By Sudatta Mukherjee
When Shane Warne masterminded Rajasthan Royals (RR) title triumph in the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL), he was 37 years old. He led a side of underdogs and made them believe that they can take on star-studded sides. Young players like Swapnil Asnodkar, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja prospered under his captaincy. Twenty20 is a format for the young, but Warne proved as a captain and player that age did not matter.
Indeed, T20’s Senior Citizens club has some illustrious name. Below are some notable players are going strong despite crossing 35:
Brad Hogg (41):
He retired from international cricket almost four years back and not much was expected from his slow left-arm chinaman. However, he bowled tidy spells and got crucial wickets for Rajasthan Royals. He was as effective as many of his teammates in a side that lacked stars but had performers.
Hogg was the joint second highest wicket-taker for the Royals in IPL5 with 10 wickets at an average of 25.30.
Muttiah Muralitharan (40):
Muralitharan’s effort in IPL 2012 was so tough to ignore that Daniel Vettori, the skipper of Royal Challengers Bangalore, had to drop himself from the side in order to accommodate the Sri Lankan spin wizard. He was by far has been the most effective bowler for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) this year.
Rahul Dravid (39):
Rahul Dravid retired from all forms of the game in early March after a disappointing tour Down Under. The disappointments of Australia were left behind as he and Ajinkya Rahane provided huge value at the top of the order. Dravid’s strike rate wasn’t to talk about, but he brought enough solidity in to the team which compensated for his strike-rate. He was Rajasthan’s second highest scorer - after Rahane - scoring 462 runs.
As a captain, mentor and guide, he ensured that the absence of Warne was not felt by the Royals.
Sachin Tendulkar (39):
His presence in the team is enough to inspire his co-players. Tendulkar had a quiet season compared to the earlier Indian Premier League editions. But in whichever match he contributed, he played at a good pace and looked his natural self while attacking.
Though Tendulkar injured himself early in the edition and missed many games, he finished as third highest run-getter for Mumbai Indians - just nine runs behind the second-highest run-getter, Ambati Rayudu, who had the advantage of playing four more matches than the Master Blaster.
Herschelle Gibbs (38):
It’s still a mystery why Gibbs wasn’t played more often than he did in IPL5. Even though he got limited opportunities to play, he proved his worth in the very first match that he played for Mumbai Indians, scoring 66 runs off 58 balls. He played just three matches and topped the averages – 40.50 - for Mumbai Indians in IPL5.
He was a livewire on the field as well, reminiscent of Jonty Rhodes – now the fielding coach of the Mumbai team.
Azhar Mahmood (37):
He was a key player for Kings XI Punjab and played a crucial part in most of the matches he played. Azhar arrived much after IPL5 started, but yet finished with a haul of 14 wickets from eleven matches at an average of 23.50. He was dangerous with the bat as well as his strike-rate of 130-plus indicates. Clearly, he was one of the top all-rounders in the fifth edition of IPL.
Michael Hussey (37):
“Mr Cricket” joined the Chennai Super Kings rather late in the championship as he, like many of the other Australians in the tournament, was busy doing national duty in the Caribbean. But despite playing just eight matches, he finished third in the CSK individual batting averages.
Hussey defied his age by being brilliant on the field as well. Who can forget the spectacular catch attempted by him in the IPL 5 final against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)!
Jacques Kallis (36):
His batting was not as consistent as one would expect from someone of his class, but Kallis finished with 15 wickets as the second highest wicket-taker for KKR. The fact that he played ahead of many other promising players who warmed the bench for KKR speaks volumes of his importance in the side. In fact, RCB owner Vijay Mallya regretted the decision of letting go Kallis.
Kallis’s role in KKR title triumph in IPL5 cannot be underestimated – especially his innings of 69 off 49 balls in the final against Chennai.
Brett Lee (35):
The “Smiling Assassin” stands out in this list of T20 senior citizens as he is the only pure pace bowler. Although he has lost some of his old fire, he has been effective enough to give the batsman a torrid time. Lee defied age and injuries with his speed and accuracy. For a fast bowler, he was brilliant in the outfield.
His cameos with the bat have come in handy for Kolkata Knight Riders late in the innings – his strike rate of 210 being a pointer. The fact that he manages to keep his place in the playing XI of a star-studded team like KKR goes to prove how important and integral he is for any top side in the world.
Tillakaratne Dilshan (35):
The Lankan dasher who provided blazing starts for RCB on more than one occasion was overshadowed by Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. In fact, his 285 runs in the season placed him behind Gayle and de Villiers in the RCB top run-getters in IPL5.
On the field, his electric presence saved many runs for RCB.
(Sudatta Mukherjee claims to be a Jill of all trades and mistress of none. She is affable, crazy and a wannabe writer. Her Twitter ID is @blackrosegal. Oh yes! You do know her!)