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Opinion

My IPL XI at the halfway stage

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Roar Rookie
3rd May, 2021
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The 2021 edition of the IPL now moves into the business half of the league, with Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Capitals sitting atop the table with ten points each only, separated by net run rate.

However, there’s still a lot to play for in the bottom half of the table.

No team plays any games on its home ground and the effect has been evident – for the better for some teams, and for the worse for a few others.

Just like every other season, this one has also been full of surprises and certain individual performances
that make the league live up to its name of ‘Incredible Premier League’.

This is my pick for the best XI so far for this season.

1. Jonny Bairstow (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
In a season to forget for the Sunrisers, Bairstow has had yet another positive campaign so far.

Jonny Bairstow

Jonny Bairstow. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)

Known for his attacking style and forming a formidable opening pair with David Warner, he has delivered.

He took the game away from the opposition within the first six overs, only to lose his wicket and then see SRH’s middle order just lose the plot.

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Not being sent in the super over was a bad decision by the management and could’ve been another opportunity for him to win the match for his side as he was striking the ball superbly in the game, too.

In a format where batsmen dictate the game, Bairstow can be a game changer for any side and has already shown glimpses of it even in a disappointing season for his team, as they are almost out of the competition after only seven games.

2. Prithvi Shaw (Delhi Capitals)
Unlike Mohammed Siraj, Shaw had an unmemorable Australia tour, being dropped from the side after the famous day-night Adelaide Test.

However, the domestic Vijay Hazare Trophy was his stage to shine. He manufactured runs for fun, becoming the first player to cross the 800-run mark with 827 runs with an unreal average of 165.

He also had three 150-plus scores, including a 227* (152). Opening for Delhi with Shikhar Dhawan, he has been consistent with his fiery starts.

Indian batsman Prithvi Shaw

Prithvi Shaw (AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

Currently fourth in the Orange Cap standing, Shaw has 308 runs at a strike rate of 166. He also hit six fours in the first over of the game against KKR, delivered by Shivam Mavi, and went on to score 82 and lead his side to victory.

If he keeps his form going, he is well on his way to taking the Orange Cap and maybe he can take Delhi one step further than last season.

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This has been a very important season for Shaw, who has been compared to Sachin Tendulkar since a very young age and has made a solid case as an opener for the Indian T20 World Cup squad.

3. Faf du Plessis (Chennai Super Kings)
A big reason for CSK’s explosive start to this season is their big opening partnerships of Faf and Ruturaj Gaikwad.

With the orange cap, du Plessis has been in splendid touch. He has adapted his game style to the demands of the game, stabilising and accelerating the innings as per the situation.

His maturity also seems to have helped Gaikwad play to his full potential and lead to a strong foundation for CSK.

With a high score of 95* and strike rate of 145 to go with four half-centuries in seven games, it’s no surprise to see him at the top. His fielding in the outfield has also been flawless and is an added advantage for any side

4. AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore) (c) (wk)
RCB’s one-man army for as long as one can remember, Abraham Benjamin de Villiers is on top of his game again.

Rescuing his side from batting failures time and again, he has been among the runs this time around as well.

Batting at a lower position this season due to the addition of Glenn Maxwell to the side, who is also back among the runs, he has played two superhuman knocks against KKR and DC which ensured his team maintained their winning momentum.

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At only 37 years young, he has also kept the wickets for his side.

Moreover, he has talked to Mark Boucher, South Africa head coach, about an international return at this year’s T20 World Cup, which would be a welcome addition to the South Africa squad.

AB de Villiers of the Heat plays a shot

AB de Villiers (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

5. Krunal Pandya (Mumbai Indians)
After a disappointing start to the season for both Pandya brothers, the older one got promoted to No. 4 for MI and has started to find himself among the runs.

Having made his name for his power hitting, it has been a different season for him as he has batted with maturity and building partnerships in the middle against RR and CSK, which were both won by MI.

Having said that, he’s shown in the past how he can hit a few out of the park and transfer momentum to the side in the final overs. On a spinner-friendly pitch, he can also get a few overs with the ball and his fielding is an added bonus for any side.

6. Ravindra Jadeja (Chennai Super Kings)
An all-rounder in the true sense, Jadeja has been part of CSK’s core for a good while now. Having worked on his batting before this season, he is as an asset to the side.

The most notable moment of the season so far has been Sir Jadeja single handedly defeating the RCB side in all three departments.

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Ravindra Jadeja

Ravindra Jadeja (Photo by Ryan Pierse – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

A 37-run over against the purple cap holder in an unbelievable 62 off 28 balls, three wickets, including those of Maxwell and ABD (both bowled), and a run out of Dan Christian, the only thing missing from making it a perfect day was a catch.

A reliable player in the lower-middle order, Jaddu has also been promoted up the order ahead of Dhoni and Rayudu, as he’s only got out once in the six innings he’s had a chance to bat in.

With Hardik Pandya not having bowled any overs this season and also having a quiet season with the bat, Jadeja has made a great case for himself to make the T20 World Cup team.

7. Chris Morris (Rajasthan Royals)
The most expensive buy in IPL history, he’s always been under scrutiny and also been called a “moneybag” player.

His performance this season may not have justified the amount so far but he has played his part.

Being denied a single in the first game by Sanju Samson which RR eventually ended up losing, Morris took matters into his own hands and dragged his side over the line in a low-scoring thriller against the Delhi Capitals.

His major contribution this season has, however, been in the bowling department, having picked up 14 wickets in seven games in a campaign which hasn’t gone too well for his side.

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Best figures of 4-23 and an average of 16, he is equal second for the purple cap. A good all-rounder to have in the side playing at No. 6 or 7, Morris would be looking to contribute more to the side with the bat, as well while continuing to be successful with the ball.

8. Harshal Patel (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
RCB’s biggest problem for the past few seasons has been in the bowling department, mainly their death bowling.

Credit for their good start to this season’s campaign goes to Harshal Patel and Siraj coming to form. While he still has room for improvement at the death, his knack of picking up wickets in the middle and death overs helps restrict the opposition to a low total.

In fact, his five-for against Mumbai, which included big scalps such as Kishan, Hardik and Pollard, was the best bowling figures for any bowler against MI and also the first five-wicket haul.

The current holder of the purple cap with 17 wickets at an average of 15, it has been his joint best season (also had 17 wickets in 15 games in 2015) so far.

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In the most recent game against Punjab Kings, he also showed that he could hit the ball a fair bit as he took the team to a net run rate-saving total with a quick fire 31 of 13 balls.

9. Avesh Khan (Delhi Capitals)
Unarguably the unsung hero of the DC side this season, Avesh Khan has turned a lot of heads.

Being part of the same U-19 Cricket World Cup side in 2016 as Rishabh Pant and playing under his leadership in this season as well, Avesh has been Pant’s go-to bowler.

Having started bowling in the power play in the first few games, he now works mainly in the middle and at the death. His excellent performances have even kept international starter Anrich Nortje out of the side, as he missed the first game due to quarantine.

After only playing nine matches prior to this campaign, he has been a great addition to the Delhi attack.

With 14 wickets and an economy of 7.7, he also has bowled the third most dot balls this season, behind Siraj and Boult. His good, controlled yorkers at the death have made him so successful this season.

10. Rahul Chahar (Mumbai Indians)
Picking a full-time spinner was not an easy task. The best pick out of the lot is Rahul Chahar, from the Mumbai side.

Having been a consistent part of the MI setup for two seasons now and featuring in almost all the games, he has been the lead spinner and done a good job at it. Winning the MOTM against KKR for his four wickets and tight bowling to pull the match back for MI is just one example of that.

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He’s one of the only two spinners (along with Rashid Khan, who hasn’t been picked in this team as there are already have four overseas players) in the top-ten leading wicket takers. Having picked up 11 wickets at an average of 18, he has been the brighter spot in an otherwise dull season for spinners.

11. Md. Siraj (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Coming off the back of a dream series in Australia, Siraj was expected to perform well in this IPL. Halfway through, he seems to be the best death bowler in the tournament, even better than the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Kagiso Rabada.

Virat Kohli has been praised for backing the youngster for a few seasons now, and he has reaped the rewards this time around.

One of the best displays of Siraj’s death bowling was against Andre Russel in the 19th over with KKR needing 44 to win. He nailed all six yorkers and gave away a solitary run, from the last ball.

He has bowled the most dot balls this season and has an economy of 7.3, which is commendable seeing that he has also bowled against the biggest hitters of the game.

The bowling line-up is all Indian, and very inexperienced as well but the performances from new up-and-coming players has been better than a lot of established superstars.

While I did try and include players from all the franchises, I did have to leave some out due to the team combination. Some of the players who have been in great touch this season but haven’t made this team include: KL Rahul (PBKS), Nitish Rana (KKR), Kieron Pollard (MI), Rashid Khan (SRH) and Sam Curran (CSK).

My thought behind the XI I chose was to have an attacking side with good batting depth and bowlers to back it up with.

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These players did not fit into the side either due to the team combination (as I only have four overseas players) or because of a lack of consistency this season.

RCB lead with three players while CSK, MI and DC have two and SRH and RR chip in with one player each.

Lastly, how much do you expect this XI to change come the end of the season?

And do you think it is good enough to compete for the title as a team on its own?