Dubai: Ever since the sporting world gradually came under lockdown from March with the coronavirus pandemic spiralling by the day, the sports fans had been keeping themselves busy with the exercise of building their dream XIs, worst-ever XIs, greatest matches, goals, innings or memorable comebacks - all the works.
The Indian Premier League (IPL), which has been ‘indefinitely’ postponed now, has been no exception with the IPL junkies’ minds working overtime on building a best-ever XI to have played the league, the best-ever combination from Indian cricketers etc. The influence which top Indian cricketers have weilded in the journey of the league - with the top three rungetters’ spots being occupied by them in Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma - that a dream team with Indian cricketers will be a much more predictable exercise.
Gulf News gets down to the exercise of building a ‘Dream Team’ solely from the foreign professionals - a team built with the sole purpose winning an edition of IPL in terms of their records and effectiveness in the tournament rather than their overall stature and reputation. Hence, you don’t find names like Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasuriya or Kumar Sangakkara missing out or Jacques Kallis - arguably the greatest allrounder of contemporary cricket - is named the 12th man.
Here we go:
Chris Gayle (West Indies)
The West Indian’s name is the first one that has to be pencilled in for the overall influence he has had in the history of the league. The Jamaican really stands tall with his surfeit of records and is sixth on the all-time rungetters’ list in the IPL (4484 runs), not to speak of the highest number of centuries (six) or the highest ever individual score of 175. Few may argue that he is yet to feature in a IPL-winning team, neither his record is as awesome in the play-offs or the finals, but it simply cannot deprive him of the opener’s slot.
Shane Watson (Australia)
‘Watto,’ the former Australian allrounder, had been worth his weight for the franchises whom he played for: a devastating opener, skillful bowler and a reliable fielder. The blistering century which he scored for Chennai Super Kings in the 2018 final against Sunrisers Hyderabad is still fresh in memory - and the conventional wisdom of using a left-right opening combination is also served if Watson comes out to open with Gayle. His skiddy medium pacers had been extremely useful in giving his teams breakthroughs, but fitness issues have made him bowl less and focus more on batting over the past couple of years.
David Warner (Australia)
Don’t be surprised at seeing the Australian at No.3 spot - he had been one of the biggest impact players of the league and can certainly adjust his game as per the need of the hour. With 4706 runs from 126 games, Warner has the most runs in the league by an overseas player and is fourth in the overall list. The former Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper, who led them to their maiden title in 2016, was the highest scorer of the season the very next year with 641 runs and there is no reason to look beyond him in this crucial spot.
AB de Villiers (South Africa)
The best batsman of the team, they say, should bat at either No.3 or 4 and there can be no dispute about the choice of the South African in this position. The ‘Mr 360’ of cricket, as De Villiers is famous as for his ability to play shots to all corners of the ground, had been the mainstay of the middle order for Royal Challengers Bangalore and is in ninth position on the all-time rungetters’ list. A former South Africa captain with tonnes of experience and a teamman to the core, he can also be the vice-captain of the team.
Andre Russell (West Indies)
Andre Russell, the ‘Dre Russ’ for Kolkata Knight Riders, gave the team the X-factor when KKR won the title for the second time in 2014. The West Indians’ ability to send the ball soaring with consistency often makes the mockery of asking rates while he can trouble the batsmen with variations in his medium pace. Much like compatriot Dwayne Bravo, Russell is one of the players who becomes doubly dangerous at the death, both while batting and bowling. The 2018 IPL also saw his new ball credentials improve as he picked quite a few wickets in his first spell, mostly with the short ball.
Adam Gilchrist (Australia)
There could be the odd eyebrows raised over the selection of ‘Gilly’ as the wicketkeeper-batsman, especially after the emergence of England’s Jos Buttler in recent years. However, a team like this demands a strong leader of men and Gilchrist is a very good choice here - having been the captain in five of the six editions that he had played till 2013. He had captained a somewhat ragtag Deccan Chargers to the title in the second edition in 2009 in South Africa. Gilchrist’s multidimensional approach makes him walk into the side as the wicket-keeper and the captain of the side.
Dwayne Bravo (West Indies)
The West Indian allrounder’s easygoing demeanour may not often suggest it, but he had been one of the key players behind the high success rate of the Chennai Super Kings. He stands second in the list of wicket-takers among overseas players and fifth overall with 147 wickets from 134 games with an excellent economy rate, while his finishing abilities have helped CSK prevail in close matches innumerable times. A perfect number seven for this power-packed team.
Rashid Khan (Afghanistan)
The young Afghanistan leg spinner’s choice over stalwarts of the game who have been part of the league - like Shane Warne or Anil Kumble - may raise quite a few eyebrows. In the limited number of years for Sunrisers Hyderabad that he has played for, Khan has showed he is the epitome of the smart cricketer that one needs in this format. He may be far down the pecking order among bowlers with 55 wickets to show, but has got a deceptive wrong ‘un, is a handy batsman and a brilliant fielder on the outfield.
Sunil Narine (West Indies)
The magical spinner from West Indies has been the most successful overseas spinner in the IPL by miles. Starting his IPL career as a ‘mystery’ bowler in 2012, Narine proved to be a thorn in the flesh for all oppositions, being economical as well one of the top wicket-takers. The wicket-taking spree slowed down a bit after a change in his action, but the Trinidadian still spearheads the KKR attack with his experience and variety - while his carefree batting up the order had been a big plus for the franchise.
Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)
The highest wicket taker in the tournament with 170 wickets, Lasith Malinga has been one of those larger-than-life characters who changed the perception about T20 cricket, being one of the first bowling heroes in the batsmen-dominated format. Despite having lingering issues about his fitness, Malinga’s toe-crushers and skillful variations has made him one of the most deadly bowlers to face at any stage of the game in the IPL. It was his magical last over, as Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma will testify, which gave Mumbai their fourth crown with a one-run, last-ball win in 2019.
Dale Steyn (South Africa)
If there are any doubts if class can prevail in this slambang format, one need not look beyond Dale Steyn, one of the best pacers of this era. The South African has 96 wickets to show for his efforts with an economy rate of 7.14 but more than his numbers, it is the intensity he brings that makes him walk into this XI. There have been a few other fast bowlers who would have really pushed Steyn for the last slot like his compatiot Mornie Morkel - for his unrelenting accuracy - or Mitchell Johnson for his awkward bounce and slanting deliveries, but then Steyn gets the nod.
12th man: Jacque Kallis (South Africa)
It’s almost embarrassing to keep out the great Jacques Kallis, but it’s in keeping with the dynamics of IPL. A giant of an allrounder, he will still have to wait and come in for any form of role - including that of an opener if one of them are injured.