Picking the World's Best T20 XI

Freddie Wilde@@fwildecricketContributor IAugust 30, 2013

Picking the World's Best T20 XI

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    Picking "Best XIs" is a largely self-gratifying process. Everyone has a different opinion. Everyone has their own choices. You are right, he is right, she is right. You are wrong, he is wrong, she is wrong. It’s an exercise based on personal inclinations, tendencies and proclivities, yet it’s irresistibly popular.

    As many people appear keen to often point out, it’s unlikely such a team is discussed in the pub on every Friday night of every week, but such discussions definitely do occur despite their total irrelevance. 

    Bleacher Report have thus selected the world’s best T20 cricket team, giving greater weight to performances in international cricket, but still giving substantial thought to cricketers whose success is limited largely to domestic tournaments. It is these tournaments that are at the vertex of change and innovation and where stars are born, so it would be ignorant to not consider them. 

    Conditions play an important role in the composition of any side, but we believe our team is capable of performing well in a variety of circumstances and settings.

    Of course, you will disagree with many of the selections, and please do rant and rage in the comment section below.

    Just remember that you will be wrong—in our eyes, at least.

1. Chris Gayle: The King of T20 Cricket

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    A titan of the modern game and a cricketer who embodies the future, Gayle will most probably be remembered as the first great T20 player.

    His talents and methods offer the world a window into the next generation of batsmanship. Monstrous power harmonized with surprising strategy and ill-fitting cricketing intellect, this man-mountain of a cricketer cannot be ignored. 

2. Mahela Jayawardene: Silk and Steel

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    Defying pre-determined wisdom that T20 cricket is all about brutal hitting, Jayawardene commands his authority in subtler ways.

    His deft touches, wristy flicks and guiding angles make him the perfect foil for Gayle at the top of the order.

    An oft overlooked ingredient for a successful opening partnership is the ability for the pair to synchronize. Dual power hitting can at times produce spectacular results, but a pairing of dissimilarity is more likely to produce consistency.

3. Kevin Pietersen: The World's Talent

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    Perhaps the most gifted cricketer in the world today, Kevin Pietersen's brilliance is best exhibited by England’s struggles without him.

    At No. 3, he is protected slightly from the moving ball but still in a position in which he can bat for an extended period. He’s adept against both pace and spin. Such is the nature of his customary approach that if he bats for the majority of the innings, his team will have an imposing score.

4. Shane Watson: Power and Willpower

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    Unrecognisable from the frustrating enigma in Test cricket, Watson’s value in the shortest format cannot be overstated. His great power with the bat and canny pace with the ball present two extremely useful facets.

    Injuries have hindered his career, but T20 offers him respite from long arduous spells. 

5. AB de Villiers: A Touch of Genius

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    The zenith of batsmanship.

    Gayle’s power, Jayawardene’s touch and Pietersen’s panache—AB de Villiers combines it all to forge a method that many have tried to replicate but none have cloned.

    His extraordinary hand-eye coordination combined with a fearless approach has seen the most breathtaking array of shots unveiled.

    What’s more, de Villiers has done it against the very best.

    His evisceration of Dale Steyn in the 2012 Indian Premier League was one of the greatest T20 innings of all time (video embedded).

    A nerveless finisher, astute thinker and stunning fielder; de Villiers is a rare and precious cricketer.

6. MS Dhoni: The Midas Touch

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    His record in T20 cricket appears surprisingly inauspicious, yet there are two endearing and irresistible qualities possessed by India’s wicket keeper that make him impossible to ignore.

    Captaincy and tactics are more important in T20 cricket than they are in any other form. Dhoni’s wealth of experience and unparalleled success has seen him develop razor-sharp astuteness in the field. He is arguably unrivaled as a captain.

    In addition, of course, there is his batting to consider. Unbecoming in terms of numbers, but his ice-cool presence in run chases is almost super-human. He marshals his teams to victories with the nonchalance of a man buttering his toast.

7. Kieron Pollard: Power Personified

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    A more volatile, more ferocious, bite-size version of Shane Watson, Pollard has the invaluable ability to hit sixes from almost the first ball.

    When chasing an enormous total, that's an indispensable talent.

    His bowling can be frugal, but he moves in the field with surprising speed and the burly elegance of a Rolls Royce.

    Admittedly, his consistency is underwhelming and he can appear clueless at times against spin bowling, with particular susceptibility to the googly. However, he’s a much matured and improved cricketer in recent times and the best in the business in a difficult role.

8. Umar Gul: Reversing Fast

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    He’s not got hair like Amir, a face like Sami or pace like Akhtar, but Gul is undoubtedly the most successful of Pakistan’s fast bowlers from the past decade. Their great lineage of pace bowling has been well maintained by this boy from Peshawar.

    His ebullient action delivers balls of unrelenting accuracy, but his success in the shortest format is more to do with his computer-like cricket brain, which assesses and evaluates batsmen in remarkable time.

    With his array of slower balls, variations and yorkers, he is unrelenting.

9. Dale Steyn: White Lightning Mark II

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    Fast, full, straight and lethal—Steyn’s bowling is uncomplicated and enormously successful.

    He redefines the word commitment with his proclivity to run in his hardest and bowl his fastest regardless of the situation or opposition.

    In T20 cricket, high quality bowlers are rarer and thus more important than batsmen. Steyn would be the first name on many people’s team sheets.

10. Lasith Malinga: A Lethal Weapon

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    Malinga combines the intelligence and accuracy of Gul with the pace of Steyn to create a lethal fast-bowling weapon.

    His unusual action helps him deliver yorkers with metronomic reliability, and although the world’s best batsmen have begun to find ways of unpicking his unusual method in recent times, he remains a brutally destructive force.

11. Saeed Ajmal: A Spinning Sorcerer

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    The Wizard of the Punjab, Ajmal ensures this bowling attack offers no let-up to batsmen.

    Arguably the most cunning and artful bowler in world cricket, Ajmal’s array of deliveries have tied even the most sure-footed batsmen in knots. Age shall not weary him. 

True Brilliance Transcends Formats

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    What is perhaps most interesting about this team is how many of those selected would also make a Test Best XI.

    Indeed, Pietersen, de Villiers, Dhoni, Steyn and Ajmal all could lay claim to selection. Such flexibility represents how true brilliance can transcend formats. 

    The final XI:

    1. Chris Gayle

    2. Mahela Jayawardene

    3. Kevin Pietersen

    4. Shane Watson

    5. AB de Villiers

    6. MS Dhoni

    7. Kieron Pollard

    8. Umar Gul

    9. Dale Steyn

    10. Lasith Malinga

    11. Saeed Ajmal