Year Ender 2021: Mohammad Rizwan Headlines T20 Team of the Year

This year’s T20 World Cup made sure that we have a lot of action unlike 2020 where fans found themselves on the receiving end of a raging pandemic. Having said that, let’s not forget that it was just a small part of the international fixtures. T20 Cricket has been played throughout the year, across the world; therefore, fans must not be surprised to see some of the picks. Here is Cricketnext’s T20 Team of the year.

The team has two wicket-keepers who double up as openers: Jos Buttler (England) and Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan). Skipper Babar Azam (Pakistan) comes in at three. He is followed by a solid middle-order in Aiden Markram (South Africa) and Devon Conway (New Zealand). The impetus will be provided by Mitchell Marsh (Australia). He is followed by Shakib-Al-Hasan (Bangladesh) at seven. Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka) bats at eight followed by nine, ten and eleven — Mustafizur Rehman(Bangladesh), Trent Boult(New Zealand) and Josh Hazlewood(Australia).

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T20 Team of the year

Jos Buttler (England): Buttler can go crazy at the top, or he can slow himself down and then go bang, bang, bang. His ability to survive the grind on slow, low tracks makes him special. A case in point is his century—which was the only century of the tournament—against Sri Lanka in the ICC T20 World Cup. His 101 came off 67, but his fifty came in 45 balls! Besides, let’s not forget that his exploits were just a blip in a superb year where he scored runs against many oppositions—mainly India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He was picked in the team of the tournament, but his purple patch began in India back in March in the three-match T20 series. His 83 and 52 pushed the hosts in their own backyard. As the home summer came calling, he slammed the fifties against Sri Lanka and Pakistan. All in all, he accounted for 589 runs in 14 games with an amazing average of 64. Oh, just in case you are wondering, his strike rate was 140 plus!

Mohammad Rizwan (Pakistan) (WK): You can see a fierce determination in Rizwan’s eyes. His willingness to take his own time and visualize scenarios just ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup opener against India caught the fancy of the broadcasters—perhaps he was visualizing scenarios like hitting Jasprit Bumrah for a four, or pulling Mohammed Shami for a six. Because on that day, he did exactly that as Pakistan ran away with the game in the most one-sided way; Rizwan scored 79 classy runs. But he was not done, he would score another 79, this time in a group game against Namibia. He would also score a valiant 67 vs Australia in the semi-final, although it came in the losing cause. We don’t have to build his case, his superb numbers make him an automatic choice in the playing eleven. He remains the only batter to score 1,000 T20I runs this year with the next best being his captain Babar Azam who has 853 runs to his name. As of writing this report, he has slammed another half-century against West Indies. What a year he is having!

Babar Azam (Pakistan) (C): Babar not only brings value as a solid batter, but as a thinking captain as well. The 26-year-old was already pushing his case by outscoring Virat Kohli in many parameters, but his captaincy skills left a lot to be desired at the beginning of the year. Well, all of that was set to change as Pakistan blossomed under his leadership—especially in the shortest format. By the time ICC T20 World Cup 2021 came, they were the clear front runners. They beat South Africa (home, away), Zimbabwe (away), West Indies (away). By the time year ended, they had conjured a clean sweep over Bangladesh (away), and beat West Indies 2-0 in 3-match series. His handling of seamers was the key as the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi and tearaway pacer Haris Rauf were encouraged to bowl fast—despite leaking runs on many occasions. Moreover, the Men in Green went on to win everything in the T20 World Cup until the juggernaut was stopped by Australia in the semi-final. Babar as a pure batter had a successful year too with 853 runs in 26 games reinforcing his image as one of the busiest players in the shortest format.

Aiden Markram (South Africa): How would you define Aiden Markram? A classic batter who doesn’t hit many aerial shots? Wrong. Markram might not come across as the most explosive, but he has aced the art of T20 run making. He would pick up the gaps and then add the impetus with effortless hitting. His strike rate, which is close to 150, is proof of it. He brings stability at number four, just in case you’d lose your openers early. 2021 saw him at his brightest with a run tally of 570 runs in just 16 innings. From the ‘upcoming Proteas Test star’ to finding a place in the ICC T20 World Cup Team of the Tournament, it has been a hush-hush journey that needs a shout out.

Devon Conway (New Zealand): Just like Markram, Conway comes across as a pure batter in the classical sense with his repertoire of shots limited to playing in the ‘V’. But, that’s not true is it? Not many fans would know that before he hit a century on debut at Lord’s against England, he had missed a T20 century! The Kiwi slammed 99* in the first T20I against Australia earlier in March that saw him taking the attack to the opposition which of course broke stereotypes. In fact, he had an outstanding home summer where he scored tons of runs. Moreover, he missed another century— against Bangladesh (94 runs) this very year. His T20 World Cup was average though, but 2021 saw him grow as a T20 batter. The Kiwi accounted for 428 runs in 13 innings with his orthodox, less-flamboyant strategy which bore him lots of runs. He is our perfect choice to bat at five, and rally, in case of early blows.

Mitchell Marsh (Australia): Marsh’s international career, just like his brother, was on the brink when he arrived in UAE for the ICC T20 World Cup. He made his T20 debut in 2011 and yet a decade had past and there he was, selling himself short. Injuries have hampered him from time to time. Remember 2019 World Cup or IPL 2021? Well, his fate finally favoured the Western Australian as he set the tournament on fire with his clinical all-around show. His scintillating 77* against New Zealand in the final was perhaps the perfect end to a perfect year which saw him score 627 runs at a strike rate of 130. He was usually promoted to number three which turned out to be a masterstroke for the Kangaroos. Marsh can also double up as the fourth seamer in this team with his military medium pace.

Shakib-Al-Hasan (Bangladesh): This team has to bat deep and it also needs a second spinner. Who better than the Bangladesh stalwart? Shakib has played the shortest format in the game for long enough and his numbers speak for themselves. His performance was average at the T20 World Cup by his own standards, but a couple of forties against Oman and PNG—came in really handy as the team fended off tricky challenges from the minnows. However, he finds a spot in our team solely on his bowling. Shakib has aced the art of bowling flat, fast in the limited-overs game and batters are still figuring things out— even in 2021. Yes, he didn’t play T20I for almost two years, but when he did, he made an instant impact, picking up 25 wickets in 18 games…A wicket every 17 balls.

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Wanindu Hasaranga (Sri Lanka): The number one T20 bowler picks himself in the playing eleven. He accounted for 36 wickets in the calendar year with an impressive economy of below six! The Sri Lankan varies his length. He can bowl flat, he can bowl juicy flighted ones, deceiving the batters at will. Perhaps, it was this ability that saw him take a four-for against India in July that soared his popularity. However, it was just one of several performances that he dished out throughout the year. Against West Indies, he accounted for eight wickets in March, had a bad outing in England and was on the money again during the busy home season where he picked up ten wickets. As a result, he was ready by the time ICC T20 World Cup came calling, and went onto become the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 16 wickets. Moreover, he can bat as well and that makes him a suitable number eight.

Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh): Slow leg cutters. Yes, that’s the weapon that makes Mustafizur Rahman ‘the fizz.’ Back in 2015, as he unleashed these leg cutters against MS Dhoni’s men, the nation of Bangladesh was overjoyed. It was like they have found a national hero who has finally figured out a way to demolish the all-powerful neighbours. As the years progressed, he proved his detractors wrong who thought the 26-year-old ‘a one series wonder.’ An IPL contract followed and boy, didn’t he deliver? He has accounted for 28 wickets in the calendar year with an impressive economy of just 7—gold in T20s. Over the years, he has sharpened his leg cutters and added a new dimension to his bowling with slow yorkers. At 26, the ‘T20 specialist’ is being looked at by every other major scout in the world.

Trent Boult (New Zealand): Boult is a fine T20 bowler, and 2021 was no different. With 23 wickets in 15 matches, the calendar year saw Boult entering a new phase of his bowling career. He has also fine-tuned his temperament over the years. For instance, in the big final, he was the only Kiwi bowler to take the attack to David Warner (Man of the Tournament). Although the team lost, he was at his menacing best picking up two wickets for just 18 runs. Interestingly, he didn’t play a T20 game for seven months right in the middle of 2021—a World Cup year. And yet, he delivered. He played the five-match Australia series in March. His next game came in October which meant he didn’t have the necessary game time before such a big tournament. However, Boult took the new conditions in UAE like a duck to the water, picking up 12 wickets in the whole campaign. At 32, he is expected to lead Kiwi attack once Tim Southee leaves the scene.

Josh Hazlewood(Australia): There was a time when Hazlewood belonged to the Aussie puritans who didn’t want to be associated with the IPL. Fortunately, good sense prevailed. Today, he has turned around his T20 career and the multi-million dollar league has a role to play. He went on to take 11 wickets playing for CSK in IPL 2021, and when he wore that yellow jersey again—this time for Australia, on these same pitches, and made an instant impact. Although he had accounted for 23 wickets in 15 games in 2021, his performance at the ICC T20 World Cup was even better—11 wickets with a three-for in the final. Being lanky, he can extract bounce and marginal seam movement which is not a forte to many modern-day bowlers. At 30, he is mature enough to handle an onslaught. Who better to get the new ball?

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