All-time IPL XI – Dhoni leads team while Kohli misses out
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It's been eight years since the IPL carnival began, and within the short time, the league has gathered a fanatical following and seen some great performances. But what sets the great above the good is how frequently they are able to repeat those performances. Some of the players have performed only on the IPL stage and have failed in the international scene while some have missed out in this list although they have carried their country forward in the T20 international arena.
The criteria for selection have been the following:
Numbers – Numbers never lie. At the earliest, we have looked at the number of runs, batting average, strike rate for batsmen and number of runs, bowling average and economy rate for bowlers.
Longevity and consistency – Some have been one-year wonders, while few last the test of time, and eight years is a long time in a sportsman's career.
Match-winnability – Numbers sometimes do lie. And then we look closer to separate the match-winners from the record-chasers.
We have also had to restrict the number of foreign players to the IPL rule of four – some fine players like Hussey, Watson, Bravo and Gilchrist lost out because of the quota.
Virat Kohli loses out on the one-down spot to IPL specialist Suresh Raina, while Mohit Sharma loses out to Ashish Nehra thanks to Nehra's longevity, ability to bowl at the death and the advantage of having a left-right bowling combo. Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin also lose out to Amit Mishra who has been nothing short of spectacular in the IPL – although he is not as good a bat as the other two, you don't really need a bowler to bat in an all-time line-up like this.
1. Chris Gayle
Gayle has played less than 2/3rd the matches that Raina and Rohit have played, and he is already breathing down their necks on the all-time runs list at third. Better stat yet – the second-highest average for anyone in the top-10 run-getters list is of MSD who averages 39.28, seven runs below Gayle and MSD has 40 Not-outs in his 116
All-time fifth on the runs list, Gambhir is the second-highest opener after Gayle. Despite his low average, he has the highest number of the fifties in IPL history and when he hits those KKR almost always wins. The perfect foil for Gayle at the top, he will bring a lot to the table from his IPL captain experience.
3. Suresh Raina
The all-time highest runscorer at IPL, Raina has been the backbone of the CSK batting since 2008, and also holds the distinction of having played the maximum number of matches in the IPL. Whenever CSK have been in trouble, Raina has been the Superman single-handedly winning matches for them. Who can forget the innings where he took CSK to their first title in 2010 and almost took them to the hat-trick title in 2012?
4. Rohit Sharma
The all-time second-highest runscorer, Rohit Sharma, has led Mumbai Indians to two titles in 2013 and 2015. Versatile in his batting position and his shots, Rohit can play the libero in the batting order and take apart any bowler on his best days.
5. Yusuf Pathan
One of the biggest pinch-hitters the IPL has seen, Yusuf Pathan has the third-highest strike rate among batsmen who have scored more than 2,000 runs in the IPL. He was a vital cog in that inaugural season-winning team led by Shane Warne and has also won many a match for Kolkata Knight Riders.
The most explosive middle-order batsman in the IPL, Kieron Pollard, has the ability to float across the order as and when the situation demands. Only some batsmen have the ability to turn matches on their head, and Pollard showed how when he took Mumbai Indians to their 2013 title against CSK.
7. M S Dhoni
The numbers were just a formality. No IPL all-time XI can miss out on the greatest captain of the IPL – CSK have crossed the league stage all eight times, crossed the semis four times, and taken the title twice. Dhoni's finishing prowess needs just one sample – faced with a must-win last game to qualify for the semis, Dhoni chased down 44 runs in 18 balls with 16 runs required off the last over, as expected with a six.
( Also read a trip down memory lane on CSK - The end of the Whistlepodu era )
8. Amit Mishra
The most successful spinner in IPL history, Mishra is only second to Malinga on the all-time wickets list. With an enviable average of ~23, Mishra has managed to retain his magic despite playing across three teams. In 2013, he became the first player in IPL to take three hat-tricks.
The greatest T20 bowler of all time. Period.
Slinga Malinga overshadows the next-highest wicket-taker Amit Mishra by 32 wickets, despite both playing the same number of matches and is the only bowler in the top ten wicket-takers list to have an average less than 20. You know where he is going to bowl at, but you can do pretty much nothing about it.
10. Ashish Nehra
The old warhorse has had a stellar IPL career despite having fallen off the international scene until just before this T20 World Cup. He is MSD's go-to man and has earned his blue cap with those performances at CSK, no doubt. He can bowl early, he can bowl at the death, he can take wickets, and he can throttle the runs. He also brings that much-needed left-right combo.
11. Sunil Narine
The Uncle Scrooge of bowling, Narine's economy rate of 6 belongs to another format and another era. He led KKR to their IPL title with a Man of the Tournament performance in 2012 and again in 2014 with 21 wickets at an average of 6.35. The 'mystery bowler' will return for IPL 2016 after taking a break to sort out his bowling action, and hopefully, the magic stays.