Cricket's Twenty20 superstars: 16 & 15
We continue our countdown of the top T20 players with an English maverick and a brilliant Indian
Sam Ferris & Adam Burnett
6 June 2018, 03:05 PM AEST
16. Suresh Raina
The stats | M: 291 | NO: 44 | Runs: 7819 | HS: 126no | Ave: 33.57 | SR: 139.12 | 100s: 4 | 50s: 46
The story: Suresh Raina made his T20 debut against the Proteas in 2006 and in the past 12 years few have matched his accomplishments in the game’s shortest format. Only three batsmen – Gayle, McCullum and Pollard – have scored more T20 runs than Raina, and at 31 he’s a good shot of holding the top spot by the time he calls time on his career. A stocky left-hander with every shot in the textbook, Raina has been a constant force at the top of the order for India and Chennai Super Kings for more than a decade. He’s found most success at home and in the yellow of CSK, with whom he’s won five titles (three IPL, two Champions League), while he's also the leading scorer in IPL history.
The signature move: Few batsmen can hit aerially through the off-side with such ease and ingenuity as Raina. By clearing his front leg, he opens up and uses those rubber wrists to whip the ball over the infield, to or beyond the boundary. What makes it so effective is the stroke range, from anywhere between backward point through to deep extra cover.
The match: With 291 matches under his belt it’s no surprise Raina has a bank of brilliant performances. His absurd 87 from 25 balls in the 2014 IPL qualifier would have been the pick had CSK won the match. The 101 from 60 balls against South Africa in the 2010 World T20 lifted India to group-stage win. But on the grand stage of an Champions League final, his unbeaten 109 from 62 balls, with six fours and eight sixes, powered Chennai to a dominant eight-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders.
15. Kevin Pietersen
The stats | M: 200 | NO: 25 | Runs: 5695 | HS: 115no | Ave: 33.89 | SR: 136.89 | 100s: 3 | 50s: 35
The story: Perhaps fittingly, T20 cricket and Kevin Pietersen came along right around the same time, swaggering into the sport's collective consciousness with the excitement and theatrics we've come to associate with both. And while 'KP' will rightly be lauded as a Test legend first, his ability to entertain and innovate was made for the shortest format. For England, he was an outright match-winner, and shone as player of the tournament at the 2010 World T20 – the country's only global ICC success. His decision to play in the IPL was a pioneering one for English cricketers, and his match-winning hundred for Delhi in 2012 underlined his value. When his Test career was cut short, he transitioned smoothly into the role of T20 freelancer, and he even won back (at least a few) Australian fans with four seasons at Melbourne Stars that earned him acclaim as one of the Big Bash's best overseas recruits.
The signature move: The 'flamingo' – yes, Pietersen even has his own shot! It involves taking a decent-length ball (the line is often irrelevant) and dispatching it through midwicket to the boundary, with the extravagant bat flick and one-leg execution perhaps more for show than a necessity.
The performance: It was Pietersen who got the semi-final hoodoo off the Stars' back with a match-winning score of 62 from 36 against Perth Scorchers in BBL|05. However, considering the gravity of the tournament success (at last some bragging rights for his country), we can't go past his string of 73no, 53, 42no and 47 to lead England to the World T20 title.