Ten seasons. 13 teams. Hundreds of superstars. Now pick an XI. Picking an Indian Premier League (IPL) All-Time XI is some task. Individuals, Indian or overseas, have gone onto light up the tournament with unthinkable feats, which makes this tournament the most coveted T20 league in the world. I, Suvajit Mustafi, have been entrusted with this job of picking 11 superstars from the galaxy, keeping emotions at bay and balance at fore. Brace up for the word ‘impact’ and some surprises as the eleven names follow…

Openers

In an ideal world where four-overseas-players rule does not exist, this would have been a cakewalk. Chris Gayle and David Warner would have walked out to bludgeon bowlers into oblivion. Keeping the balance of the side in mind, only one of them will make it.

While Warner’s consistency and leadership skills give him an edge, Gayle races ahead in sheer impact. Gayle undoubtedly is the greatest T20 batsman ever. Between 2011 and 2013 none matched his impact. He also has a better average and strike rate than Warner. Add 18 IPL wickets to that.

Gayle has been one of the primary reasons for Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) near-insane fan base. In a way he has been a face of IPL, synonymous to the tournament, a poster boy indeed.

Chris Gayle (KKR, RCB R: 3,626 | Ave: 41.2 | SR: 151.2 | HS: 175* | 100s: 5 | 50s: 21 | W: 18

Chris Gayle has been one of the primary reasons for Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) near-insane fan base © AFP
Chris Gayle has been one of the primary reasons for Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) near-insane fan base © BCCI

Who miss out: Warner, Brendon McCullum, Shaun Marsh and Mike Hussey       

Proceeding to hunt for an Indian opening partner for Gayle. The strong contenders are Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane and Robin Uthappa. Filtering further, it comes down to Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir.

Gambhir has been an epitome of consistency for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). He has led the franchise extremely well, helping it win two titles. I will go to the extent of calling him the best IPL captain so far. His good mate Sehwag does not score in terms of consistency, but again, the impact he has is matched by few. Big knocks from Sehwag go on to decide games. ALSO READ: David Warner to call the shots and Rishabh Pant to keep wickets in IPL 2017 XI

Tendulkar has been very consistent, but barring 2010 he did not create serious impact. That takes him out of the race.

Sehwag retired in 2015. Not to forget, his hundred against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in 2014 playoffs guided Kings XI Punjab to their first ever IPL final. Gambhir may have a better average but Sehwag’s strike rate is astronomically high. Also, Gambhir has no IPL hundred Sehwag has 2.

In a side with a robust middle-order to follow, our side can risk to have two of the most explosive and entertaining batsmen ever to start the innings. In addition, this will be a left-right combo.

Random trivia: Gayle and Sehwag had opened for ICC World XI against Australia in 2005. Both these men have double-tons in ODIs and two triple tons in Test.

Virender Sehwag (DD, KXIP)

R: 2,728 | Ave: 27.55 | SR: 155.4 | HS: 122 | 100s: 2 | 50s: 16 | W: 6

Virender Sehwag retired in 2015 © IANS
Virender Sehwag retired in 2015 © IANS

Who miss out: Gambhir and Tendulkar

Number Three

Inarguably the best No. 3 in limited overs cricket at the moment walks in next. From a teenager to national captaincy, Virat Kohli has played all his 10 seasons for RCB. He has been consistent and backbone of RCB’s batting over the years.

Kohli has breached the 500-run mark four times. In 2016 he came in proximity to the unthinkable 1,000-mark, managing 973 at 81.08 —at a strike rate in excess of 152. He slammed 4 centuries in a single season. No tournament around the world has ever witnessed such madness.

Pretty much peerless, the No. 3 is Kohli’s spot.

Virat Kohli (RCB)

Runs: 4,418 | Ave: 37.44 | SR: 129.8 | HS: 113 | 100s: 4 | 50s: 30 | W: 4

Virat Kohli has breached the 500-run mark four times © AFP
Virat Kohli has breached the 500-run mark four times © AFP

Who miss out: Suresh Raina misses out batting at No.3

Number Four and Wicketkeeper

I may be crucified by masses for this. There is no right or wrong but a certain gentleman named AB de Villiers has to be picked. Even if it is in expense of a superstar named MS Dhoni. AB’s numbers wear more impressive look than Dhoni’s. Just like Dhoni, AB has the ability to finish well (remember that over of Dale Steyn?) as well as build platforms.

De Villiers is the best batsman of his generation. Period. Some of the knocks he has produced in the IPL have left the fraternity spellbound. He bats well alongside Kohli and the middle-order of this side revolves around the South African. AB also takes the extra responsibility of keeping wickets for this side. Though a reluctant keeper, AB has kept wickets 31 times in IPL.

Random fact: Despite their IPL prowess, it is quite surprising that both AB and Dhoni have dismal records in T20Is. Dhoni has only one fifty in T20Is, that too as recently as in 2017; AB, on the other hand, averages a shade of 24 in this format.

AB de Villiers (DD, RCB)

Runs: 3,473 | Ave: 38.16 | SR: 148.2 | HS: 133* | 100s: 3 | 50s: 22

AB de Villiers is the best batsman of his generation © PTI
AB de Villiers is the best batsman of his generation © PTI

Who miss out: MS Dhoni, the wicketkeeper

Captain comes out next

Who leads the side? There is no Gambhir. There is no Dhoni. But even if they made it, Rohit Sharma would have given them a tough run. It does not matter how you rate his captaincy: he is IPL’s most successful skipper — and an excellent batsman to boot.

Having won the tournament for Deccan Chargers (DC) in 2009, Rohit has led Mumbai Indians (MI) to three IPL triumphs — in 2013, 2015 and 2017. Not to forget, he gave Tendulkar the most perfect farewell from MI when he led the side to their second Champions League T20 triumph in 2013.

That is Rohit the skipper. As a batsman, he has amassed more than 400 runs in a season six times. He has been one of the most consistent and versatile batters in the tournament since the inception of the league. He bats at No. 5 in the side.

Trivia: Rohit has bowled less than 10 overs for MI ever since he joined them in 2011. However, he has an IPL hat-trick to his name. He achieved the feat in 2009, for DC.

Rohit Sharma (DC, MI)

Runs: 4,207 | Ave: 32.61 | SR: 130.9 | HS: 109* | 100s: 1 | 50s: 32 | W: 15

Rohit Sharma has bowled less than 10 overs for MI ever since he joined them in 2013 © BCCI
Rohit Sharma has bowled less than 10 overs for MI ever since he joined them in 2013 © BCCI

Who miss out: Dhoni and Gambhir, as captains. Ambati Rayudu and Yuvraj Singh.

Finisher

You cannot name an IPL All-Time XI and not pick Suresh Raina. No batsman has been as consistent as Raina since the league’s inception. He was one of the pillars of CSK’s enormous success and later led Gujarat Lions (GL) in a dignified way. In 8 out the 10 seasons he has finished with over 400 runs. The only time he did not do this was in 2015 and 2016 when he amassed 374 and 399 respectively. No wonder he sits at the top of the table of IPL run-getters.

Raina has batted mostly at No. 3. However, with Kohli in the side, he has to be content with the finisher’s job, a role he has successfully donned for the national side for many years.

There maybe an argument that this is Dhoni’s slot. However, Raina has proved his worth in the past at this position. When it comes to IPL, Raina has proven to be a bigger match-winner than Dhoni. Raina also has a CLT20 hundred and boasts of an excellent record in that tournament.

In addition, Raina has 25 IPL wickets to his name with his tidy off-spin at an economy rate under seven-and-half.

Suresh Raina (CSK, GL)

Runs: 4,540 | Ave: 34.13 | SR: 139.1 | HS: 100* | 100s: 1 | 50s: 31 | W: 25

Suresh Raina has 25 IPL wickets to his name with his tidy off-spin at an economy rate under seven-and-half © IANS
Suresh Raina has 25 IPL wickets to his name with his tidy off-spin at an economy rate under seven-and-half © IANS

Who miss out: Dhoni and Yusuf Pathan

I have taken the liberty to break the usual conventions. The six-batter-one-all-rounder-four-bowler theory is the usual norm for selection. Then the batters can bowl too. This side can take a risk to field five specialist bowlers considering the batting firepower they have in their armoury. Remember, we are talking about the all-time greats of IPL. Therefore, there is no place for a genuine all-rounder. It is loaded with five out-and-out specialist bowlers, some of whom are more than competent with bat.

Spinners

Spin plays very important role in Indian conditions. Add to it the mystery bit, and you have all ingredients for success. Sunil Narine has been IPL’s most successful overseas spinner. There have been doubts raised over his action, but Narine has found ways to bamboozle opponents and also restrict the run-flow. He has changed KKR’s fortunes since arrival in 2012 and the franchise has backed him to the core.

In 2017, Narine’s batting went on to be a difference maker for KKR as well. KKR finished third despite injuries and unavailability of Andre Russell. Narine opened batting in this edition and slammed the joint-fastest IPL fifty off just 15 balls, against RCB. Narine at No. 7 lends strength to batting.

Trivia: Narine first caught IPL’s attention with his exploits at the 2011 CLT20 for Trinidad & Tobago. Narine has phenomenal record in the now defunct tournament, claiming 29 wickets from 20 matches at 9.20. His economy rate is a ridiculous 4.68.

Sunil Narine (KKR)

W: 95 | Ave: 21.37 | Econ R: 6.33 | BB: 5-19 | 5w: 1 | 4w: 6

Bat Ave: 13.55 | SR: 147.3 | 50s: 1

Sunil Narine has been IPL’s most successful overseas spinner © AFP
Sunil Narine has been IPL’s most successful overseas spinner © AFP

Who miss out: Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Shakib Al Hasan as spinners. Dwayne Bravo, Shane Watson and Russell as all-rounders.

Picking one Indian spinner out of a brilliant lot is a task. Amit Mishra is the highest Indian wicket-taker in IPL. The ever-consistent Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla follow the list. Harbhajan’s contribution with bat has helped MI cross the line several times. He has provided IPL with some greatest moments.

The cerebral Yuzvendra Chahal was a chess master and his intellect was visible ever since he took the spin charge of RCB since 2014. Then there is Ravichandran Ashwin.

Filtering it further, it is a toss-up between Harbhajan and Ashwin. Ashwin has a better economy rate and average. He has been another pillar for CSK alongside Dhoni and Raina. On the other hand, Harbhajan has led MI in the past and guided them to a CLT20 win.

Ashwin edges past in terms of bowling but only by a slender margin. However, despite Ashwin being a better batsman, Harbhajan’s contribution in lower-order has been more significant for MI, IPL’s most successful franchise.

Considering balance of the side, Harbhajan makes the cut. Remember, there is no all-rounder in the side.

Harbhajan Singh (MI)

W: 127 | Ave: 26.65 | Econ R: 6.95 | BB: 5-18 | 5w: 1 | 4w: 1 

Bat Ave: 16.3 | SR: 142.4 | 50s: 1

Harbhajan Singh has led MI in the past and guided them to a CLT20 win © BCCI
Harbhajan Singh has led MI in the past and guided them to a CLT20 win © BCCI

Who miss out: Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Yuzvendra Chahal.

The Trump card

He may have lost the crown of being the king of death bowling to him MI teammate and pupil Jasprit Bumrah, but he still has enough steam to win his sides matches, even at the fag end of his career. It was evident in the final on Sunday.

He is the first name you would pick in any all-time IPL XI. The fourth overseas player. The greatest bowler in IPL history. The highest-wicket taker in the tournament. Lasith Malinga has been peerless in IPL.

This was the easiest pick.

Lasith Malinga (MI)

W: 154 | Ave: 19.01 | Econ R: 6.86 | BB: 5-13 | 5w: 1 | 4w: 4

Lasith Malinga has been peerless in IPL © AFP
Lasith Malinga has been peerless in IPL © AFP

Who miss out: No one. Malinga is the greatest IPL bowler.

Other pacers

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the best Indian pacer in IPL. He has won Purple Caps in consecutive editions. Bhuvi’s ability to get prodigious swing and exceptional bowling at the death and ability to stifle runs makes him an asset.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (PWI, MI)

W: 111 | Ave: 21.07 | Econ R: 7.08 | BB: 5-19 | 5w: 1 | 4w: 2 

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the best Indian pacer in IPL © AFP
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been the best Indian pacer in IPL © AFP

It is time we add a bit of variation to this bowling. How about getting a left-arm pacer in the mix? Ashish Nehra, the fourth-most successful pacer in IPL, makes the cut. Zaheer Khan and RP Singh have enviable numbers, but Nehra has impressed the most of the lost. In fact, he has been so good that he has made a comeback to the Indian side at well above 35, that too as spearhead of the attack. That seals the spot in Nehra-ji’s favour.

Ashish Nehra (MI, DD, PWI, CSK, SRH)

W: 106 | Ave: 23.53 | Econ R: 7.84 | BB: 4-10 | 5w: 0 | 4w: 1 

Ashish Nehra, the fourth-most successful pacer in IPL, makes the cut © AFP
Ashish Nehra, the fourth-most successful pacer in IPL, makes the cut © AFP

Who miss out: Zaheer Khan and RP Singh.

12th man

He should have featured in most XIs. He can bowl. He can bat. He is amongst the finest fielders. He can sing. He can dance. Dwayne Bravo is the 12th man.

Dwayne Bravo is the 12th man © IANS
Dwayne Bravo is the 12th man © IANS

Dwayne Bravo (MI, CSK, GL)

W: 122 | Bowl Ave: 22.58 | Econ R: 8.19 | BB: 4-22 | 5w: 0 | 4w: 2 

Runs: 1,262 | Bat Ave: 22.94 | HS: 70* | SR: 126.3 | 50s: 4

© BCCI
© BCCI

IPL All-Time XI: Chris Gayle, Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers (wk), Rohit Sharma (c), Suresh Raina, Sunil Narine, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Lasith Malinga, Ashish Nehra.

IPL All-Time no restriction XI (more than four overseas players): Chris Gayle, David Warner, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers (wk), Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Shane Warne (c), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Lasith Malinga.

IPL All-Time Indian XI: Gautam Gambhir (c), Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, MS Dhoni (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra.

IPL All-Time Overseas XI: Chris Gayle, David Warner, AB de Villiers (wk), Michael Hussey, Shane Watson, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Shane Warne (c), Dale Steyn, Lasith Malinga.