At the end of two months of quality and entertaining cricket, we finally have a winner in the Indian Premier League 2018. No prizes for guessing – it is the Chennai Super Kings! Coming back from a 2-year exile, this CSK team, which was considered by many as ‘too old’, dominated the league throughout and showed the world what the IPL had been missing, by ultimately clinching the title, beating the Sunrisers Hyderabad by 8 wickets in the final at Wankhede. The fact that the Champions beat the runners-up 4 times in this year’s tournament deserves a special mention.
Terrific batting performances, game-changing bowling spells, outstanding catches that left many in awe – This year’s IPL gave us a lot of memories to cherish. Here, we pick our best XI, taking into consideration the stats and the impact they had on the team’s performances :
I KL Rahul– Opener (King XI Punjab)
The most obvious choice for the opening slot, KL Rahul, exceeded everyone’s expectations in this year’s IPL, as he amassed 659 runs in 14 innings, at an average close to 55. Keeping the stats aside, Rahul carried this Punjab team throughout the tournament that lacked character and depth in the middle order. Though they had stellar names in the form of Finch and Yuvraj, it was Rahul who mesmerised the cricketing world much with his batting so much, that he won the support of the opposition fans as well. Often ending up on the losing side, though not because of his performances, Rahul guided his team almost to the playoffs, only to be heartbroken at the final round of fixtures. Yet, thanks to his amazing batting performances, he got a call to return to the Indian team in the forthcoming England series.
II Shane Watson– Opener (Chennai Super Kings)
A difficult choice regarding who to partner Rahul at the top of the innings with, Watson makes the cut courtesy his breathtaking century in the final, which helped the men in yellow clinch the crown. For a 36-year old veteran considered unfit and largely considered to be finished in the world of cricket, Shane Watson silently made his way into the top 5 of the Orange cap list, with 555 runs in 15 innings. He was one of the primary reasons for giving CSK a solid start at the top, and thereby taking pressure off the bowlers.
III Kane Williamson -Top order (Sunrisers Hyderabad) (Captain)
735 runs in 17 innings, at an average of 52.5 and a strike rate of 142 – Kane Williamson was one of the easiest picks to form this Dream XI. The Williamson we saw in this year’s IPL was different to the one we have come to know of – a more aggressive batsman, dealing not only in ones or twos, but striking the maximums whenever required. For a batsman known to build his innings, Williamson finished the IPL season with 28 sixes and the Orange Cap. And to top it all, he captained the SRH team to the final, with some good field placements and game-changing bowling decisions. Rightly so, he captains the Dream XI.
IV Ambati Rayudu– Middle Order Batsman (Chennai Super Kings)
A surprise in this season’s IPL was CSK batsman, Ambati Rayudu, whose performances earned him a place in the Indian squad. Often considered a reliable batsman in the middle order, who paces his innings well and gives the team some solidity, Rayudu took his game to another level for CSK this season, by scoring a massive 602 runs in just 16 innings. He bailed the team out on several occasions, either by helping them to set up a competitive score or timing a chase to perfection.
V Rishabh Pant– Middle Order Batsman (Delhi Daredevils)
The emerging player of this season’s IPL, and rightly so, Risbabh Pant took this season by storm with his fearless batting. With 684 runs and an average of over 50, this young man carried the burden of the Daredevils’ batting single- handedly throughout the tournament, so much so that the opposition captains often set defensive fields when he came into bat. However, he could not carry his team into the play-offs but had done enough to guarantee a place in our Dream XI!
VI Dinesh Karthik– Middle Order Batsman| Wicket Keeper (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Dinesh Karthik finally came into his own in this season’s IPL, scoring runs at a quick pace and captaining a side with not many big names, almost into the final. Watching Karthik in full flow is a sight one shouldn’t miss, and this season, Dinesh Karthik displayed exactly why he is the perfect back up to MS Dhoni! With some bold batting and good captaincy, Karthik guided the KKR team to the verge of the finals, only to fall short at the eliminator stage! Coming in at 6, it is important we went for a finisher who struck hard from ball one and with a season strike rate of 148 DK was aggressive and also piled on runs with close to 500 runs at an average of 50, Karthik makes the cut ahead of Dhoni (which is debatable!) in this season’s dream XI.
With six good batsmen at the top, we have decided to cut back on all rounders and increase balance between bat and ball to truly reflect the best performers of this year.
VII Rashid Khan– Lower Order Batsman|Leg Spin (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
There was no way this team was going to be complete without Rashid Khan. A bowler so deceptive, a batsman so destructive lower down the line-up (as we all would have just witnessed!) and a fielder so electric, this 19-year old took the cricketing world by storm with his unbelievable all-round performances throughout the tournament. Giving away only 458 runs in 68 overs in this season’s IPL, at an economy of 6.73 and taking 21 wickets in the process, opposition batsmen feared this young sensation every time he was given the ball. With 6 batsmen ahead of him, Rashid Khan will be well suited to be the side’s all rounder should he be required to bat. With age on his side, Rashid is well on his way to becoming one of the best leg spinners of the game.
VIII Andrew Tye– Lower Order Batsman|Medium Pace Bowler (Kings XI Punjab)
A bowler often regarded to be one of the best when it comes to death overs, Andrew Tye was this season’s purple cap holder, scalping 24 wickets in just 14 matches! With some deceiving variations and unplayable Yorkers at the death, Tye did his part in trying to ensure the Kings qualify for the play-offs, and hence earned a place in this season’s dream XI.
IX Bhuvneshwar Kumar– Lower Order Batsman|Medium Pace Bowler (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Not often do we NOT see Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Bhuvi) in the top 20 wicket takers list of any tournament. Hence, many might be surprised by his inclusion in this team. However, his inclusion here is solely based on the impact his bowling performances have had on the team. There were times he was injured and not picked, but the matches he played, he was absolutely terrific, both with the new ball and the old ball at the death overs. Some can say, he was unlucky to not pick many wickets in the powerplay, with quite a few played and misses. However, he did his job of creating pressure from one end perfectly well, which resulted in his fellow players doing the damage from the other end. A leader of the Sunrisers’ much feared bowling attack, Bhuvi will be raring to have a go at the English later this year!
X Umesh Yadav– Medium Pace Bowler (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
There might be a few eyebrows raised seeing a pacer, who was a part of one of the worst bowling sides in the tournament, included in the team of the season. However, Umesh Yadav, after a bad start to the IPL, showed character and bounced back well in the later stages of the tournament, taking 20 wickets at an economy of 7.8 RPO. Most of his wickets were in the first 6-8 overs of the game, where the ball swung and there was more pace on the ball, which went on to show how handy a bowler he could prove to be if he adds a little more consistency to his game!
Xi Mayank Markande– Leg Spinner|Uncapped| (Mumbai Indians)
Finally, the last player to complete the Dream XI is the uncapped leg spinner from Bathinda, Mayank Markande, who sprung a surprise with his clever variations in this season’s IPL. Not afraid to flight the ball and often given the ball when Mumbai required a wicket, Markande proved to be a more than handy leg spinner, taking 15 wickets at an economy of 8.3, thereby cementing his place in a star-studded Mumbai Indians team.
A special mention to –
Most Valuable Player (MVP)– Sunil Narine (Kolkata Knight Riders)
Hands down, the most valuable player of this season’s IPL has to be the West Indian Sunil Narine. He might not have inspired the team enough to go the distance, but he has been a revelation with the bat this season. 360 runs in 16 innings for a cricketer widely regarded as a mystery spinner, Sunil Narine showed a different side of him, whilst also taking 17 wickets along the way. However on account of team balance and the true spirit behind backing Rashid Khan, this year’s MVP does not figure in our playing XI.
The Dream XI will definitely be a cause for debate, with different people having different opinions. The likes of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Jos Buttler, Siddharth Kaul, Trent Boult were all a close call but just missed out, considering of the balance of the above chosen team!
Do drop in your comments with your best XI of this season’s IPL