Dubai: Cricket is a team sport but when it comes to the T20 format, it sometimes only takes one player to rise to the occasion and deliver a match-winning performance.
That’s certainly proved to be the case in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup since its introduction in 2007, with the sport’s very best showcasing their talent on the global stage.
From spectacular centuries and explosive boundary-hitting to destructive bowling spells, the tournament has delivered countless iconic moments over the last 14 years.
With many more memorable performances to come in the 2021 edition, what better time to reflect on the greatest individual displays from the last six ICC Men’s T20 World Cups.
Yuvraj Singh v Australia, 2007
The very first edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup provided a taste of what was to follow with a series of remarkable performances from cricket’s biggest names.
Chris Gayle lived up to his billing as ‘The Universe Boss’ by becoming the first person to hit a century in an official T20 international with a sensational 117 against South Africa. But the 2007 tournament will best be remembered for the outstanding individual displays from Yuvraj Singh, who produced fireworks throughout as India clinched the inaugural title.
He etched his name into T20 folklore against England in the Super 8s, smashing six sixes in one Stuart Broad over to record the fastest ever 50 (from 12 balls) in an 18-run win.
Yuvraj then produced another match-winning display in India’s semi-final victory against Australia, crushing 70 from just 30 balls in a ruthless innings against a quality bowling attack.
Umar Gul v New Zealand, 2010
Bowlers often get overlooked in the T20 format as the thirst for big-hitting dominates the agenda – but the 2009 edition provided two of the very best spells in tournament history.
Angelo Mathews produced one of the most memorable opening overs in Sri Lanka’s semi-final triumph, leaving the West Indies on 1 for 3 after removing Xavier Marshall, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo.
But Mathews’ exploits were preceded by an even more impressive performance with the ball from Pakistan’s Umar Gul in his side’s Super 8s tie against New Zealand.
The pressure was on Pakistan following their defeat to Sri Lanka in their previous game but they reduced the Kiwis to 73 for 5 inside 13 overs before Gul worked his magic.
He skittled the Black Caps’ middle order, taking five wickets for just six runs from his three overs to become the first bowler to take a five-for in a T20 international.
Mike Hussey v Pakistan, 2010
England were crowned ICC Men’s T20 World Cup champions for the first time in 2010 as Kevin Pietersen produced a series of match-winning knocks en route to their success.
The maverick batter finished with 248 runs from six games, including scores of 73 against Pakistan, 53 against South Africa and 47 in the final against Australia.
Pietersen was deservedly named Player of the Tournament for his efforts but perhaps the most iconic individual display that year was actually provided by Mike Hussey.
Chasing 192 to win in their semi-final showdown with Pakistan, Australia’s campaign appeared to be done and dusted before Hussey arrived at the crease in St Lucia.
Hussey came in at 105 for 5, with his team needing 87 from 45 balls, but he proceeded to blast an incredible unbeaten 60 from just 24 balls to steer Australia to a famous win.
Ajantha Mendis v Zimbabwe, 2012
2012 was another edition of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup where the bowlers arguably shone brightest as tournament hosts Sri Lanka narrowly missed out on the title.
Pacer Lasith Malinga had been chosen as the event ambassador of the tournament by the ICC and he certainly put on a good show against defending champions England.
Buoyed by a raucous home crowd, Malinga ripped through England’s top order with three wickets in four balls before returning to finish them off and complete an electrifying five-for.
Yet Malinga’s teammate Ajantha Mendis went one better in their group clash against Zimbabwe earlier in the tournament, taking six wickets for just eight runs in a four-over spell.
The mystery spinner also bowled two maiden overs in the process as he secured his place in the competition’s history books with the best ever T20 international bowling figures.
Virat Kohli v South Africa, 2014
Superb death bowling from Lasith Malinga and Nuwan Kulasekara helped Sri Lanka end their wait to be crowned T20 champions in 2014 after runners-up finishes in 2009 and 2012.
They were far from the only individuals to stand out in the tournament, however, with Alex Hales also registering England’s first T20I century in a victory over the eventual champions.
But the greatest performance of the 2014 edition was produced by Virat Kohli, who finished the tournament with the most runs as India missed out on the title to Sri Lanka.
The Player of the Tournament delivered a batting masterclass in India’s semi-final against South Africa just when they needed it – chasing 173 against Dale Steyn and co.
Kohli brought up his third half-century in four innings and hit the winning runs as he made an unbeaten 72 from 44 balls, completing the chase with five balls to spare.
Carlos Brathwaite v England, 2016
Five years have passed since the last ICC Men’s T20 World Cup took place but it’s safe to say the 2016 edition provided more than enough entertainment to fill the void.
Chris Gayle smacked the fastest T20 World Cup ton, reaching the milestone from 48 balls, and Virat Kohli showed his class again with 82 not out in a successful chase against Australia.
Kohli also struck an unbeaten 89 from 47 balls in his side’s semi-final defeat to the West Indies while Mitchell Santner marked his T20 World Cup debut by taking 4 for 11 against India.
Yet the 2016 tournament will forever be remembered for Carlos Brathwaite’s heroic turn in the final and Ian Bishop’s iconic ‘remember the name’ commentary to go alongside it.
With Windies needing 19 off the last over to get their hands on the silverware, Brathwaite clubbed Ben Stokes’ first four balls for sixes to get them over the line as he finished on 34 off 10 balls.