Hear that horrible grinding noise in the background? It’s the sound of England supporters collectively gnashing their teeth as we digest yet another predictable red ball debacle in the Caribbean. We all warned it would happen when the ECB started to neglect the county championship a few years ago. And here we are with our worst Test team in living memory.
However, it’s not all bad news. It’s not like we’ve suddenly become inept at cricket per se. In fact, England’s white ball cricket is currently in the best shape it’s ever been. Those much-maligned 18 counties keep churning out a remarkable amount of talent. So much so, in fact, that English cricketers who are very much on the fringes of the international side (or in some cases nowhere near it) are dominating in franchise leagues around the world. What’s more, we’re currently ranked No.2 in both 20-over and 50-over cricket. That’s a better combined rating than any other country.
Although I’m very much a Test cricket aficionado, and red ball cricket will always come first in my book, I do like T20s and ODIs, too. Therefore, I have enjoyed our white ball triumphs over the years. The World Cup in 2019 was an obvious highlight. We got lucky in the final but only the most churlish would deny that we’d been the best team in the tournament up to that point.
However, today I’d like to pay attention specifically to our T20 prowess. After all, England have enjoyed a lot of success in the format. We won the World T20 back in 2010, reached the final on 2016, and looked dominant last year before losing a crucial toss and bowing out in the semis. We’re also amongst the favourites for this year’s edition.
Our historic record in T20 internationals is also pretty good: we’ve won 55% of all our games. This is better than Australia (54%), New Zealand (53%), Sri Lanka (45%), and double World T20 champions West Indies (45%). Our cricketers are also the best in the world at 100-ball cricket – although that’s because no other country is stupid enough to play it. Ahem.
What strikes me, however, is that England’s T20 cricketers seem to be somewhat underrated despite their excellent records. One wonders whether this is because English cricketers haven’t always participated in the IPL? After all, whenever there’s a conversation about ‘the best T20 players ever’, very few England players ever get a mention.
There’s an interest conversation about the best T20 players ever on the Betway Blog this month. They asked a panel of Aakash Chopra, Ian Bishop, Kevin Pietersen, Lungi Ngidi, and Rassie van der Dussen who they consider to be the best batsman, best six hitter, best bowler, best mystery spinner, and best fielder ever? The answers, and the explanations they gave, all made sense:
Batsman: Virat Kohli – simple, classic technique but also explosive
Six Hitter: Chris Gayle – the universe isn’t my cup of tea but it’s hard to think of someone more destructive
Bowler: Lasith Malinga – fast, skiddy, yorkers… this one sounds fair enough
Spinner: Sunil Narine – not completely convinced about this choice but he did once bowl a maiden in a super over
Fielder: AB de Villiers – well, he definitely deserved a mention somewhere
Overall, it’s hard to argue with any of these picks individually. And am I convinced that any England players were better than these guys? Probably not. However, the official ICC all time (best-ever) rankings of T20 international players begs to differ.
Is the best T20 batsman ever really Virat Kohli? Nope. The ratings say it’s Dawid Malan. The Indian super star is actually third. Meanwhile, the universe boss is positioned in a not quite so out of this world 14th position.
As for Lasith Malinga, the Lankan legend comes as low as 39th in the bowling rankings. The real number one is Umar Gul, which is actually a decent shout in my book. Narine is fifth.
What interests me, however, is that there are four England batsmen in the top 10 – far more than any other nation. There’s Malan at 1, Kevin Pietersen at 5, Eoin Morgan at 6, and Alex Hales, a player the selectors seem more than happy to ignore, at number 7. What’s more, these rankings are based on career best ratings; therefore they’re based on actual performances rather than reputation.
Where English white ball cricketers do suffer, however, is in the bowling department. Our highest all-time ranked bowler is Graeme Swann at 18, closely followed by Adil Rashid at 19. Our best ever ranked seamer is Stuart Broad down at 40th. This would probably explain why we haven’t dominated as much as our batting prowess suggests we should.
So my question to you is therefore this: are England’s T20 cricketers somewhat underrated (especially the batsmen)? Although Jos Buttler gets his plaudits – although he’s ranked down at 60th in the best ever list – and Kevin Pietersen also had a stellar reputation, the likes of Eoin Morgan and Hales never seem to get their props.
And as for poor old Dawid Malan, well, he’s even under-appreciated in his own country. In fact, a lot of people think he shouldn’t even be in England’s team. If only he played sexy cricket like Kohli.