Of the six teams of the decade I compiled, this was the toughest, perhaps because we have played so little T20I cricket in this decade. Something that I suspect will change this year, perhaps fittingly given it is 2020! I have used a combination of world rankings and statistics here, as well as a bit of raw feel, let the arguments begin.
(1) Aaron Finch (c) (Australia) – 1,878 runs avg 38.32 / SR 156.00
Finch was a powerhouse for Australia ever since making his debut in 2011, eventually able to translate that to ODI form as well, and finally made his test debut, where he failed abysmally. But that certainly wasn’t the case in his favourite format. He was world number one for most of the decade, scoring some huge scores at very quick rates. He also became a brilliant captain and was my pick for captain of the world team.
(2) Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) – 1,327 runs avg 39.02 / SR 144.71
McCullum was one of the pioneers of the game, who was for some time the world’s leading run scorer, and was consistently world number one or close to it for most of his career. All while keeping wicket, at least some of the time. He did everything, and was a terrifying prospect to face. Simply brilliant.
(3) Virat Kohli (India) – 2,633 runs avg 52.66 / SR 138.07
The best all-formats player for the 2010s, Kohli was alone at the top in the Twenty/20 international format, with the highest average, though a long way from the best strike rate. It is a curious anomaly that Kohli’s average went up the shorter the format, and in Twenty/20 internationals he was truly terrifying to face. A player who was often not out at the end of the innings, in spite of coming out at three, a rock for the rest of the team to build around, and he could score quickly to boot. A dream player who is to T20Is what Viv Richards was to ODIs – playing in a different league to everyone else.
(4) Babar Azam (Pakistan) – 1,405 runs avg 50.17 / SR 127.49
The only player to compete with Virat Kohli’s incredible average of 52.66, Babar Azam was to Pakistan much like Virat Kohli was to India, many times being the backbone of the match. His strike rate was a bit on the low side, but, given that he had to do so much for the team so often, it is understandable.
(5) Glenn Maxwell (Australia) – 1,576 runs avg 35.02 / SR 160.00 & 26 wickets avg 27.07 / ER 7.48
Glenn Maxwell is the stuff nightmares are made of, with the ability to hit sixes with regularity from ball one, and not get out anytime soon either. His strike rate of 160.00 is the second-highest of anyone for the decade, just 0.04 points below Colin Munro, and with five points higher in average, and he bowled! While his bowling was hardly regular, he still managed an all-rounder differential of +7.95, which is pretty good, even if it is a bit inflated, given that he hardly ever bowled. A great player, though.
(6) MS Dhoni (India) – 1,261 runs avg 45.03 / SR 133.29 & 84 dismissals at 1.076 dismissals/innings
MS Dhoni was unlucky to miss out on the Test team of the decade to A B de Villiers and even unluckier to miss out on the ODI team of the decade to Kumar Sangakkara. But in the Twenty/20 international team he stands alone as easily the best wicket keeper, really only competing with the part-time wicket keeper Brendon McCullum. He was great in this format in particular, almost good enough purely as a batsman, with the third-highest average after Kohli and Babar, and a decent strike rate. It is as low as it is because he often had to rebuild the innings, but his counter-attacking was legendary. He was so adaptive with his wicket keeping that he could manufacture run outs and dismissals that others could only dream of. This was his format.
(7) Shane Watson (Australia) – 1,376 runs avg 30.57 / SR 147.48 & 45 wickets avg 23.97 / ER 7.57
While Watson would prefer to open or at least bat at 3, he certainly belongs in this team, just edging out Shakib al Hasan, with a slightly better all-rounder differential of +6.60, but with a much better strike rate. His fast bowling means that he is more useful to this otherwise spin bowling-heavy team, especially with Maxwell’s spin option. He was truly a great player for Australia when he played.
(8) Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) – 84 wickets avg 12.52 / ER 6.15
The highest wicket taker in T20Is for the decade, and with the best average, Rashid Khan spent much of his playing career at the very top of the T20I bowling rankings. He dabbled in strike batting as well, even opening the innings in the odd domestic match. While his average is slightly improved by Afghanistan being associate level for much of the decade, he showed that he really is that good.
(9) Imran Tahir (South Africa) – 63 wickets avg 15.04 / ER 6.73
A great player for South Africa, Imran Tahir was unlucky to miss out on the ODI team of the decade, but in T20Is I have decided to play a second spinner, and that’s Tahir! The format tends to lean on spin bowling a bit, so two frontline spinners is justified, and, with Shane Watson able to come in as the third pacer, we have room for Tahir to breathe. He was truly phenomenal on a regular basis.
(10) Mitchell Starc (Australia) – 39 wickets avg 18.41 / ER 6.74
With the best average of any fast bowler for the decade, Mitchell Starc was phenomenal in this format, at least when the Australian selectors let him play in it. After he established himself in the Test team, he was often forced to miss out on the format, but this was his format, the best format of them all for him, and he makes the team easily.
(11) Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) – 82 wickets avg 19.03 / ER 7.15
Many would be surprised to note that Malinga wasn’t the leading wicket taker in T20 internationals, but he was close, just pipped by 2 wickets by Rashid Khan. Malinga, though, did this against big sides, rather than the associate teams that Rashid Khan often played against, and he developed an adaptable bowling style that was hard to play against.
I nearly picked Jasprit Bumrah ahead of Mitchell Starc and Bumrah certainly has the better reputation, but, having seen them both bowl, I attest to the fact that Starc was better in the format, and his record was better too. Shakib al Hasan was unlucky to miss out too, only just pipped by Shane Watson. KL Rahul was statistically better than Brendon McCullum, but, having seen both play, and knowing the influence McCullum made, I had to pick McCullum. Colin Munro also could have made it ahead of Babar Azam, with a higher strike rate but much lower average. But I just decided that Babar’s strike rate was lowered due to the role he was forced to play as Pakistan’s only good batsman on many occasions. Even David Warner was unlucky to miss out, and wasn’t far behind. Heck, Chris Gayle didn’t get in either. As for “what about Andre Russell”, his record just doesn’t stack up.