After six weeks of T20 extravaganza, the ninth edition of the IPL is heading towards a pulsating finish with a new team set to emerge as the champions on May 29. With the tournament producing a plethora of stars, we select our pick of the best 11 players from the event to form the 2016 IPL XI.
1. Virat Kohli (C)
Royal Challengers Bangalore (Matches 15, Runs 919, Average 83.54, Strike rate 151.90, Highest Score 113)
The Player of the Tournament in the World T20 has gone from strength to strength in the IPL smashing old records and rewriting new ones. The Indian Test captain has almost single-handedly taken Royal Challengers Bangalore to the final of the tournament scoring 919 runs along the way, including four centuries and 6 fifties. The 27-year-old already has 186 runs more than any of the orange cap holders in the last eight editions and could become the first batsmen to cross the 1000-run mark in a season in IPL if he could add 81 more runs in the final. With Kohli leading RCB from the front, he also will don the role of the captain in the IPL XI edging David Warner who has been doing the same for Sunrisers Hyderabad.
2. Warner (VC)
If there is one man who has matched up to the standards set by Virat Kohli in this edition of the IPL, then it is David Warner. Similar to the RCB skipper, Warner has led his team from the front and has scored 779 runs, including 8 fifties, to take the team to the final. He has also hit the most number of fours beating the mighty Virat Kohli at his own game. Apart from his batting, his captaincy has also been impressive this season, and he has taken the Hyderabad side to the final of the tournament after narrowly missing out on the playoffs last time around. With Kohli taking the captain’s role, Warner will be his deputy in this team.
When Virat Kohli was lighting up the Chinnaswamy day in day out, there was someone called Abraham Benjamin de Villiers doing almost the same at the other end. The South African is only one of four batsmen to score a century thus far in this edition of the IPL, and has been a reason behind RCB success along with Kohli. ABD is third in the list of run-scorers this IPL and with 682 runs in the bag, he is 181 runs away from Gautham Gambhir, who is at fourth. With Kohli opening the innings, the South African batted at No.3 for most of the tournament, and played a match-winning knock of 79 off 47 balls against Gujarat Lions in the first qualifier to take RCB to the final.
4. KL Rahul (WK)
KL Rahul might not have scored centuries like Virat Kohli or AB de Villiers, but the Karnataka batsman has been an integral part of the RCB side in this edition of the IPL. Rahul joined his home IPL side from Sunrisers Hyderabad after the auction, and spent the first few matches of the season on the bench before taking up the wicket-keeping duties from Kedar Jadhav. Rahul, who is perceived as a Test player, adjusted to the demands of T20 cricket and has scored four fifties so far this season. He is also the third-highest run-getter for the team behind Kohli and de Villiers. With him also sharp behind the stumps, Rahul will wear the wicket-keeping gloves for the IPL XI.
5. Yusuf Pathan
Yusuf Pathan has been an IPL veteran having played all the seasons thus far, and was also an important cog in the wheels of the Kolkata team’s playoff run. In terms of runs scored, the Baroda batsman is 14th in the list behind a whole host of openers. But, his ability to provide power-packed flourishes in the end and his handy off-spin makes him a valuable addition at No.5 in the XI. The right-handed batsman scored three half-centuries in the tournament, and was the third-highest run-scorer for the team behind Gautham Gambhir and Robin Uthappa.
6. Shane Watson
When the Bangalore-based franchise snapped up the Australian for Rs. 9.5 crore in the auction in February, the franchise would have anticipated a greater amount of runs from Watson. With just 168 runs so far, Watson’s return from the bat has been underwhelming, to say the least. But the all-rounder has been a revelation with the ball, picking 20 wickets to sit second in the wicket-takers table. Watson also picked up a four-wicket haul in the first qualifier against Gujarat Lions to help RCB reach the final. With the Aussie being a valuable addition with the bat and the ball, Watson takes up the position in the team ahead of other contenders like Andre Russell and Chris Morris.
7. Krunal Pandya
Mumbai Indians (Matches 12, Runs 237, Strike Rate 191.12, Wickets 6, Economy Rate 7.57, Highest Score 86, Best Bowling figure 2/15)
When Krunal Pandya was bought by Mumbai Indians for Rs.2 crore in the auction, he was an unknown quantity in the Indian cricketing circuit, and was mostly known as Hardik Pandya’s brother. After six weeks of T20 extravaganza, the Baroda all-rounder is the more successful Pandya in the family after Hardik’s lacklustre show. Krunal has been a revelation for Mumbai Indians with the bat and the ball, and also has the highest strike rate in the tournament with 191.12. The Southpaw also scored a memorable 37-ball 86 against Delhi Daredevils to put his name as one to watch out for in the future. With his gentle left-arm spin also a strength, Krunal makes it into the team as a spin-bowling all-rounder.
The Haryana leg-spinner is the fifth RCB player to make it to the XI along with Kohli, de Villiers, Rahul, and Watson. After starting the tournament inconsistently, Chahal picked up his game as the business end of the season approached and picked 12 wickets in the last five games during RCB’s run to the final. The bowling department of the Bangalore side has been criticised by one and all throughout the season, but the form of Watson and Chahal have helped them silence the critics. Chahal is third in the wicket-takers list behind Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Watson. The leg-spinner’s form also helped him clinch a spot in the Indian team for the tour of Zimbabwe.
With the spinners having gone through a horrid time in the IPL, instead of going for a second full-time spinner we have chosen a three-man fast bowling unit. Gujarat Lions pacer Dhawal Kulkarni comes into the XI after picking 18 wickets across the tournament. Kulkarni, who has been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit, was the best bowler for the newcomers, and played a massive part in helping Gujarat reach the playoffs. In fact, the right-arm pacer almost helped them reach the final after picking four wickets in his opening spell against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first qualifier. However, AB de Villiers’ magnificent knock crushed the Lions’ hopes, but not Kulkarni's who makes it to the team of the tournament.
10. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
The current Purple Cap holder has been the mainstay of Sunrisers’ bowling lineup which also includes Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman. The 26-year-old led the bowling attack after Nehra picked up an injury and took five wickets in the two playoff matches to take the team to the final. Blessed with the ability to swing the ball both the ways, Bhuvneshwar caused problems to the batsmen at the start of the innings, before returning at the end to produce some well-placed yorkers.
11. Mustafizur Rahman
Lasith Malinga’s toe-crushing yorkers were absent this IPL, but Mustafizur made sure that no one missed them much by producing some of his own. Ask Andre Russell. Sunrisers Hyderabad’s early rise to the top of the leader board was built on the back of the Bangladesh bowler’s slower balls and cutters. Batsmen struggled to hit him out of the ground and with an economy rate of 6.73, Mustafizur has the best economy rate among those who have bowled more than 10 overs in the tournament. Although he somewhat lost his Fizz in the last few matches, the absence of the 20-year-old in the crucial second qualifier against Gujarat Lions showed, with his replacement Trent Boult going for almost 10 runs an over.
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