Leading lights of ICC Men’s T20 World Cup
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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International Cricket returns to Suriyawewa
Suriyawewa is the hometown of some notorious gangsters in the country. The area was also notorious for many nefarious activities; cannabis and hooch were freely available until the Special Task Force intervened and cleaned up the area, a decade or so ago.
When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted an international cricket ground in his electorate, Sri Lanka Cricket did a case study and chose Suriyawewa.
While the stadium was under construction around 2010, it took you nearly nine hours to reach it from Colombo. Now, thanks to the Southern Expressway, you can get there in a mere three and half hours. If it is a day game like the Afghanistan-Sri Lanka matches to be held on Friday, you can travel to the ground and return home the same day. Not for the reporters though, whose work starts after the game is over.
Even after getting out of the expressway at Suriyawewa, you tend to marvel at the roads that lead to the ground and the nearby airport. Even the common man feels like Michael Schumacher or Ayrton Senna when behind the wheel on these roads.
Initially, the idea of an international ground in this godforsaken area looked like a left field choice. Not anymore.
There is no better place for playing cricket than Suriyawewa, which is hot and humid. The British and the Aussies love it. That’s why England chose this place for their pre-Test camp when they came here amidst COVID in 2021.
When former leg-spinner D. S. de Silva was handpicked to head the cricket board in 2009, many wondered why. The reason was that President Rajapaksa knew here was a man who could make his wish come true– an international cricket stadium in the Hambantota district.
However, DS may have not presented all the facts to the President. It was thought that the stadium was built on an ICC grant to the SLC. But that wasn’t the case. Eventually, the SLC couldn’t pay the State Engineering Corporation or Ports Authority that built the stadium. President Rajapaksa had to intervene and he wrote off the debts.
The ground was built for the 2011 World Cup, but it fell behind schedule. When Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage broke the news to the President, he reportedly launched into a tirade.
Aluthgamage, despite all the criticism he gets, headed straight to Suriyawewa and camped himself at the ground for several weeks to ensure that ICC’s demands were met by the next deadline.
To Aluthgamage’s credit, the project got necessary approvals. It must be mentioned here that some of the leading venues in India like Calcutta were rejected. Calcutta is India’s first ever Test cricket ground and it is the backyard of cricket supremo Jagmohan Dalmiya.
Once the airport at Hambantota came in, the construction of an international stadium close to it made some sense. Teams have flown there directly ahead of cricket series.
More and more teams are exploring the possibility of playing there because cricket boards can afford chartered aircraft. Sadly, due to politics, matches were not played there for some time But authorities are realising the immense potential there and have started treating the ground fairly.
COVID was a good wake-up call, and with options for venues being few and rare, Suriyawewa proved to be a godsend. With a wildlife park in close proximity and other tourist attractions around, we will see more games being played here in years to come.
Obviously, the interest for cricket in the area is tremendous as quite a few time fans have crashed the gates and usually it is house full with 35,000 fans rooting for the Sri Lankan team. Authorities will do well to ensure transportation facilities to fans as many of them walk back home after games across thick jungles.
Lot of cricketing talent is emerging from and around this area as well. Pramod Madushan, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka are all from the Hambantota district. It should be found out why Hambantota produces mostly fast bowlers.
The school that produced a Sri Lankan Test captain in Suranga Lakmal, Debarawewa Central has fallen on hard times and is struggling to make ends meet as cricket equipment is so expensive these days. While international grounds in Hambantota are good, it is of little use if schools in the area cannot afford to play there.
Taking a leaf out of President Rajapaksa’s book, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ensured the Gujarat Cricket Association built a stadium in his beloved Ahmedabad. The IPL final three days ago was played there but there is criticism about the Narendra Modi Stadium as some boundaries are less than 60 metres.
No such problems at Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium as every boundary is at least 100 metres. This indeed is a superb facility. There’s seating capacity for over 300 journalists and more importantly the hospitality that you get deep down south is out of this world.
Sports Ministry delay puts Korea bound athletics team in a quandary
Junior National Track and Field team leave without originally selected officials
by Reemus Fernando
Sri Lanka Under 20 team for the Asian Junior Athletics Championships left the country without the originally selected Team Manager and the Lady Chaperon after the Sports Ministry vetoed the officials selected by Sri Lanka Athletics and delayed the team approval till the eleventh hour.
The eight-member team received the Sports Ministry approval by midday Tuesday just hours ahead of their scheduled departure to Yecheon, South Korea.
The Sports Ministry did not grant permission to the Team Manager and the Lady Chaperon selected by Sri Lanka Athletics putting the athletics administration in a quandary.
It is a prerequisite to have a lady teacher affiliated to the Ministry of Education selected in the team to receive the approval of authorities when there are school girls touring. Sri Lanka Athletics followed the protocol and selected Sunethra Karunanayake, the respected coach and teacher who has produced a number of athletes to represent Sri Lanka in recent times as the Lady Chaperon. As required, she received the approval of the Ministry of Education as well. The Sports Ministry, instead, had picked one of their Sports Officers who has an athlete selected in the touring team as the Lady Chaperon.
Sri Lanka Athletics which had been at the receiving end of the Sports Ministry bungling during recent times had applied for visas and had booked tickets pending Ministry approval to avoid last-minute disappointments. It was not long ago that the athletics governing body received criticism when a couple of athletes could not make it to the World Junior Championships in time due to delays in getting approval and funds for tickets.
Saman Kumara, the secretary of Sri Lanka Athletics said that the athletics administration was hoping to get the approval of the Sports Ministry even at the eleventh hour for the originally selected Manager and the Lady Chaperon to travel with the team. Sadly, with that failing, Karunanayake, who had travelled all the way from Kurunegala to Colombo, had to return home without accompanying the athletes to South Korea on Tuesday.
Sources said that the Sports Ministry had failed to communicate with the athletics administration regarding the changes they had made to the touring team.
Veteran coach Susantha Fernando who has two of his trainees picked in the team was selected by Sri Lanka Athletics to function as the team coach. Now he has been entrusted with the manager duties as well.
Sri Lanka Athletics had sent the names of officials and selected athletes for Sports Ministry approval by May 15, although the latter had taken more than two weeks to grant permission.
With the Sports Ministry not granting funds for junior athletes to represent Sri Lanka this year, Sri Lanka Athletics has used its own funds or the funds collected from benefactors and athletes to honour their international obligations.
The biennial Asian Junior Athletics Championships is a major track and field competition taken part by Sri Lanka. The country has fared well at these championships in recent times. The leading national 400 metres sprinter Aruna Dharshana holds the championship record in the 400 metres, while the women’s 100 metres and 200 metres records of the Championship held by Susanthika Jayasinghe and Damayanthi Dharsha have remained unchanged for nearly three decades.
Sri Lanka Athletics picked a team of eight athletes, five who reached locally set qualifying standards and three others who came almost close to reaching the standards for the event starting on Sunday.
Kahawatta Central Triple Jumper Malith Yasiru, St. Aloysius’ College, Ratnapura hurdler Vinod Ariyawansa (400m hurdles), Ratnayake Central, Walala runner Tharushi Karunaratne (400m, 800m), sprinter Jayeshi Uththara (400m) and Dharmapala College, Pannipitiya high jumper Pehansa Gamage were the athletes who reached qualifying standards for the Asian event.
Gateway College, sprinter Dinara Bandara Dela (100m), Ananda College sprinter Merone Wijesinghe (100m) and Ratnayake Central middle distance runner Shehan Dilranga (800m, 1500m) were included in the team after they produced outstanding feats to merit selection at the recently held Junior National Athletics Championships.
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