2. Sunil Narine
The stats | M: 287 | W: 334 | Ave: 19.40 | Econ: 5.92 | SR: 19.60 | BB: 5-19
The story: T20 cricket was meant to spell the death of spin bowlers but not only have they proven to be perhaps the most vital asset to a team, it’s been a mystery spinner from the Caribbean that’s become the format’s premier bowler. Sunil Narine, with long, wiry fingers that produce subtle but super-effective variation, is a revelation. Narine has the third-most wickets in T20 cricket and if that’s not impressive enough, no bowler with at least 100 T20 wickets has an economy rate lower than his 5.92 runs per over. To go for less than a run a ball in T20 cricket is extraordinary. Even at international level, his RPO is only 6.02. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Narine, who has run into trouble with his action and been suspended multiple times. But even after the changes, the 30-yaer-old is still a force of nature with the ball, and later in his career, a damaging stroke-maker at the top of the order. Narine has excelled all around the world, whether it be in India, Australia, Bangladesh, South Africa, the UAE or at home in the Caribbean. And in an age where franchises are obsessed with wrist-spinners, it’s an unorthodox finger-spinner that’s risen to the top of the batsmen’s format as its best bowler.
The signature move: Narine’s signature, apart from his mohawk hairstyle, is his complete lack of celebration when he captures a wicket. Caribbean cricketers are renowned for their cool, calm demeanor, but even by Calypso standards Narine is sub-zero.
The match: How’s this for domination: In the 2017 IPL regular season against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Narine took 2-29 (including the wicket of AB de Villiers) and then clubbed 54 from just 17 balls, a knock that featured six fours and five sixes!
1. Chris Gayle
The stats | M: 335 | NO: 46 | Runs: 11454 | HS: 175no | Ave: 40.61 | SR: 148.57 | 100s: 21 | 50s: 70
The story: Who else? Take a look at the statistics and you'll see that across the relatively brief history of T20 cricket, Chris Gayle has in many cases put a Bradman-like gap between himself and the rest of the batting field: his 21 hundreds are more than triple the next best; his 11,454 runs are more than 2000 clear of the pack; and no-one else among the top 50 T20 run-scorers can lay claim to striking at above 140 while averaging above 40. And that could be the most remarkable thing about Gayle: his sheer consistency. Every 3.6 times he walks out to bat, he makes at least a half-century. In a format renowned for hit-and-miss, Gayle is hit, hit and hit. Then there is the small matter of maximums. The two-time World T20 winner has hit 846 of them (more than 300 clear of the next best) at a rate of 2.58 per innings. Throughout it all, he has transformed the game, making the impossible seem possible and setting new benchmarks for generation next to chase.
The signature move: Did we mention sixes? Gayle hits them with a certain easy ferocity that leaves the rest of us in awe. His preferred aerial route is anywhere between wide long off and wide long on.
The performance: Last year, Gayle bettered his own world record for sixes in an innings by one, smashing 18 in an unbeaten 146 (69) in the final of the Bangladesh Premier League. But even that doesn't surpass his jaw-dropping 175 in the IPL in 2013. Playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore, the left-hander only needed 17 balls to reach 50, another 13 to reach 100, and a pedestrian 23 to reach 150. In all, the carnage read: 66 balls, 13 fours, 17 sixes, 175no from 66 balls. "I have never seen hitting like that in all my life," said Pune coach Allan Donald at the time. "To see our guys getting pummelled like that was unbelievable. When I walked out for the first strategy break, I just saw people scared, really scared." The world record score still stands.