their careers as the sound of the ball being whacked is always a joy to listen to.
Bowlers, better be prepared for tough days with these batsmen around!