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Leading lights of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup

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The Sri Lankan great sits third all time in terms of runs scored (897) and also contributed to the addition of a new word to cricket’s lexicon, and a new shot to a batter’s armoury, with the ‘Dilscoop’ that he mastered in 2009. (Getty images)

The measure of great players is the ability to perform on the biggest stage and in T20 cricket, it does not come any bigger than the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

Over the course of the previous six editions, there have been many stunning individual performances.

Taken as a whole though, it is no surprise that the players who have performed the most consistently since 2007 are also among the very best players the game has seen.

So, as we prepare for the start of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, we take a look at 10 players who have had a huge impact on the history of the tournament with their consistent excellence:

 

Shahid Afridi (Pakistan) – 39 wickets and 546 runs in 34 matches 

The greatest wicket-taker in the history of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi is one of the poster boys of the format capable of having an impact with bat and ball.

His crowning achievement came in 2009 when he inspired Pakistan to the title, earning Player of the Match honours for his performance in the eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the final.

In that game Afridi took one for 20 with a miserly spell before hammering an unbeaten 54 off 40 balls to see his side home.

His 39 wickets are the most of any player in the tournament, while he is just outside the top ten all-time runs scorers with 546, and only Tillakaratne Dilshan has played more than Afridi’s 34 matches.

 

Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) – 567 runs and 30 wickets in 25 matches 

The only player on this list who has not reached at the least the semi-finals of the competition, it is mark of Shakib Al Hasan’s achievements that he has been so successful despite playing in a struggling side.

One of just eight men who will be playing in 2021 having also featured in the inaugural tournament, Shakib has been one of the great all-rounders in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

He joins Afridi as the only players to have scored at least 500 runs and taken 30 wickets in the tournament, and if his performances in England two years ago are anything to go by, his taste for the big occasion is only increasing.

 

Samuel Badree (West Indies) –24 wickets in 15 matches 

Not quite as prolific as some players on this list, but West Indian spinner Samuel Badree had a remarkable impact on the competition between 2012 and 2016.

In tandem with Sunil Narine for the first two of those tournaments, Badree showed just how dangerous spinners can be in T20 cricket, opening the bowling for the West Indies.

His bowling average of 13.58 is the best in the tournament’s history, while an economy rate of 5.52 is second only to Narine.

When you consider those figures, it is no surprise that West Indies enjoyed great success during that period, with Badree crucial to the triumphs in 2012 and 2016.

 

AB de Villiers (South Africa) – 717 runs and 30 catches in 30 matches 

AB de Villiers will go down as one of, if not South Africa’s greatest player across all three formats, and he certainly shone on the global stage in ICC Men’s T20 World Cups.

His 717 runs are good enough for fifth all time and of that top five, only Chris Gayle has a better strike rate than De Villiers’ 143.4.

Of course, the Proteas superstar offered more than just his batting. Whether it was as a wicket-keeper or just an outfielder, he influenced the game like few others.

De Villiers’ 23 catches as an outfielder are eight more than anyone else in the tournament, with seven more and a pair of stumpings when he had the gloves on.

 

Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka) – 897 runs in 35 matches 

The 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup will be the first tournament in which Tillakaratne Dilshan will not feature, having played more matches than anyone in the competition’s history.

The Sri Lankan great sits third all time in terms of runs scored (897) and also contributed to the addition of a new word to cricket’s lexicon, and a new shot to a batter’s armoury, with the ‘Dilscoop’ that he mastered in 2009.

He was outstanding in that tournament, including an unbeaten 96 in the semi-final against the West Indies as he made 317 runs to be named Player of the Tournament. The fact that Pakistan removed him for a duck is probably a big factor in why Sri Lanka lost the final.

 

Chris Gayle (West Indies) –920 runs in 28 matches 

The man born to play T20 cricket, Chris Gayle has made the format his own and ‘The Universe Boss’ will look to make it a hat-trick of titles in the UAE and Oman.

Curiously, Gayle has scored three and four in the two finals he has played so far, but the Windies have won them both anyway.

In the other 26 matches he has played, he has racked up 913 runs, second only to Mahela Jayawardene. By the end of the 2021 tournament, Gayle will hope to have joined Jayawardene in the 1000-run club.

As destructive as they come, Gayle has smashed 60 sixes in the tournament, nearly double the next most from Yuvraj Singh with 33, and is the only player to have notched two ICC Men’s T20 World Cup centuries.

 

Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) – 1016 runs in 31 matches 

No-one has scored more runs at ICC Men’s T20 World Cups than Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene, the only player to have topped 1000 runs in the tournament.

He played in every competition from 2007 to 2014, bowing out in style as he helped Sri Lanka claim the title in his final appearance.

In that match he made a run-a-ball 24 as Sri Lanka chased down India’s total of 130/4 to win the tournament for the first time, becoming the first player to make it four figures in the process.

Among other highlights, he enjoyed a purple patch at the 2010 T20 World Cup when he scored 81, 100 and 98 not out in three successive innings as Sri Lanka reached the semi-finals.

 

Virat Kohli (India) – 777 runs in 16 matches 

The list of candidates for the best player never to have won the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup starts and ends with Virat Kohli. The India skipper averages an absurd 86.33 in the 16 matches he has played.

With a half-century in more than half his innings, Kohli has been as consistent a player as the tournament has seen.

He has been named Player of the Tournament in each of the last two editions of the competition, averaging more than 100 in both editions, while his lowest score in a knockout game is the 72 not out he scored against South Africa in a semi-final win in 2014.

 

Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) – 38 wickets in 31 matches 

The most prolific wicket-taker in the history of T20 internationals, Lasith Malinga is second only to Shahid Afridi at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

The master of the yorker, Malinga was the ultimate death bowler, capable of crushing toes and splaying wickets in the deciding moments of matches.

It is also a testament to his importance within the Sri Lankan team that Malinga was captain of the side that won the title in 2014, in a squad featuring the likes of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara.

And even in a match where he did not take a wicket, the way Malinga restricted India to just 11 runs from overs 18 and 20 of their innings in the final, was crucial to the eventual six-wicket success.

 

Kevin Pietersen (England) – 580 runs in 15 matches 

In the vein of Samuel Badree, Kevin Pietersen’s influence on the tournament was relatively short, but his star shone incredibly bright.

The driving force behind England’s march to glory in 2010 in the Caribbean, Pietersen’s 580 runs in just 15 innings is a phenomenal return.

Only Kohli and Mike Hussey average more than Pietersen’s 44.61 by players with at least ten innings, and his strike-rate of 148.33 is the best of anyone in the top ten all-time run scorers.

He also has the silverware to go with it – being named Player of the Tournament as an aggressive England side powered their way to the title.

He scored 248 runs in that tournament, capping off a run of three editions in which he was England’s most devastating batter.



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West Indies campaign in disarray after back to back defeats

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Aiden Markram top scored for South Africa with an unbeaten 51 as the Proteas beat West Indies by eight wickets in Dubai yesterday.(Pic by Sameera Pieris). 

Rex Clementine in Dubai

Lack of genuine pace in their bowling department hurt defending champions West Indies as they suffered a heavy eight wicket defeat at the hands of South Africa in the ICC T-20 World Cup in Dubai yesterday.

The Windies may have lot of experience at their disposal possessing plenty of globetrotters who play franchise cricket but their bowling lacked penetration and a target of 144 proved to be too little to defend as South Africa won with ten deliveries to spare.

Both teams had lost their opening encounters earlier in the competition and badly needed a win and South Africa will be pleased with their effort. As for West Indies, two time World Champions, a semi-final spot seems to be slipping away from them. But you cannot completely write off the Caribbean kings, who have a remarkable record in the shortest format of the game. For that to happen, their batting needs to fire.

Batting was a flop yesterday as they managed only 143 runs and looked to be some 20 runs short.

Opening batsman Evin Lewis laid the foundation for West Indies top scoring with 56 off 35 balls with three fours and six sixes. West Indies had got off to a good start with Lewis and Lendl Simmons adding 73 runs for the first wicket.

Despite possessing some of the finest big hitters in the game, West Indies innings did not get the impetus it needed during the death overs and 143 did not look a safe score.

Anrich Nortje showed why pace matters finishing with figures of one for 14 in his four overs and was named Man of the Match.

During the run chase, South Africa captain Temba Bavuma tested Andre Russell’s arm hurrying for a quick single having pushed one to mid-on and was run out.

Reeza Hendricks and Rassie van der Dussen then added 60 runs for the second wicket to set the platform for the run chase. After Hendricks was well caught by Shimron Hetmyer in the deep, Aiden Markram joined van der Dussen and sealed the deal for South Africa.

South Africa’s number three van der Dussen looked to be playing through the innings while Markram was the aggressor finishing with 51 off 26 deliveries with two fours and four sixes while van der Dussen needed 51 deliveries for his 43.

Markram brought up his half-century by pulling Andre Russell for six and in the next ball brought up South Africa’s victory with a single to mid-wicket.

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Shan: Legend to most; simple brother to me  

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Ironically my first association with Shan was not as a teammate but as an opponent in 1983.

Called in by Kandy Sports Club at the end of the school season to take on newly crowned A Division Champions CH in the knockout tournament at Nittawela, whereas a naive schoolboy I was told my task was partly to “take care” of Shan Perera head on, in order to not provide him any space, not realizing there weren’t many takers at Kandy who wanted that job. I can’t remember how many times I “took him on” that wet muddy evening but Kandy ended CH’s campaign that evening for the double.

Not too long after that, I found myself playing in between Simon Hunter and Shan Perera at CH; a baptism into the big league that young rookie players could only dream of. The opportunity although not fully appreciated at the time because it was “normalized” and not seen as me playing with legends, without doubt, accelerated my progress as a player and shaped me into the player I went on to be.

Shan from thereon was an integral part of my life as a fellow teammate, mentor, and big brother; a friendship that went into its fourth decade at the time of his passing.

The last few years of his life were hard on Shan, and to us his band of brothers it was difficult to watch this colossus of a man reduced to the condition his illness had taken him; but Shan fought it without complaint, with his usual inimitable nonchalant style which reflects on the man he was.

But his final years are not what I will remember of Shan. It will only ever be over a decade of watching his prowess on the field at Maitland Crescent, the years playing for our country, and the simple human being he was, irrespective of his superstar status. I saw all of this from the best seat in the house literally right next to him on the field.

It might not be known that Shan originally never picked CH as the default team to play for on his return from the UK in the very late 70s. When looking for a club to play for he was directed to Havelocks, and by a simple twist of fate the cab driver on being asked to take him to the park club mistakenly dropped him off at the steps of the crescent club. And as they say, the rest is history.

Shan went on to become a legend of the game but his talent was not limited to his abilities with the oval-shaped ball. Shan opened the bowling in first-class cricket for a few seasons as well in Sri Lanka and without a day’s proper athletic training turned up for the nationals and came second in the 100 meters losing only to the national sprint record holder at the time. Shan was never ambitious for himself be it anything he did in his life. If he was I am certain he could well have been a triple international for Sri Lanka with the uncanny talent he possessed.

Shan was also not conventional. his legendary “nikan inna bari exercises”; NIBX which he aptly went on to call them were an integral part of the psyche of the CH team during the golden years at the club. How can one forget that in the huddle before the team ran out to battle he would call for a thumb bending exercise drill or call a highly charged testosterone tongue exercise drill which brought out the best “imaginary fantasies” of the youthful boys in the team. To most, they were fun and games but Shan had the ability to relax and bring together the boys and focus us as ONE with these unconventional Shan centric mind games. I never failed a wry smile many moons later when I saw him working as a professional trainer when I passed the club and saw him take many through their paces in the scorching hot sun.

Shan was also a gentle giant. I don’t think I have ever seen Shan lose his temper or get excessively agitated on the field let alone off it. If a teammate irritated him or took the mickey out of him his most irate response would be “umbe amma kalu da“. An irony not lost by the fact, that to the boys at CH he was our “kalu sudda“. Not many understood him in the team and that I would more often than not have to interpret what he said to some of the boys especially to the front five ones. How many times would I have heard him say “A BEE” which he called me all through our association “tell those idiot props” what I said.

A gentle giant story I learned the hard way was when we took on Havelocks in a President’s trophy game. After an altercation I had with Salu Salu he chased me around the park to knock my head in. Shan being the strongest and best physical specimen in the team I ran next to him with the assurance he would protect me; but Shan in his laid back way whistled and said “A BEE just keep running” ……it did not end well for me .

There are many stories about Shan. They are countless and go far beyond the legend he was to all who loved and supported him for the player he was. To us, at the Club he was a big brother and to me, he was literally that, notwithstanding that to many who did not know better thought we were brothers, as they saw an uncanny resemblance in our appearance.

Shan will live forever among his band of brothers at CH. He is one of the greatest who ever walked the hallowed rugby fields of Sri Lanka but to us he is far more than that. He is one of the nicest and most simple guys you would ever meet and know. He was a good friend. He was a brother.

To plagiarize Pepper Potts words to Tony Stark in Marvels End Game.

“Shan; you can rest now”.

  Rohan Abeykoon 

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With legal battle over, hockey’s glory days are set to return

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A Senior Superintendent of Police, Kamal Pushpakumara has a few tricks up his sleeve in order to make Sri Lanka a force to be reckoned with in the region in hockey.

With senior police officer Kamal Pushpakumara overcoming a legal battle that challenged his eligibility to head Sri Lanka Hockey Federation, the glory days of Hockey are set to return as he is free to contest the upcoming AGM for the post of President.

Pushpakumara, a multi-talented sportsman, has got plenty in his plate as a senior police officer, but that doesn’t prevent him from dedicating time for the sport he loves as he is confident of turning things around for a sport that has lost its glamour over the years.

Some may say that it is wishful thinking to make Sri Lanka the best hockey playing nation in the Asian region above India, Pakistan, South Korea and Malaysia but that is going to be the vision of Pushpakumara.

A Senior Superintendent of Police, Pushpakumara has a few tricks up his sleeve in order to make Sri Lanka a force to be reckoned with in the region in hockey.

Pushpakumara represented Police in both cricket and hockey and made several tours overseas. Sri Lanka won the Police Cricket World Cup in Worcestershire in England under his captaincy.

One of his main plans to improve the game of hockey is to increase the number of kids playing the game by reaching out to new schools to join the game and sustaining them in the sport without giving up halfway through.

Improving the infrastructure at grassroots levels, making the role of umpires and technical support professional are other areas that have been looked at in a bid to create interest and make improvements in the game. Virtually, this can be termed as the short-term goal.

There will be an Elite Pool established comprising 100 children from the age group of 16 to 19 to undergo a long-term training program targeting future international events.

The main fan base of Hockey is at Matale, Kandy, Colombo, Wennapuwa, Kalutara, Jaffna, Matara, Gampaha, Badulla and Galle. One of the main areas that have been looked at is to promote the game in the areas where the game is existing and to take the game to districts which do not play hockey.

Developing the game all around the island will not only help identify players with exceptional skill levels but it also increases awareness on healthy life styles. The player development will be focused on two areas – schools and districts.

The development efforts will be done by qualified coaches with the help from International Hockey Federation and Asian Hockey Federation.

He also intends to establish an IPL like domestic franchise-based tournament with the participation of foreign players and he believes that this will create lot of interest on the game. The help of Sports Minister Namal Rajapaksa in this regard is highly valued.

Sri Lanka were ranked number four in Asia in the 1960s but currently the team has suffered huge setbacks to be ranked 11th. More recently, the sport has run into problems and a fresh face is needed to address the burning issues of the game. SSP Pushpakumara with a visionary attitude and a desire to work hard is the ideal person to do the job.

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