In cricket, it is standard operating procedure to pick the best XI from a tournament after its conclusion these days, and things are no different when it comes to the Indian Premier League. Its tenth edition drew to a close with a thriller between Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiant earlier this week, an appropriate end to a fine six weeks.
The XI we have for you here is dominated, naturally, by members of the finalists. Some players, like the Kings XI Punjab duo of Hashim Amla and Axar Patel, were unlucky to miss out. However, there were no surprises in the zero representation from Royal Challengers Bangalore – the wooden-spooners usually would have had at least one of their many Galacticos in the side, but this has been a bizarre tournament for last year’s finalists.
So, without further ado, the team of the tournament:
David Warner: Captaincy of Sunrisers Hyderabad has only accentuated David Warner’s capabilities, his consistency being his most notable feature. He missed out to Virat Kohli in the race to finish atop the run-charts last year, but while Kohli struggled this time around, Warner was still pummelling the runs. He ended the tournament with 641 runs in 14 innings at an average of 58.27 and a strike-rate of 141.81. It was still way off his own standards last year, but he was by far the best of the lot this year.
Gautam Gambhir: Being one half of India’s most formidable opening pairing, the other being Virender Sehwag, Gambhir is used to playing second fiddle when his partner is on a rampage, but can take charge and heave the runs too when needed. It makes him the ideal foil for Warner. Gambhir racked up 498 runs in 16 matches at an average of 41.50 and a strike-rate of 128.02. This despite Gambhir often taking the back seat to facilitate Sunil Narine’s gung-ho approach.
Steve Smith (capt): The captain of this fantasy XI, Steven Smith is well worth the honour given how he took charge of Rising Pune Supergiant, efficiently managed communication with his team, and brought the best out of them. It helped that he led from the front – he was their top-scorer, with 472 runs in 15 matches, at an average of 39.33 and a strike-rate of 121.96. He’s a batsman tailor-made for the format, and one of the best at his job.
Suresh Raina: Having headed into the tournament after missing a lot of domestic cricket with injury, with plenty writing him off, Raina had to prove the naysayers wrong. He rewound the clock, showing why he is regarded a T20 stalwart. The 46-ball 84 against Kolkata Knight Riders as a launchpad, Raina went on to score 442 runs in 14 matches at a fine average of 40.18 and a strike-rate of 143.97. This dynamite is far from done.
Rishabh Pant (wk): While Mahendra Singh Dhoni, his captaincy and his brand of wicket-keeping is unsurpassed, Rishabh Pant is one for the future. Pant, unfortunately, lost of his father early in the tournament, but showed enough mettle to channel his emotions into some stunning performances. His big-hitting was one of the few positives for Delhi Daredevils in a disappointing campaign, especially his match-winning 43-ball 97 against Gujarat early in May.
Ben Stokes: The England all-rounder showed he was worth every paisa of the Rs 14.5 crore Pune splurged on him. He won matches single-handedly, raised the standards with the bat, with the ball and in the field, and was acknowledged as the most valuable player after the tournament, despite international duty preventing him from playing the knockouts. He scored 316 runs in 11 outings – including a match-winning unbeaten 103 against Gujarat Lions – at an average of 31.60 and a strike-rate of 142.98. He also picked 12 wickets at an economy of 7.18. Don’t be surprised if he goes for more big bucks next year.
Krunal Pandya: While Stokes was the big-name allrounder, the role Krunal Pandya played for Mumbai Indians, the champions, cannot be overstated. He added valuable balance to the side, scored 243 runs at an average of 34.71 batting late, and picked 10 crucial wickets. He made a habit of bailing Mumbai out of tough spots, none more so than in the final against Pune when he scored a 38-ball 47 batting with the tail to help squeeze a one-run win.
Rashid Khan: Imran Tahir gave Rashid Khan a run for his money in this team, but given his age, his influence in his first ever IPL campaign, and the way he flummoxed batsmen with his leg-spin, the Afghanistan youngster takes the spot. He claimed 17 wickets in 14 matches at a juicy economy of 6.62. Furthermore, he showed incredible cool under pressure, bowling in the Power Play overs in one of his very first outings at this level. He has opened the gateway for more Afghanistan representation in the IPL.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar: A pied-piper of the ball, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has always been able to move the ball both ways, use his gift of swing to great effect. These days, he’s added some pace to his armoury as well, making him a lethal bowler in this format. He’s the highest-wicket taker in the tournament with 26 wickets in 14 matches at 14.19 and an economy of 7.05. These stats say it all.
Jaydev Unadkat: Nobody expected Jaydev Unadkat to feature at the top end of the wicket-taking charts this year. You can’t blame them, because he’s played just two IPL matches in the last two years. It is credit to the Pune management, and Unadkat himself of course, that he was used to such devastating effect. He has 24 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 13.41 and an economy of 7.02 – these statistics are better than those of Bhuvneshwar’s. He’s the surprise of the tournament.
Jasprit Bumrah: The prospect of Bumrah bowling alongside Bhuvneshwar in the upcoming Champions Trophy seems all the more delectable after their respective IPL campaigns. Bumrah was a revelation with his steaming yorkers, especially in the death overs. His skills were never more evident than in Mumbai’s Super Over win over Gujarat, when he gave away just six runs while defending 11. His statistcs – 20 wickets in 16 matches at an average of 22 and a strike-rate of 7.41 – don’t tell the whole story.
12th man – MS Dhoni: The former India captain may not have contributed with the runs too much, although he did bail Pune out on a couple of occasions. But his influence in the team, even after handing over captaincy to Smith, was evident in some of the field placements and bowling changes Smith made. The Smith-Dhoni dynamic was hugely responsible for Pune’s surge to the final. Furthermore, Dhoni still remains a beast behind the wickets.
Team: David Warner, Gautam Gambhir, Steven Smith (capt), Suresh Raina, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ben Stokes, Krunal Pandya, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat, Jasprit Bumrah. 12th man: MS Dhoni.