After 51 days and 60 matches, the ninth edition of the Indian T20 League has come to a close – with the Sunrisers Hyderabad ending up as first-time Champions (second for the city, if you count Deccan Chargers’ 2009 victory in South Africa under Adam Gilchrist). David Warner and his brave men went to Bangalore to beat perhaps the strongest team in the competition in their own backyard on a typical belter of a Chinnaswamy pitch. Warner put to rest the demons of last year’s last-minute debacle, his ‘Lagaan’ moment at the boundary line against Virat Kohli and co., and finally put his name down in the history books as an overseas captain to – at times, almost single-handedly – lead his team to the title.
Virat Kohli, despite having scored 973 runs in a single edition, once again has ended up as the bridesmaid – for the third time with this team. It looked like destiny for them when they won seven of their last eight games, but were halted agonizingly short of what would have been their first-ever title. The cricket ‘Galacticos’, unlike Real Madrid in Europe, has been outplayed on the final stage once again, and will have to wait another year to have another tilt at the one that eludes them.
In the end, SRH won 11 of their 18 games, as compared to RCB’s 9 of their 17, and were perhaps deservedly crowned Champions of India after playing a bloody-minded, entertaining final in front of a capacity crowd.
It is now time to put forward this year’s Dream Team – 11 top players in each position based on their performances this season. Most of them belong to these two finalists, not surprisingly.
The best batsman in world cricket broke all kinds of run-scoring records, and finished very close to scoring a shocking 1000 runs in one season. Before this, Chris Gayle’s 733 was the record, and this one doesn’t look like it will be broken for a long time. His leadership was inspirational, based on his own batting form, but he is yet to taste team success after leading a squad filled with international superstars.
DAVID WARNER (Captain)
The Aussie marauder pulled his team through single-handedly in the second qualifier against Gujarat Lions with a brilliant 93, before lighting up the first 10 overs of the final with a quickfire 66 – making up for failures of ALL his other batters including Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques, Kane Williamson, Eoin Morgan, Deepak Hooda and Naman Ojha. Most of them came to the fore very briefly, but it was always about how Warner would start them off. If he failed, invariably the team did. However, he built up the best bowling attack of the tournament, and was impressive in his management of the reinvigorated Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the talented “Fizz” Mustafizur Rahman. Easily the best captain of the tournament, despite being a good 120 runs behind Kohli in the charts. One must remember that most of his runs came on non-Bangalore pitches, which makes them worth their weight in gold. No centuries, but nine half-centuries, the maximum this year.
AB DE VILLIERS
He wasn’t as consistent as Kohli, but when he did fire, his innings would often be the sole difference between both teams. His stunning 129 against the Lions was the highest score of the tournament, and his partnerships with Kohli will forever be remembered in context of the cute “You’re the best – No, you are” bromance they shared. His best innings however was the 77 in the first qualifier against the Lions, where everyone around him collapsed, and he finally proved himself under pressure. Not bad for a South African, but certainly not good enough – considering he furthered their legacy by failing with a silly shot in the final.
The part-time wicketkeeper stepped in as an opener when Gayle was in miserable form, showed his class a couple of times, before being demoted down to 4 and still coming up with a fine knock. He seems to have convinced his captain that he can own this format apart from being a specialist Test opener. He wasn’t the best with the gloves, but most teams had put in batsmen behind the wicket to get in that extra top-order player. KL will hope that his performance impresses Kohli enough to back him in internationals.
The belligerent Pathan brother was back in full flow this season, guiding his Kolkata Knight Riders team quite often in the final overs, and not only after the openers would fail. He would start responsibly before opening fire with Andre Russell for company. He even bowled some very controlled overs during the Powerplay, thereby taking his team to the playoffs again before fizzing out against Hyderabad. Pathan looked dangerous again, and that’s a good sign, considering he has been out of form for what feels like years.
His injury in the final few matches meant that the Knight Riders struggled a bit to achieve balance, crashing out to eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eliminator. Russell opened the bowling often, and finished off with Pathan in style, reminding everyone why he is perhaps T20 cricket’s most functional mercenary right now. He is, at the moment, more valuable than Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Dwayne Smith. His acrobatics in the field only adds to his frightening presence.
The younger Pandya, brother of Hardik who made a splash last season but flopped miserably this time around, kept the family flag flying high with a couple of stunning performances with both bat and ball. He was worth his weight in gold in a stuttering middle order, and almost took Mumbai Indians to the playoffs against the run of play – until his lack of experience showed up. He will do well to learn from the quick fall of his brother, and maintain a stranglehold over his form till he reaches the topmost level.
The biggest hitter of the tournament proved how valuable he was after Delhi Daredevils paid a record fee to secure his presence in the side. All their chopping and changing didn’t help, but Morris seems to have turned a leaf and discovered the West Indian in himself. He bowls at close to 150, destroys stumps and wields the bat as if he were a right-handed Gayle. South Africa needs to use him smartly if they are to ever win an ICC tournament. He is the X-factor.
The purple cap holder started the tournament in disastrous fashion, being carted by young Sarfaraz Khan, before discovering himself again. He got back his swing, his smarts and his control, often picking up top-order wickets, bowling economically and even mastering the art of finishing off an innings with partner-in-crime Rahman. He was easily the best bowler in a tournament that was kinder to swinging seamers than to spin. Welcome back, Bhuvi. India now needs you.
The former chess prodigy, like Kumar, had a torrid start to the tournament before rediscovering his spin and loop, taking all his wickets on a tough Bangalore pitch. He bamboozled many middle-order batsmen with his flight, and made KL look like a better keeper than he was. Chahal finished second in the wickets list, but played a huge role in the revival of RCB fortunes after a despairing first eight games.
The left-arm Bangladeshi youngster came in and showed Indian fans why he is perhaps the best young seamer in world cricket today. After an excellent debut year in international cricket, Rahman took the league by storm after keeping out Trent Boult for almost the entire tournament. He bowled economically, and didn’t get as many wickets as he would have liked, but set up the stage for Bhuvi’s last over time and again. Together, they won their team the title.
12th man: ADAM ZAMPA
Bench: Steve Smith, Dwayne Smith, Shane Watson, Murali Vijay, Karun Nair, Sandeep Sharma, Ashish Nehra
Shreyas Iyer, Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina, Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Pawan Negi, R. Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Chris Jordan