After the selection of Men’s Test and ODI XIs, ESPNCricinfo.com is celebrating its silver jubilee year by selecting the T20I XI of the last 25 years from 1993-2017.
The team selection was done by a jury consisting of the likes of Ian Chappell, Sanjay Manjrekar, John Wright, Dav Whatmore and Mark Nicholas. Each selector sent in their all-time XIs and the best of the best was chosen from amongst these teams.
In the process of selecting the Tests and ODI XIs, the selectors had the freedom of choosing the players from the full 25 years of given time period. However, with the T20I XI selection, they had to look at the history from 2005, when the first T20I was played, meaning that they had just 13 years of T20I history to fall back upon and this means most of the players in the XI are modern greats.
There are many players like Shane Watson or David Warner who missed out due to the fact that both were vying for the opener’s spot. The game has itself become a field for innovation with batsmen and bowlers bringing out new stuff after new stuff to the oohs and aahs of the audience, enthralling them year after year.
Three Indians, two Pakistanis, two West Indians, a Sri Lankan, a New Zealander, a South African and an Afghan walk into the ESPNCricinfo T20I XI of the last 25 years.
The opening slots go to the duo of West Indies power hitter Chris Gayle and India’s epitome of elegance Rohit Sharma.
Chris Gayle is the pioneer of the T20 format of cricket, the only man with over 10,000 runs in the format with 21 centuries. He has scored two centuries in the format and both came in the World T20 events of 2007 and 2016, making him the only batsman to score two hundred in World T20 events. He was the first batsman to hit a century in T20Is and since then has been regarded as the Bradman of the format.
Rohit Sharma is the elegant destroyer of the format. He holds the joint record of scoring the fastest T20I hundred, in 35 balls, along with David Miller of South Africa. His century came in 11.2 overs and no one has made a century faster than Rohit.
The no.3 batsman is current Indian captain and batting powerhouse, Virat Kohli. The chase master in the format, he has perfected the art of scoring runs without taking risks, through hard running in between the wickets. His 72* against South Africa in the 2014 World T20 contained only 3 dot balls. His epic 82* against Australia in 2016 World T20 saw India waltz to the semifinals in a run chase that was looking fraught.
AB de Villiers and Brendon McCullum occupy the no.4 and no. 5 spots in the batting order. De Villiers is the height of innovation in the format. He has hit Rashid Khan for 29 runs in an over in 2016 World T20; smoking 64 runs in 29 balls. McCullum, on the other hand, is the second most successful batsman in the format. He was the first to hit two centuries in the format internationally and his 116* against Australia saw him repeatedly scooping 145 plus kmph thunderbolts from Shaun Tait over the keeper’s head.
MS Dhoni will helm the keeping gloves and will captain this XI. He made India become enamored with the T20 format by winning the inaugural World T20 in 2007. A brilliant finisher and a great leader, no one else can claim the right to captain the T20I XI of last 25 years.
Shahid Afridi was tailored for the T20 format and became synonymous with the T20I game. He led Pakistan to the World T20 2009 championship and played an important role in taking them to the finals in 2007 tournament as well. Afridi's haul of 11 Man-of-the-Match awards in T20Is is the most by any player.
One of the few players to win the World T20 twice, West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo was the perennial T20 player. He batted lower down the order and boosted a total; while his wily medium pace bowling made it hard for opposition batsmen to get away in death overs.
Rashid Khan has made fans fall in love with him thanks to his audacious leg-spin bowling in T20 format. He combines relentless accuracy with speed to bowl a form of leg spin that has made him a superstar of the format and has earned him huge bucks in T20 leagues all over the world.
The two genuine fast bowlers and the last two members of the T20I XI of last 25 years are Umar Gul and Lasith Malinga.
Gul was the first bowler to pick up a five-wicket haul (5/6) in the format and was known for his ability to bowl piercing yorkers at will. He has dismissed a record 19 batsmen for ducks in T20Is, a record.
Lasith Malinga was a tailor-made fast bowler for the format given his penchant for yorkers thanks to a slingy action and deliveries exceeding 90 mph regularly. He mixed it up with slower balls and bouncers, and his trajectory ensured that even his full tosses were less expensive.
ESPNCricinfo men's T20I XI of the last 25 years:
Chris Gayle, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Brendon McCullum, MS Dhoni (C-WK), Shahid Afridi, Dwayne Bravo, Rashid Khan, Umar Gul, Lasith Malinga