A few days ago, Aussie spin legend Shane Warne put out his all-time Indian T20 League XI during the tenth edition of the tournament. Warne had led Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural title, and has been responsible for kickstarting the careers of a few young Indians during those years – namely ‘rockstar’ Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan.
His XI read: Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Jacques Kallis, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga, Umesh Yadav
Now there are a few questionable choices in there (Kallis, Yuvraj, Jadeja, Yadav), but Warne hasn’t compiled a team on statistics – simply on influence, aura and match-winning ability.
Got me thinking – what’d be a real all-time XI?
Chris Gayle (3570 at 42.5)
The Universe Boss has scored more than 10000 runs in the format, and there’s no question about his dominance at the top. Gayle has virtually every T20 record to his name, and continues to frighten bowlers across the world for various teams. His stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore has been long and fruitful, though he has been blowing hot and cold since last year.
David Warner (3655 at 39.5)
Warner has been perhaps the most colossal and consistent overseas batsman in the tournament – first plying his trade in the Delhi Daredevils, before leading a resourceful Sunrisers Hyderabad side. He has the maximum amount of fifties to his name – 34 – and is also a title-winning captain to back his explosive batting.
AB de Villiers (3400 at 39.5)
Name one World XI this man can’t be a part of? He is a freak, and is the most entertaining and versatile part of the great RCB trio at the top.
Virat Kohli (4264 at 38)
A few seasons ago, this spot would be Suresh Raina’s. But a stunning 2016 later, it’s clear that Raina is on the decline and Kohli forever climbing – despite Raina’s good show this tournament. Kohli is second on the list of all-time top scorers behind Raina, and has never won the title, but is the most risk-free T20 batsman in the world right now. He has scored more than 4000 runs without a single slog.
Shane Watson (2600 runs, 88 wickets)
Watson has retired from international cricket and doesn’t look in the best of form or fitness for the Royal Challengers anymore, but there was a time when he was the MVP for seasons at end for the Rajasthan Royals. He has been the tournament’s most enduring all-rounder, and has found far more fame and respect in this format than in his up-and-down international career.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (3393 at 39)
He may not be in his prime anymore, but his quickfire stumpings and ability to take any match to the last over with the bat remain unique. Dhoni led the most successful team of the tournament for eight years before moving to his current Rising Pune Supergiant team, and built up a legacy (two titles, two Champions League victories) in the middle order that would see him finish off so many teams single-handedly.
Dwayne Bravo (1262 runs, 132 wickets)
The third highest wicket-taker in Indian T20 history, the ‘Champion’ all-rounder has become more of a specialist death bowler over the years, with his slow Yorkers still the talk of the town despite him not participating this season. Gujarat Lions feel his absence, though one always felt he might not have capitalized on his batting flair as he should have.
Sunil Narine (89 wickets at 19)
Gambhir might have found a magic formula by making Narine a batting dasher at the top of the order this season, given that his bowling has been less effective after his action had to be changed. But the Kolkata Knight Riders have been loyal to their most prolific spinner, and have converted him into an all-rounder after he got the better of so many teams with his poker-faced bowling over the years. He has been a chief part of their two title-winning seasons, and now has a new role to play.
Amit Mishra (131 wickets at 28)
There is still no better sight than watching ‘Mishra ji’ on a roll. The loop, drift, spin and guile he displays when on song is still magical, reminding the world why he might just be the best leg-spinner never to have achieved greatness. He is the tournament’s second-highest wicket taker ever, and is still going strong for Zaheer Khan’s Delhi Daredevils.
Lasith Malinga (147 wickets at 18.5)
The Mumbai Indians have dropped him on account of some terribly expensive performances and a lack of match practice, but Malinga in his heyday in T20 cricket is akin to watching Dale Steyn or Shane Warne cast their spell in a Test match. The highest wicket taker of the tournament is still around, though like many others on this list, he isn’t as effective – with age and Father Time taking a toll on his talents.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (101 wickets at 21)
Kumar has really stepped it up for his Sunrisers team, becoming Warner’s chief go-to wrecker at the beginning and end of each innings. He rarely goes wrong, and combined superbly with Mustafizur Rahman last year to win them their first title. He is this year’s leader already, has a five-for and, except for the match against Pune, has been responsible for maintaining his team’s reputation as the best bowling attack around.
Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Sachin Tendulkar, Brendon McCullum, Kieron Pollard, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag