VIVO IPL 11: The Dream Team

The Chennai Super Kings are now the most successful T20 team in IPL history. On Sunday, they demolished the Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede Stadium to win their third IPL title – as many as Mumbai Indians, but in two editions less and with a greater win percentage than any other team. It was their seventh Final in 9 tournaments, and their fourth consecutive victory over the table-topping Sunrisers in the same season. The “Dad’s Army” came to the fore and how – 36-year-old Shane Watson played arguably the greatest innings in a T20 Final to make a mockery out of the best bowling lineup in the IPL 11 tournament. His century came after he failed to score a run in his first ten balls. His creaky body didn’t let him bowl in the last few games, and he could barely run between the wickets.

Kane Williamson’s men lost 5 out of their last 6 games after winning 9 of their first 11 – except for Rashid Khan, their bowlers lost steam in the final stages of IPL.

Like with every year, here is the DREAM TEAM: the top 11 players in the tournament in their positions.

JOS BUTTLER (RR)

If not for Jos the Boss, the otherwise mediocre Rajasthan Royals wouldn’t have managed to miraculously qualify for the playoffs and reach as far as the eliminator. Buttler was on the fire in the last five games of the Royals’ group stages – nullifying the struggles of opening partner Ajinkya Rahane with some blazing 90s that single-handedly destroyed the Mumbai Indians’ dreams. They won four of their last five matches before Buttler had to fly home for England’s Test series against Pakistan. The team promptly lost the eliminator – and not even the form of Rahul Tripathi could replace the explosive presence of Buttler. Expect him to be a top pick in next year’s auction. Stokes, who?

KL RAHUL (KXIP)

This could be a career-turning few months for the smart Karnataka cricketer. After an injury-prone few seasons, Rahul stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with six fifties – most of them in lost causes, given his team’s shocking collapse in the second half of the group stages. There was nobody more capable than KL to take away our breaths as an opener – and his consistency marked him out more than most. 659 runs at an average of 55. What a season!

KANE WILLIAMSON (SRH)

The Orange Cap holder finished with a stunning 735 runs in the season – with 8 fifties and no centuries to his name. The SRH captain wasn’t even a regular presence in the David Warner led side in the last few seasons. But he stepped in and revolutionized his own game to play some of the most pleasing cricketing shots throughout the season. He almost batted his team to the title, and nobody will call him a “Test specialist” from now on. This will only serve New Zealand well in their limited-overs pursuits this year.

AMBATI RAYADU (CSK)

He scored most of his 602 runs as an opener and tapered off towards the end of the playoffs. But the 33-year-old journeyman was the most important batsman in the group stages for CSK, especially when Watson was finding it tough to get going against some attacks. Rayadu played freely and maintained the consistency of Dhoni’s team; he looked most comfortable at the crease and has been rewarded with a call-up for the England tour.

RISHABH PANT (DD)

Pants on fire! – was a sportswriter’s favorite headline in the last two months. The 20-year-old came of age in stunning style, and just in time, given that Dhoni might not be playing international cricket for a long time. His keeping has improved, but it was his batting and big-hitting that propelled him into the big league this year. Pant was a one-man team for the most part. A testament to his individual brilliance is the innings in which he scored an incredible 129 – the highest score of the year – and still ended up on the losing side against SRH.

DINESH KARTHIK (KKR)

The best finisher of the tournament showed a kind of maturity that Dhoni has shown throughout his career. DK, the captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders, seems to be a changed player after that last-ball six against Bangladesh in the Asia Cup two months ago. He was the stability they needed in the middle order – and the one time he failed, in the second qualifier, KKR crashed out of the tournament. There has been a business and purpose to his batting, while his keeping has improved too. He looks to be a good replacement for an injured Saha in the Test side.

ANDRE RUSSELL (KKR)

A pure, giant game changer. If not his bowling, he’d get you with his monstrous hitting. Bowlers were petrified to bowl length at him and kept bowling wides in the final overs to prevent him from reaching the ball. Russell’s power is legendary, and he was KKR’s impact player – a little more than MVP Sunil Narine’s pinch-hitting at the top of the order.

RASHID KHAN (SRH)

Andrew Tye might have been the purple-cap winner, but there was nobody was beguiling and influential as the 20-year-old Afghani leg-spinner. He was impossible to read when it mattered, and delivered one of the all-time great all-round performances in the qualifier against KKR – a three-for, a stunning cameo with the bat (34 off 10), two catches and a run-out. He was, by far, the best bowler of IPL 11.

LUNGI NGIDI (CSK)

He played only 7 games for CSK but bowled with the kind of renewed fitness and heart that an “old” team needed from its young overseas bowler. He combined superbly with Deepak Chahar in the latter stages, even bowling the spell of the tournament – 4/10 in 4 overs – against Kings XI Punjab in their final group game a week before the Final. Ngidi finished the tournament as probably the best fast bowler of the season.

KULDEEP YADAV (KKR)

He was more expensive than Sunil Narine but looked to be a work of art in the second half of the season – flighting the ball, taking risks and deceiving batsmen of high pedigree. His four-for against the Royals, as well as his first over against SRH in the second qualifier when he dismissed both Dhawan and Williamson, will be remembered for a long time.

ANDREW TYE (KXIP)

24 wickets with 3 four-wicket hauls make Tye the most destructive and versatile bowler of the season. He couldn’t haul his team into the playoffs, but along with KL Rahul, he provided for the most dazzling individual performances of the tournament. Batsmen found it impossible to read his knuckleballs, and he took away the Purple Cap despite playing three games lesser than Rashid Khan and the others.

SPECIAL MENTIONS:
Sunil Narine, Shane Watson, Umesh Yadav, Siddharth Kaul, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Jasprit Bumrah, K. Gowtham, Deepak Chahar

Rahul Desai: