Shoaib Malik, Kevin Pietersen, and Babar Azam were all given the axe as the SportsMax Zone panel and Zone team homed in on the Ultimate XI T20 batsmen 3-5.

After much heated debate, two legendary Indian players Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were selected alongside South African smasherAB de Villiers as the players to go forward.  The specialist included cricket analyst Kerry Scott, regional umpire Chris Taylor and sports columnist Zaheer Clarke.

For the most part, Kohli and de Villers were universal picks with the battle for the third spot coming down to Dhoni and Pietersen.  Taylor tried to make the case for Pietersen, pointing to a strike rate of 141.51 and an average of 37.93 in T20 international cricket.  He found no support, however, from either his fellow panelist or the Zone team, with exception of Lance Whittaker who was the lone voice joining him in his quest to advance the case of the South African-born Englishman.  Some of the issues presented, in the case again Pietersen, stemmed from what was described as his overall lack of consistency, as compared to the others on the list.

Fans, called Fanalysts have a 30% weighted vote on who makes SportsMax’s Ultimate XI T20 team, with the SportsMax Zone having another 30% of the vote. The panel of experts’ vote will count for 40% of the overall votes.

Fanlysts can vote by clicking here or going to SportsMax.tv and just clicking on the Ultimate XI tab at the top of the screen.

SportsMax.tv has also built a list of profiles where Fanalysts can go to have a look at the careers of the players who have made the SportsMax Ultimate XI shortlist just in case you want to learn a little more about them before making your choice. To take a look at those players click here.

Today the team will turn its attention to sorting through the list of quality bowlers.

 

There was no place for Marlon Samuels in SportsMax’s Ultimate XI T20 batsmen 3-5 after a panel of experts dumped the allrounder from a shortlist of 14 on the SportsMax Zone earlier today.

The panel consisting of David Brook, cricket commentator and reporter, Sachin Ramsuhbag, cricket commentator, and Chris Taylor, commentator and cricket umpire, felt Samuels, though a proven match winner, did not stack up with the consistency of some of the other batsmen in the list.

The panel also felt that Samuels’ strike rate (117.93) over the course of 187 games was not high enough, when compared to others in the list.

That list reads a veritable who’s who in the T20 game, with India’s Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni; South Africa’s Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers; West Indies’ Samuels; England’s Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, and Joe Root; Pakistan’s Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik; Australia’s Glenn Maxwell; Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara; and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson all getting the nod.

From that list, du Plessis, Samuels, Morgan, Duminy, Sangakkara, Maxwell, Williamson and Root have all been cut.

That means Kohli, Pietersen, Babar, Shoaib, de Villiers and Dhoni are the men who will vie for three places, from the number-three to the number five positions in the batting line-up when another panel of experts makes a judgement on the SportsMax Zone tomorrow.

While voting fans, Fanalysts, just pick a final XI, if they were to pick a group for a final discussion, it might look a little different from the one the panel picked.

So far, the fans have favoured Kohli, de Villiers, Dhoni, Maxwell, Pietersen, and there is a toss-up between Samuels and Sangakkara for the sixth position.

For the fans, neither Babar nor Shoaib factor in their all-time XI.

Fans, called Fanalysts have a 30% weighted vote on who makes SportsMax’s Ultimate XI T20 team, with the SportsMax Zone having another 30% of the vote. The panel of experts’ vote will count for 40% of the overall votes.

Fanlysts can vote by clicking here or going to SportsMax.tv and just clicking on the Ultimate XI tab at the top of the screen.

SportsMax.tv has also built a list of profiles where Fanalysts can go to have a look at the careers of the players who have made the SportsMax Ultimate XI shortlist just in case you want to learn a little more about them before making your choice. To take a look at those players click here.

When Pakistan were previously in England for a Test series, Babar Azam saw a promising start cut short by a bad break.  

The batsman made a half-century in the opening game at Lord’s in May 2018, but his involvement in the series was painfully cut short when struck on the left arm by a Ben Stokes short ball.  

Forced to retire hurt with 68 to his name, Babar did not appear again during the tour. A fracture ended his contribution as the tourists triumphed at the home of cricket, while he had to watch on as his side were crushed in the second Test at Headingley. 

At that stage of his career, Babar was viewed as a limited-overs specialist still making his way in the Test arena. With an average under 25 prior to playing England, he was – at the age of 23 – a player with obvious potential working out how to play the game of patience.

Just over two years on, he returns to England having enhanced his reputation to such an extent that the so-called 'Fab Four' - Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson - have company. It is unclear who identifies as the cricketing versions of Paul, John, Ringo and George, but Babar is not like the fifth Beatle – his identity is clear.

Start a discussion with cricket fans over who should be considered the lead act in the group and you are opening a cricketing can of worms. It is a topic that, understandably, stirs up national pride, but also heated discussions about the weight of importance given to each format. 

What is not up for debate, however, is that Babar deserves to be in the conversation. His white-ball numbers are outstanding – he averages over 50 in Twenty20 and one-dayers for Pakistan – yet his Test statistics in recent times provide additional evidence for those keen to argue his case.  

Indeed, his average of 75.9 across his 12 Test knocks since the start of 2019 is the best rate of any batsman to have 10 or more innings during that period. Better than Kohli, despite the India captain piling on the runs at home against South Africa, including a career-best 254 not out. Better even than Smith, whose Ashes heroics last year were so crucial in helping Australia retain the urn on English soil.  

He also sits above the same pairing when it comes to contributing for his team, providing an astonishing 22 per cent of Pakistan’s total Test runs over the period. There is clearly substance to the style now, a determined streak to go with the eye-catching technique.  

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, tipped Babar to become one of the best in the world at the start of the year; he was a little late to get on board a bandwagon that now offers standing room only. 

"I think he is right up there already," Azhar Ali, Pakistan's Test skipper, said on the eve of the series opener with England at Old Trafford. 

"His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player, but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.” 

Babar's career totals do not stand up to the sheer volume scored by Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson - at least not yet. Still, since 2018, he sits above the quartet in terms of Test average (65.5) and strike-rate (63.2 runs per 100 deliveries).

That stretch includes a memorable maiden hundred on home soil. While rain ruined the spectacle of the first Test played in Pakistan for over a decade, Babar brightened up the final day against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi with an unbeaten 102 that delighted the crowd who had patiently waited to see their team return.  

Scores of 60 not out, 100 and 143 followed in the remainder of a truncated series, all from a player who did not reach three figures until his 17th Test. 

Prior to that breakthrough innings against New Zealand in November 2018, Babar had managed an unspectacular 822 runs at 30.4. Since then, though, there have been four more three-figure scores in 10 games, plus a 97 in a losing cause against Australia in Adelaide when no colleagues were willing to stick around in support. 

Pakistan are likely to lean on him heavily again in England, particularly as they come up against a team brimming with fast-bowling options and fresh off a 2-1 series victory over West Indies. 

Babar's development - including a highly productive Cricket World Cup campaign last year on English soil, as well as finishing top run-scorer in the T20 Blast while playing for Somerset - suggests he will relish the challenge.

The head-to-head battle with Root will be one of the main storylines, too. England's captain has much on his plate in the coming weeks, including fathoming out a way to nullify the brilliant Babar, who has stylishly climbed his way into the top tier of international batsmen.

Virat Kohli made his T20I debut against Zimbabwe in 2010 and scored his first T20I fifty against Sri Lanka in 2012. Kohli continued churning runs in T20s as he scored 185 runs, including two half-centuries in 5 matches at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20. For his excellent batting, Kohli was named in the ‘Team of the Tournament’ for the 2012 T20 World Cup.

In the next T20 World Cup in 2014, Kohli’s continued to be in top form and played what he considers his best T20 innings in the semi-final of the tournament. He scored 72 not out in 44 balls and helped India get into the final by reaching the target of 173 runs.

 

Career Statistics (2007–present)

Full name: Virat Kohli

Born: November 5, 1988, Delhi

Major teams: India, Delhi, India A, India Blue, India Emerging Players, India Red, India Under-19s, Indian Board President's XI, North Zone, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, Rest of India, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Surrey

Playing role: Top-order batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm medium

 

T20I Career

Mat      Inns      NO Runs     HS  Ave       BF  SR  100       50       4s   6s   Ct   St

82  76  21  2794     94*       50.80   2021       138.24 0     24  258       76  41  0

 

T20 Career

Mat      Inns      NO Runs     HS  Ave       BF  SR  100       50       4s   6s   Ct   St

281       266       50  8900     113       41.20   6614       134.56 5     64  808       286       128       0

 

 

Career Highlights

  • Most runs all-time in T20Is, 2749, avg. 50.80
  • Player of the Tournament at the T20 WC in 2014 & 2016.
  • Most runs by an individual batsman at single T20 WC (319)
  • Most runs in IPL history (5412)
  • IPL player of the tournament & orange cap winner 2016 (record 973 runs)
  • 1st player to reach the 4000-run milestone in the IPL (2nd to 5000)
  • 82 T20I caps (3rd most for India)
  • 8900 T20 runs averaging 41.20

Australia ODI captain Aaron Finch hailed the consistency of India skipper Virat Kohli and said the rivalry between the two teams is just as big in limited-overs formats as it is Test cricket.

Kohli made his Test debut nine years ago and has gone on to become one of the game's greatest batsmen, as well as taking on the captaincy across all three formats.

There is little love lost on the field between Australia and India but Finch recognises Kohli's class, saying he is part of a group of players such as Steve Smith, Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar who define greatness.

"Every player, regardless of who it is, has a bad series. But very, very rarely do you see Kohli, Smith, even going back Ponting, Sachin, these guys they don't have two bad series in a row," Finch said on the Sony Ten Pit Stop show.

"The pressure of playing for India is one thing but also leading India is another and the way he has done it, so consistently for a long time.

"And taking over from [MS] Dhoni, the leadership, that is huge. The expectations were high and he kept delivering and I think that that is the most impressive thing.

"What has been so impressive for so long is just his consistency across three formats. To be the best player of all-time in ODI cricket is one thing. But then to also be in Test cricket and T20 cricket as a rounded player, that is remarkable."

Australia are scheduled to go head-to-head with India for three T20 matches in October, before beginning a four-Test series in December and rounding out with three ODIs in January next year.

The uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic means no fixtures are particularly set in stone right now, but Finch says the rivalry between Australia and India is hot regardless of the format.

"India and Australia are two very successful teams, two countries that are very passionate about cricket as well. So, it's hard to compare the rivalry [in Tests and ODIs]," Finch told reporters on virtual news conference.

"One is the traditional game of Test cricket and the grind of five days, that mental battle day in day out while one-day cricket is more skill-based obviously, just on that day. If a couple of guys have a great day on the field, it goes a long way in winning the match.

"That said, it's not a case of being less important or being taken lightly because it's ODI or T20 cricket."

The global health pandemic has seen Australia's home ODI series with Zimbabwe, which was scheduled for August, postponed indefinitely.

As things stand, T20 clashes with the West Indies and India in October that precede the T20 World Cup – which could still be rearranged – will be the next assignments for Australia.

But there remains the possibility of limited-overs matches being organised to take place in England, something Finch is preparing for.

"It's a little bit up in the air, just with how quickly everything is changing. In Victoria [where restrictions have been tightened] we are going the other way again," he said.

"We're not exactly sure when our next game is going to be. In our mind we were planning for Zimbabwe, we were planning for England, and all going well, I think that was our next game, that's what we are planning for.

"I am preparing to go to England and play, whether that happens we will wait and see.

"We just have to be really conscious of being ultra flexible. There might be a tour comes up at relatively short notice because we can get there, and that would be brilliant.

"Whatever it takes. The players are all in the same boat. Whatever we have to do to get a game up and going, that is in the best interest of world cricket, we’d be up for that."

It is nine years to the day since India captain Virat Kohli made his Test debut at the age of 22.

Kohli contributed just 19 runs in the two innings of his Test bow in a victory against West Indies at Sabina Park, twice snared caught behind by Fidel Edwards.

The elegant batsman soon shed the 'one-day specialist' tag, though, and has since established himself as one of the best players in the world in all formats.

We look at Kohli's exploits in the longest format with data supplied by Opta.

 

Almost on a par with Tendulkar 

The great Sachin Tendulkar is comfortably the highest Test run-scorer of all time with 15,921 and Kohli will not be threatening his record.

However, Kohli could soon be bettering his legendary compatriot's average of 53.78.

The India skipper averages 53.62, scoring 7,240 runs from his 145 knocks, with Tendulkar having recorded his incredible average from a mammoth 329 innings.

 

Leading by example

Taking on captaincy duties has proved to be a burden for some players of the years, but that is definitely not the case with Kohli.

Quite the opposite, in fact, as the 31-year-old has thrived since taking on the extra responsibility of leading his country,

Kohli, skipper in all formats, has the record for most runs as India captain and there will no doubt be plenty more to come.

He has averaged 61.2 from 90 Test knocks as captain compared to 41.1 in 55 innings before taking on the duties.

 

A double no trouble

Only three batsmen have scored more Test double centuries than India's superstar middle-order craftsman.

Kohli has seven to his name and achieved two in as many matches in a series against Sri Lanka in 2017.

Don Bradman (12), Kumar Sangakkara (11) and Brian Lara (9) are the only players to have scored more Test double-hundreds.

 

Cemented among 'the big three'

Some rate Kohli as the best Test batsman in the world, but the rankings show Australia run machine Steve Smith has that mantle.

Kohli can boast a higher career-best score than Smith and New Zealand's run-machine captain Kane Williamson, with an unbeaten 254 against South Africa last year.

He also has the most centuries with 27, but Smith has just one fewer and has played 13 fewer Tests.

A joy to watch when at his majestic best, Kohli also has a better strike rate than Smith (55.3) and Williamson (51.6) with 57.7 runs per 100 balls. 

 

Home comforts

Kohli has treated packed crowds in his homeland to many memorable masterclasses over the years.

His record in India is phenomenal, with an average of 68.4 in 60 Test innings.

That is the best by any batsman in the country to have made at least 30 trips to the crease.

The Prince of Port of Spain did not pay enough respect to One-Day International cricket, so says world-renowned cricket umpire and commentator Chris Taylor and his opinions seem to have found favour with both the SportsMax Zone and a panel of experts picking SportsMax’s Ultimate ODI XI.

That favour does not extend to the Fanalysts picking the SportsMax Ultimate XI online though.

For them, Brian Lara is the first name that should be counted among batsmen 3-5.

Already, Lara has the most votes with India’s Virat Kohli running a close second. The final spot, according to the Fanalyst should go to ‘Mr 360’, South Africa’s AB de Villiers.

Just outside of the running for the Fanalyst is Sir Vivian Richards.

Neither the panel nor the SportsMax Zone would dare to leave Sir Viv out again after Fanalysts swung the Test XI voting in favour of Australia’s Don Bradman.

Thus far, the Zone and the panel have been moving in lock-step, both picking Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar as their openers and both coming up with Viv Richards, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli as their batsmen from 3-5.

That means, of course, there is no space for fan favourite Lara, while all three groups are in agreement that Ricky Ponting, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Ross Taylor, Mike Hussey, Michael Bevan, Kumar Sangakarra, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Aravinda de Silva don’t quite match up, as great as they all are.

With technique and temperament to succeed in every condition and format, Virat Kohli cutting loose is one of the exalted sights of the modern game — be it for India, Delhi or Royal Challengers Bangalore. He is already at the rarefied top of the ODI and T20 formats.  His style is based on the sound fundamentals of batting, topped with the finishing flair of god-gifted genius.     

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Virat Kohli

Born: November 5, 1988, Delhi

Major teams: India, Delhi, India A, India Blue, India Emerging Players, India Red, India Under-19s, Indian Board President's XI, North Zone, Oil & Natural Gas Corporation, Rest of India, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Surrey

Playing role: Top-order batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm medium

 

ODI Career: India (2008–present)

Mat    Inns    NO   Runs     HS    Ave      BF         SR       100s    50s     4s        6s      

248      239    39    11867    183   59.33    12726   93.25       43     58       1116    121   

 

Career Highlights

  • ICC ODI Player of the Year (2012, 2017, 2018)
  • Highest average (min 5,000 runs) in the history of ODI cricket
  • 2nd most ODI centuries (43)
  • Fastest to 8,000; 9,000; 10,000; and 11,000 runs in ODIs
  • Has scored 5,388 runs in successful run chases at an average of 96.21
  • His 22 hundreds are the most in successful run chases
  • Has scored more than 1,000 runs in ODIs in a calendar year on 7 occasions
  • Reached the 1,000 ODI run mark in a year in record time – 11 innings

West Indies T20 specialist and former captain of the One-Day International team, Dwayne Bravo had some interesting choices to make during an interview on Cricbuzz, leaving out some big names on a list of five of the best T20 players in the game today.

Bravo, who was interviewed by Cricbuzz’s Harsha Bhogle, was given six players to choose from in each of five rounds of choices and here’s what he came up with.

In the first round, Bravo was made to choose from among Australia’s Matthew Hayden and David warner, India’s Virender Sehwag, New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, and the West Indies’ Dwayne Smith and Chris Gayle.

Bravo chose Gayle.

The second round saw Bravo having to pick one of India’s Gautam Gambir and KL Rahul, England’s Johnny Bairstow and Joss Buttler, and Australia’s Shane Watson and Chris Lynn.

Bravo chose Watson.

India’s Virat Kohli was lined up against teammate Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina, as well as South Africa’s Faf Du Plessis and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.

According to Bravo, while Raina is his favourite batsman, he would have to go with Kohli.

Up next were India’s Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and Yuvraj Singh, Australia’s Michael Hussey, England’s Ben Stokes, and South Africa’s AB de Villiers.

Bravo went with de Villiers.

In the final round Bravo had a major struggle with picking from a grouping of India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Hardik Pandya, Australia’s Glenn Maxwell, and the West Indian pair of Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard.

Bravo eventually went with Dhoni.

So Bravo’s choices as the top-five players today, given the imitations of the choices put to him were Chris Gayle, Shane Watson, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Given the grouping of choices, is Bravo correct?

Steve Smith and Virat Kohli are talismanic figures who set the tone for their respective international sides, according to David Warner.

Australia's Smith and India's Kohli are two of the finest batsmen of their generation, occupying first and second spot respectively in the current Test rankings.

The duo are set to meet if India's tour of Australia – scheduled to begin in October – goes ahead, although significant doubt remains as the coronavirus pandemic continues to pose a threat.

If it should go ahead, Warner expects to see great things from the two leading men, who he says act as figureheads for their sides.

"When it comes to cricket, they both have got the mental strength, the mental capacity to score runs," Warner told Cricbuzz.

"They stabilise, they boost morale – if they score runs, everyone else's morale is up. If they are out cheaply, you almost sense that on the field that everyone is … [down on morale and thinking] now we all have to step up. It's a very bizarre situation.

"They both love spending time in the middle. Virat's passion and drive to score runs is different to what Steve's would be.

"Steve is going out there for a hit in the middle, that's how he sees things. He's hitting them out in the middle, he's having fun, he's enjoying himself, just does not want to get out.

"Virat, obviously, doesn't want to get out, but he knows if he spends a certain amount of time out there, he's going to score plenty of runs at a rapid rate.

"He's going to get on top of you. That allows the guys coming in [to play their own game], especially in the Indian team you've got a lot of players who can be flamboyant as well."

Virat Kohli has the talent, fitness and drive to break Sachin Tendulkar's all-time runs record, according to Brett Lee.

India great Tendulkar, who celebrated his 47th birthday on Friday, retired in 2013 having scored 34,357 international runs across all formats in a 24-year career.

No other batsman has gone beyond 29,000 runs, yet current India captain Kohli is the leading active player, amassing 21,901 runs in 416 matches since debuting in 2008.

Kohli currently has a higher one-day international average - 59.33 to Tendulkar's 44.83 - and his Test number is similar - 53.62 to 53.78 - while the 31-year-old averages above 50 in Twenty20 cricket, too.

"We are talking about phenomenal numbers here, so you mentioned seven to eight years of cricket and at the rate [Kohli] is going, yes, he can definitely knock it off," former Australian bowler Lee said on Star Sports.

"It comes down to three things, there is one thing I would like to eliminate - so, you talk about talent as a batsman, he's definitely got that talent, eliminate that first and foremost.

"Then fitness - Virat Kohli has got that fitness, so for me it is all about fitness at the age of 30 and also that mental strength, the mental capacity to get through those hard times, being away from home, from his wife, or when they will have children.

"He will do it easily with his talent, it comes down to his mental strength and if he stays fit enough and I believe he has got all those three components to go past Sachin."

Having backed Kohli to better the marks of another India great, Lee was quick to point out the high esteem he holds Tendulkar in.

"But, how can you say someone can go past Sachin Tendulkar," he added. "This is God here, can someone go better than God? We will wait and see."

Australia spinner Nathan Lyon believes Virat Kohli would have no trouble adjusting to playing without fans in attendance but joked the India star may "try and rev up the seats".

An ODI between Australia and New Zealand was played behind closed doors in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It remains to be seen when fans will again be allowed in to watch sporting events, with Australia due to host India from October.

Kohli is renowned for his ability to feed off crowds and Lyon joked the batsman could instead turn to the seats, although he was full of praise for the 31-year-old.

"He's probably good enough to adapt to any scenario," the off-spinner told a video conference on Tuesday.

"I was actually talking to Mitch Starc the other day and we actually said if we are playing with no crowd it would be quite amazing to see Virat try and rev up the seats.

"It's going to be a little bit different, but I think Virat, he's a superstar, he'll be able to adapt to any climate that we're able to play in."

While there is plenty of uncertainty over the series, Lyon said he was excited about welcoming India, who retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2018-19.

"I'm just excited about the prospect of India coming out. I think India coming out here to Australia, it's up there with the biggest series alongside the Ashes," he said.

"Obviously they're an absolute powerhouse of the cricket world so to have those guys out here is going to be fantastic. Playing in front of crowds or in front of no crowds, it's out of our control.

"We've got to be supported by and follow the advice from all the amazing medical people around the world giving out all the advice so it's out of our control.

"I haven't really thought about playing in front of no crowds or massive crowds, it's just about the opportunity about playing against India again.

"Obviously they had the wood over us last time they come out here, but I feel like we're a much stronger Australian cricket side at the moment and I'm just unbelievably excited about the prospect of playing them here at home."

Chris Gayle is best known for his power-hitting exploits in all formats of the game.

West Indies legend Shivnarine Chanderpaul has been talking to the media in India sharing his thoughts on who he believes is the best batsman in the world.

Sunday was due to see the start of the Indian Premier League in 2020, with champions Mumbai Indians scheduled to take on Chennai Super Kings in a repeat of last year's final.

It was to be the first of 56 group games during the 13th season, the success of the lucrative Twenty20 competition showing no signs of slowing up despite pretenders springing up all over the world hoping to find the same magic formula for success.

However, the coronavirus outbreak put paid to the best-laid plans.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced a postponement until April 15 initially, yet it remains to be seen when – perhaps even if – the campaign will begin, considering the health crisis that is unfolding around the globe.

Still need your IPL fix, though? Why not enjoy a leisurely trip down memory lane to recall some of the notable moments in the tournament's history.

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