The ECB (English Cricket board) was trying to boost the popularity of Cricket in 2001 due to reduced sponsorship and the diminishing crowd. So the ECB proposed the 18 English counties a 20 over format and got the green signal with a majority of 11-7. They played the first official T20 match on 13 June 2003 between the English counties. After the success of that season, the T20 format caught the attention of the International boards.
In 2007, South Africa hosted the first ever T20 World Cup and with India winning that inaugral tournament, the fans accepted the 20 overs format wholeheartedly. After the 2007 World Cup, the number of spectators kept multiplying.
Undoubtedly, the bowlers hold more importance in this format though it is believed to be a batsman-friendly format. The Asian bowlers have dominated the T20 format which has led to the Asian teams being more dominant in this format.
Here's a look at the top 5 wicket-takers in the T20Is.
#5 Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh
Shakib Al Hasan is a spin bowling all-rounder from Bangladesh. He is a left-arm spinner who leaks runs at a very economical rate. ICC currently ranks the Bangladeshi no 3 in t20I all-rounders rankings.
He also holds the number 1 rank in Test all-rounders ranking and the 2nd rank in ODI in all-rounders category. He made his t20I debut against Zimbabwe in 2006. Shakib has been a consistent performer for his country ever since his debut.
He has taken 80 wickets in 69 matches with an average of 21.06. From the current all-rounders in the world cricket, he’s the best across all formats and the top pick in the T20 all-rounders field. Hasan also actively takes part in all the T20 competitions around the globe.
#4 Umar Gul, Pakistan
Umar Gul is a fast bowling talent who emerged to be the spearhead of the Pakistan bowling attack in T20Is. Gul is known for his quick pace and toe-crushing yorkers. The right arm pacer made his T20I debut against Kenya in 2007. He has the best bowling figures in T20I cricket history which boast of 5/6 against New-Zealand. He achieved this feat in the 2009 T20 World cup hosted by England.
The Pakistani pacer has taken 85 wickets in 60 matches with an average of 16.96 which is better than the ones in top 5 wicket takers. Due to the arrival of young pacers and frequent injuries, Umar Gul was unable to stabilize his name in the squad. But his bowling performances earned him the respect of the cricket fans.
#3 Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan
Saeed Ajmal is a classic off-spinner from Pakistan. Due to his unreadable doosra and flight variations, he became a feared spinner in the shortest format of the game. He made his T20I debut against Australia in 2009.
The off-spinner has scalped 85 wickets in 64 matches with an average of 17.84. ICC banned him for some time for his suspicious bowling action but soon he made corrections in his action and, made his return to International cricket.
#2 Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka
Lasith Malinga is a medium pacer from Sri Lanka. Due to his unique slinging bowling action, the fans also call him ‘Slinga Malinga’. Malinga made his T20I debut in 2006 against England.
Due to his bowling action and variations, he had become a matter of concern for the batsmen in T20 format. At the beginning of his career, it was difficult to pick his deliveries. The Sri Lankan has scalped 92 wickets in just 69 matches at a remarkable average of 19.65. The former Mumbai Indians player is known for his yorkers and slower ones. But due to injuries and age, he was overshadowed by other bowlers.
#1 Shahid Afridi, Pakistan
Shahid Afridi is a leg-spinning all-rounder from Pakistan, known for his destructive batting and accurate bowling. The fans nicknamed him ‘BOOM BOOM AFRIDI’ due to his amazing performances on the field.
He made his T20I debut against England in 2006. His variations of leg spin made him an outstanding bowler. The Pakistani legend has taken 98 wickets in 99 matches with an average of 24.45. The most successful International bowler in the shortest format of the game retired from cricket in February 2017.