With the Indian Premier League in full flow, now is a fitting time to look at who the official charts deem to be the best of the best in T20I cricket, and pick an all-time world XI as based on the ICC T20I rankings.
As when picking a current world ODI XI, as based on the rankings, we’ll need to introduce a couple of criteria to ensure the team is somewhat balanced, especially in the bowling department. So we’ve picked the top four batsmen in the all-time ICC batting rankings – if you were wondering, Kevin Pietersen is fifth -, the top batter who is also a keeper, the top all-rounder, and then the top three quicks and top two spinners if the all-rounder is a spinner, or vice versa if the all-rounder is a seamer.
Here’s the XI we ended up with.
All-time batting ranking: 2nd (900 points)
The Australia captain might have endured a lean run of form in recent times, but at his best he’s a T20 batsman to be reckoned with. He has twice broken the world record for the highest score in T20I cricket, becoming the first man to pass 150 in the format in 2013, and then smashing 172 against Zimbabwe three years ago.
All-time batting ranking: 4th (896 points)
The Pakistan skipper is a divisive figure for a certain section of T20 acolytes, who decry his caution and lack of boundary-hitting intent, in favour of an approach which sees him churn out half-centuries consistently. Still, Babar Azam’s relentlessness is clearly looked upon fondly by the ICC’s algorithm, which puts him in the top four of the all-time rankings.
All-time batting ranking: 1st (915 points)
Like Babar, Dawid Malan is yet to be universally accepted as a T20 don, and like Babar, Malan doesn’t seem to mind too much, with the No.3 regularly going massive after getting set. He holds the record for the fastest hundred by an England batsman in T20I cricket, with his average and strike-rate also the best by any Englishman, despite the power-packed batting line-up in Eoin Morgan’s team.
All-time batting ranking: 3rd (897 points)
While he has indicated his intention to move up to open the batting for both Royal Challengers Bangalore and India long-term, this team is so flush for top-order batsmen that we’ve had to push Virat Kohli down to No.4. The India skipper comes into his own on the biggest of stages; he averages 86.33 at the World T20, with nine half-centuries in 16 innings, and five Player of the Match awards.
KL Rahul (wk)
All-time batting ranking: 8th (854 points)
KL Rahul’s recent lack of form has been sorely lamented by India fans, and with good reason; at his best, he’s almost as good as any there’s been, marrying consistent returns with fast scoring from the off. In the 2020 IPL, he infamously said “strike-rate is very, very overrated”, and since then he has struggled for the same impact. Only Colin Munro, Glenn Maxwell, and Rohit Sharma have more hundreds in the format.
All-time all-rounder ranking: 1st (557 points)
A gun all-rounder in all formats, Shane Watson’s temperamental fitness and big-hitting prowess made him ideally suited to T20 cricket. While at his best as an opener, we’ve shoehorned him into a finisher’s role; given his power, he should do OK.
All-time bowling ranking: 3rd (850 points)
The New Zealand left-arm spinner carved out a special career as one of the great all-rounders of his time, with his canny, darted tweak tying batsmen down, and his workmanlike batting adding value too. In T20I cricket, he conceded well under a run a ball across his career. No other bowler in history, to have bowled more than 500 balls, can say the same.
All-time bowling ranking: 4th (817 points)
The only other player who gets close is Sunil Narine, who has conceded 6.01 runs per over in his career. A mystery spinner who has struggled at times with his action, Narine has a hefty trophy cabinet, including two World T20 titles. Latterly, he has moulded himself into a useful pinch hitter, smashing spin from ball one as effectively as he bowls it.
All-time bowling ranking: 1st (857 points)
The top-ranked T20I bowler of all time, and the only seamer in the top 10, Umar Gul was a yorker specialist, not possessing pure pace or drastic swing like some of his Pakistan teammates, but still mightily effective. His finest moment came in a 2009 T20 World Cup game against New Zealand. With significant reverse on offer, he was held back until the second half of the innings but still managed to take 5-6, skittling the Black Caps for under 100. Pakistan went on to win the title.
All-time bowling ranking: 2nd (855 points)
Something of a pioneer, Samuel Badree specialised by bowling in the powerplay, skidding the new ball on, keeping it tight, and daring any aggressive openers to take him on. And overall T20 economy rate only a scratch over a run a ball speaks of an exceptional operator.
All-time bowling ranking: 11th (769 points)
One of the fastest bowlers to have played the game, Shaun Tait’s body didn’t let him construct a long career at the top level, but his peaks burned as bright as any player. His longest stretch in the side came through 2010, when Australia were beaten by England in the World T20 final, and like his side, Tait came close to the summit only to just miss out, with a highest ranking of second in the ICC T20I bowling rankings. He claimed more than twice as many wickets as he scored runs, so he’s justifiably No.11 in this list.