The seventh edition of the T20 World Championship is taking place from October 18 to November 14 in UAE and Oman. 16 teams and the best players in the world will be seen in action at the tournament that was originally slated for 2020 but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Ahead of the tournament, let’s look at the top five wicket-takers from all the editions combined.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi tops the list with 39 wickets in 34 matches at an economy rate of 6.71. This includes two four-wicket hauls. In 2007, when Pakistan lost to India in the final, Afridi was the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 12 wickets in seven matches. But his most memorable performance from the tournament came in the final of 2009, in which Pakistan beat Sri Lanka. The all-rounder bowled his four overs at an economy of only 5 runs, while also picking a wicket. With the bat, he scored 54 off 40 balls to help Pakistan chase 139 in 18.4 overs. Afridi was named the Player of the Match in the final for his all-round show. His best bowling effort of 4/11, meanwhile, came against the Netherlands in that same edition.
In July 2010, Afridi announced his retirement from Test cricket and five years later after the 2015 ODI World Cup, he retired from the 50-over game. In February 2017, he retired from the shortest format. The 41-year-old played 99 T20Is for Pakistan, from which he has an excellent batting strike rate of 150.00 and 98 wickets at an economy rate of 6.63.
Placed at number two is former Sri Lankan bowler Lasith Malinga, who took 38 wickets from 31 matches at an economy rate of 7.43. One of the best bowlers in T20 international cricket and the king of the yorker ball, Malinga was last seen at the tournament in its 2014 edition, in which he captained Sri Lanka to the trophy. He was a part of the squad in 2016 but had to sit out with an injury.
Malinga’s 5-31 in the 2012 edition is one spell that comes to mind. In the match against England, the seamer sent back England’s top three - Luke Wright, Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow in a single over and within a space of 17 runs. Later in the game, he sent back Jos Buttler and Samit Patel to claim a five-wicket haul. Malinga’s efforts throughout the tournament helped Sri Lanka reach the final where they eventually lost to the West Indies.
In September 2021, Malinga announced retirement from all forms of cricket. The 38-year-old represented Sri Lanka in 84 T20Is, from which he picked 107 wickets including seven five-wicket hauls. One of the greatest limited-overs bowlers in his prime, Malinga will go down in history as one of the best-ever seamers.
Among the top five wicket-takers at the T20 WC, three are from Pakistan, and the second on the list is Saeed Ajmal. The off-spin bowler, who played all the editions of the tournament from 2009 to 2014, picked up 36 wickets in 23 matches, which, statistically, is a better performance than Afridi and Malinga, who played more games than Ajmal.
One of the best spinners as well as fielders of his time, Ajmal was the joint second-highest wicket-taker in 2009 with 12 wickets in seven games at a stingy economy of 5.82.
In November 2017, Ajmal announced retirement from all forms of cricket after his remodelled bowling action was deemed illegal twice. The 44-year-old played 64 T20Is for Pakistan, picking 85 wickets at an economy of only 6.36.
Fourth on the list is Sri Lanka’s Ajantha Mendis, who played in all the editions from 2009 to 2014 and picked up 35 wickets in 21 games at an economy rate of 6.70. The right-arm off-break bowler was the highest wicket-taker of the 2012 edition, where he picked up 15 wickets, which is still the most number of wickets in a single edition of the World T20. The mystery spinner also holds the record for the best bowling figures in T20 WC history – 6 for 8 - against Zimbabwe.
Batting first, Sri Lanka put up 182 runs on the board, which they defended easily with the help of Mendis’ heroics. The former international cricketer sent back Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Elton Chigumbara, Malcolm Waller, Graeme Cremer, Prosper Utseya and Kylie Jarvis while conceding only six runs in his four overs. Sri Lanka went on to win the game by 82 runs.
In August 2019, Mendis announced his retirement from all forms of the game. The 36-year old, who made his debut for Sri Lanka in 2008 and last played an international game in 2015, picked up 66 wickets in 39 T20I matches at an economy rate of 6.45 runs per over.
Fifth on the list is Umar Gul, who last played the T20 WC in 2014. The former Pakistan pacer picked up 35 wickets – the same number as Mendis – but in 24 matches, four more than the number of games the Sri Lankan played. Gul was the highest wicket-taker in both the 2007 and 2010 editions. He picked 13 wickets in both the editions, at an economy rate of 5.60 and 6.40 respectively.
Gul has bowled several wonderful spells at the T20 World Championship. In 2007 against New Zealand in the semi-final, Pakistan restricted New Zealand to 143 in the first innings, with Gul picking up three wickets in his four overs and conceding only 15 runs. He was also impressive against India in the final, where he picked up three wickets for 28 runs in four overs, but in a losing cause. Another of his memorable spell came in 2009 against New Zealand, in which he picked up five wickets for just six runs which helped Pakistan win by six wickets.
The speedster announced retirement from all forms of cricket in October 2020. He played 60 T20Is for Pakistan, picking 85 wickets at an economy of 7.19.