Where would we be without sports commentators? Somewhere happy and peaceful? Perhaps.
It is the halfway mark of this IPL season, a season like no other.
There has been controversy about the point and ethics of pulling off a tournament like this given India’s COVID-19 situation, but every night international superstars come out to entertain on the world’s biggest stage.
So far it has been a ripper of an IPL, and it promises to get even better as the competition for the play-offs heats up.
Below is my IPL team of the tournament so far. I have kept with the same playing rules as the league, with only four overseas players allowed to be in the XI. Such is the quality that players such as Glenn Maxwell, Jonny Bairstow and Pat Cummins, among others, miss out.
1. KL Rahul – Punjab Kings (captain)
Seven matches, seven innings, 331 runs, 91* high score, strike rate 136.2
Last year’s orange cap wearer was under pressure to perform well but so far this IPL he has lived up to his lofty standards. He started the tournament with a brilliant 91 of 50 against Rajasthan, and at the halfway mark equalled it with a solid 91* of 57 to down Bangalore. What’s more, he has improved his strike rate from last season, going from 129.3 up to 136.2, especially during the latter half of the innings. Being the only current captain in my side, I have also decided to make him skipper of the side.
2. Shikhar Dhawan – Dehli Capitals
Seven matches, seven innings, 311 runs, 92 high score, strike rate 131.8
Shikhar and Rahul were inseparable at the top last year and this season it is no different. Sitting third on the run-getting list, he has been particularly effective during run-chasing with 274 runs at 54.8. Throw in the fact he has hit the most fours (37) and taken the equal most catches (eight) so far and you have a complete cricketer. The only criticism so far could be his strike rate, but with a strong middle order his main role should be to bat through the innings and set a good base. He edges out teammate Prithvi Shaw as the other opener in the XI because of his consistency.
3. Faf du Plessis – Chennai Super Kings (overseas player)
Seven matches, seven innings, 320 runs, 95* high score, strike rate 145.5
After a few early failures, the South African veteran is still proving his worth as a run machine despite his international five-day retirement. He has hit four 50s in his last four outings, the highlight being his 95* against Kolkata that kickstarted his tournament. An average of 64 and a strike rate above 140 show that he has the ability adapt to different situations. What’s more, his busy playing style helps him cash in during the power play and allows the openers to get set for the rest of the innings. Because he has done it well in the past, Du Plessis slots in at three to allow the Shikhar and Rahul to open together.
4. Sanju Samson – Rajasthan Royals
Seven matches, seven innings, 277 runs, 119 high score, strike rate 145.8
Due to the lack of success by Indian middle-order players so far this season, Samson gets the number four spot. His spectacular 119 off 63 almost dragged Rajasthan over the line against Punjab in their first game. After that he tailed off a little, making scores of four, one and 21, but has racked up three consecutive scores in the 40s. Delhi’s Rishabh Pant was the closest contender for this position, but without him being a wicketkeeper Samson’s strike rate of 140-plus helped him earn the spot.
5. AB de Villiers – Royal Challengers Bangalore (overseas player)
Seven matches, six innings, 207 runs, 76* high score, strike rate 164.3
Mr 360 has been a consistent performer for Bangalore for ten years, and this season has been no different. Whether it was saving them from a collapse (versus Mumbai) or boosting their target at the end of the innings (versus Kolkata and Delhi), the Bangalore superstar has a stylish answer to everything. With two unbeaten scores in the 70s, De Villiers has been the complete finishing package for Bangalore. If that’s not enough, his return to full-time keeping has been fruitful, currently sitting on top of the dismissals table (eight). The only other player close to claiming the international middle-order role is his teammate, Glenn Maxwell.
6. Ravindra Jadeja – Chennai Super Kings
Seven matches, six innings, 131 runs, 62* high score, strike rate 161.7, 24 overs, six wickets, economy 6.7, best bowling 3-13
Sitting pretty on top of the MVP award, Jadeja is practically becoming the definition of an all-round cricketer. Scoring 131 runs with a strike rate of 161 is an achievement in of itself but add six wickets at an economy of 6.7 and the equal most catches so far and you have Jadeja. He set the cricketing world on fire with a 37-run final over, backed up by a wicket maiden and a run out, which is one of the most complete T20 performances ever. Come the end of the tournament he will be a definite contender for the player of the tournament.
7. Chris Morris – Rajasthan Royals (overseas player)
Seven matches, 26 overs, 14 wickets, economy 8.6, best bowling 4-23
The Royals picked up Morris up for approximately $2.8 million in the auction, the highest amount in the history of the competition, and he hasn’t looked back since. The third South African in the team, Morris has picked up two wickets a game with an economy of under nine, which is good considering he is a power play and death bowler. It may look like a long tail with Morris in at seven, but he did win the game for Rajasthan against the Capitals off his own bat. The closest contenders to this spot were Kolkata’s pace-bowling pinch hitters Pat Cummins and Andre Russell, but Morris’ superior bowling squeaked them out.
8. Rashid Khan – Sunrisers Hyderabad (overseas player)
Seven matches, 28 overs, ten wickets, economy 6.1, best bowling 3-36
Look up consistency in the dictionary and you would find a picture of Rashid Khan. In a dismal season for the orange army so far, the Afghan leggie has kept applying pressure throughout the middle overs and even the power play with tight spells that have halted his opposition’s momentum (only for his teammates to give it back). Ten wickets at an economy of 6.1 is phenomenal in T20 cricket, and the fact he has the most wicket-hitting deliveries in IPL history shows how much he attacks the stumps. Even though he has three ducks so far this season batting-wise he is always a threat at the death as well.
9. Harshal Patel – Royal Challengers Bangalore
Seven matches, 28 overs, 17 wickets, economy 9.2, best bowling 5-27
Harshal Patel has been a good pick-up this year for Bangalore, and his franchise’s success has come hand in hand with his own. A league-high 17 wickets in seven matches is phenomenal, and currently his strike rate of 9.8 is the lowest in the top 15 wicket takers. His spectacular five-for against the Mumbai Indians in the tournament opener has been the best bowling performance in the competition so far, and since he has only gone wicket-less once against the Punjab Kings. The only negative in his campaign so far is that in the last few games he has been hit for quite a lot during the death, but he should be okay since he will not be playing against Jadeja or Rahul.
10. Rahul Chahar – Mumbai Indians
Seven matches, 28 overs, 11 wickets, economy 7.2, best bowling 4-27
If the Indians have any hope of getting a hat trick of titles, then a lot of the weight will be on Chahar’s shoulders. Wickets-wise he is the tournament’s best spinner, with 11 scalps at 18.4 doing all the talking, although he has made the ball talk as well. After an expensive first outing, his 4-27 practically bowled his side to victory against Kolkata and he has been a regular wicket-taker for Mumbai. When paired up with Rashid and Jadeja through the middle overs, oppositions would find it extremely hard to get away.
11. Avesh Khan – Delhi Capitals
Seven matches, 26 overs, 13 wickets, economy 7.4, best bowling 3-32
Many questioned the Capitals’ decision to play Avesh Khan at the start of the tournament in front of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, but he has sure done Ricky Ponting proud. Tied second on the wicket column, Avesh taken over from Anrich Nortje to partner Kagiso Rabada in the power play and death overs and he is capable of reaching 140 kilometres an hour. While he hasn’t had a big haul yet for Delhi, it has been his consistency that has been impressive, picking up at least one wicket every match and never going at more that 8.5 an over.