The Ashes series is about to commence, and there is no doubt that if England are to be extremely competitive, their batsman will need to score runs against one of the best bowling attacks in the world.
With the ICC T20 World Cup about to begin, fans are in for four weeks of thrilling cricket and while there will be plenty of talented bowlers on display, it’s the batsmen who are the big stars of T20 cricket. But who are the best of the best when it comes to swinging for the fences?
Behind this list there isn’t a rigorous algorithm that focuses on Moneyball-esque analysis. Instead the decision to include a batsman or not, has been based on a range of factors. Obviously their actual performance with the bat is key but so is their entertainment value, what other benefits they bring to their side and their current form going into the World Cup.
So here are the big hittersmost likely to make the 2021 World Cup explode…
T20I stats – 74 matches, 1854 runs @ 29.42, 139.18 strike rate
It’s fair to say that a guy who gave himself the nickname of ‘Universe Boss’ is pretty confident about his ability, but Gayle can back it up with some of the most impressive numbers in T20 history.
Like many of his West Indian team mates, Gayle has never been too interested in quick singles and prefers to get his runs from boundaries.
At 42 years of age this won’t be changing any time soon which means bowlers should look out if they give him the slightest hint of an opportunity to go big. He’s especially strong straight down the ground and often gives bowlers whiplash as they have their delivery crushed back past their head.
His list of T20 World Cup records demonstrates the type of power that he brings to his game and the speed at which he can take a game away from an opponent.
Fastest century – 48 balls
Second fastest century – 57 balls
More centuries than anyone else – 2
More half centuries than anyone else – 9 (shared with Virat Kohli)
Most sixes – 66 (that’s 27 more than the next best)
He is a hero for the West Indies and would love nothing more than to win his third World Cup this year. He had a pretty quiet series against Australia and Pakistan earlier this year with his best score from the two series being 67 but he is a big stage player and every bowling attack will fear him. Funny to think that back in 2011, Gayle went unsold in the IPL auction.
T20I stats – 8 matches, 206 runs @ 34.33, 167.47 strike rate
Livingston has only had eight chances to play for England at the international level but boy has he made them count. In the recent series against Pakistan he scored the fastest 50 and fastest century for England in a T20 and in the inaugural ‘The Hundred’ competition he was named MVP.
He dropped out of university at the age of 21 saying that he just couldn’t concentrate on his studies when he just wanted to play cricket.
He’s got power for sure but the thing to look out for with the 28 year old right hander is his hand and wrist speed – it is incredibly quick and allows him to have so many options of scoring shot to choose from no matter what ball has been bowled at him. He’s especially strong against spin as well which could mean he thrives in this World Cup with so many teams planning to use spinners during the middle stages of their bowling innings.
T20I stats – 90 matches, 3159 runs @ 52.65, 139.04 strike rate
If you find yourself in the very weird situation where you need someone to score a six in the T20 World Cup to save your life, then you want Chris Gayle. If however your kidnapper is insisting that they will let you live only if someone scores a half century – then you want the Indian skipper.
Kohli has scored over 3159 runs in his 90 T20 internationals – that’s 1305 more runs than Gayle has scored in just 16 more matches. That is out of this world.
This will be his fourth T20 World Cup and his last as skipper as he’s confirmed he will resign the captaincy after the tournament. In his past two World Cups he won the Player of the Tournament award and he’s very likely to pick up his third in a few weeks time.
He might not have the power of Gayle but he accumulates runs in a way that no other batsmen has ever been able to and it’s this consistency that he makes him so valuable. Averaging over 50 in T20 internationals is one thing but then doing it with a strike rate of just under 140 gives you an indication of how he has helped India go into the World Cup as the favourites in many people’s minds.
The one thing missing from his stats record is a T20 international century. He’s got close before, scoring 94 not out against the West Indies and 90 not out against Australia. What better time to change that than at the World Cup.
T20I stats – 62 matches, 716 runs @ 21.05, 156.33 strike rate
Russell might not have anywhere near the number of runs that Kohli or Gayle have amassed but that doesn’t mean that he’s any less valuable to his team. Russell has turned batting in the death overs into his own specialist subject and there are few better than him at it.
He has consistently, for club and country, come in with the game in the balance with just a few overs left and made the miraculous happen. His power and strike rate mean that he can swing the balance of power in just a few balls and has often turned an average score into an ungettable target or a losing run chase into a celebration party.
He has dominated the IPL in recent seasons with an average strike rate of over 170 from the past four seasons.
He’s also a very good bowler who can pick up wickets at crucial times and in the field he is more of an athlete than a cricketer, covering the ground with stunning speed and being able to fire in thunderbolts from the boundary that often see batsman refusing the second run they assumed was there.
He’s recovering from a hamstring injury in the lead up to the World Cup and all fans will be hoping that he’s fighting fit for the Super 12s.
T20I stats – 72 matches, 1780 runs @ 31.78, 158.92 strike rate
Maxwell has always been a talented T20 player but Australians should be especially excited about the form that he is carrying into this year’s World Cup.
In this recent IPL season the Big Show was the fifth best run scorer, averages over 42 and has a strike rate of above 144. He has been the only Aussie batsman to be consistently picked by his team with the likes of Dave Warner, Steve Smith and Marcus Stoinis struggling to hold down a spot.
Maxwell specialises in the middle innings acceleration and recently scored three consecutive half centuries in Dubai – home for three of Australia’s Super 12 fixtures in the upcoming weeks. He isn’t as powerful as say Russell or Gayle but his creative play and hard running is amazing to watch and opposition captains are always glad to see the back of him.
T20I stats – 45 matches, 1318 runs @ 32.14, 158.03 strike rate
With so much talk about Gayle, Russell and Pollard in the West Indies side, it can be easy to forget about the rest of their team. Lewis is an incredible striker of the ball and goes after the opposition from ball one. Many call him the next Chris Gayle and when you see some of the scores he has managed to rack up you can understand why.
In 2017 he scored 176 runs from just 130 deliveries in an ODI against England and in his second international T20 match he scored a century off of just 48 balls against India.
He scores at such a ferocious pace that fielding captains can very quickly lose entire control over their game plan and just have to stand back and watch his fielders picking the ball up from the boundary.
T20I stats – 30 matches, 1123 runs @ 43.19, 139.33 strike rate
It might sound strange but there are some who feel that the world’s number one ranked T20 batsman isn’t the complete package.
Despite an incredible run of form since his debut in 2017 when he scored 78 from 44 balls against South Africa, Malan’s inconsistent T20 club form has some wondering whether he’s a true legend or just a bit of an outlier.
But this is the T20 World Cup and Malan has an international record with the bat that any captain would love to add to their team. Batting usually at three, he does like to play himself in but once he’s in, boy is he in. Not only does he have a great average of over 43 but he lays a good platform for the faster scorers in the England line up to build on in the final overs.
He already has one T20 international century to his name and 11 half centuries – those numbers will soon be out of date after this World Cup when Malan will have a cracking tournament.
T20I stats – 25 matches, 506 runs @ 28.11, 149.70 strike rate
The 24 year old Kiwi has hit the most 6s in T20 this calendar year – 89 so far at a rate of more than one in every ten balls disappearing over the ropes. He’s built like a rugby player and has credited his time in the gym and brutal fitness regime as helping him add more power to his game.
“At one stage I was sort of doing 800 [press-ups] a day over three sets,” said Phillips in a press conference recently and you can see the results in the scores that he’s getting on the field.
Born in South Africa, he moved to New Zealand when he was five years old and made his first class debut just four years ago. As his talents became clear, he’s started to pick up contracts in many of the short format leagues around the world including the Caribbean Premier League and the Hundred in the UK.
He’s had a quiet IPL this season, playing just three times, but he’s already demonstrated that at the international level he can destroy opposition attacks. He’ll play up the top of the order for the Black Caps and we should see him add plenty more runs to his career tally over the coming weeks.
T20I stats – 88 matches, 1378 runs @ 24.60, 137.93 strike rate
One of the things that makes T20 such an interesting format of the game is that it’s not just about having your high scoring batsmen at the top of the order and hoping they get you enough runs. Those players who can come to the wicket in those final overs or even balls and pull off something special, time and time again, are just as valuable.
Pollard is that sort of player, and more. He can finish off games and score crucial runs right at the death of the innings or, if needs be, he can play a middle order anchor role.
Whatever the team needs, Pollard can deliver and he usually does so by using his incredible strength to send balls not just over the rope but out into the car park. His six sixes from one over against Sri Lanka in March this year has to be seen to be believed and it’s that sort of ability that makes him so dangerous.
He’s had a pretty decent IPL season including his highest ever score in the competition of 87 not out and a tournament strike rate of over 148.
When you add in the fact that he’s a seasoned and successful skipper and decent bowler in T20 then Pollard’s position in almost any T20 Greats list is assured.
He missed out on the West Indies success in 2016 and will want to add his second winner’s medal to his bulging trophy cabinet.
There are many others to keep a lookout for in the coming weeks and we’re sure to see an unknown hero make a name for himself. But these nine players will be the ones who dominate with the bat and will entertain fans far and wide.