© Getty Images
© Getty Images


IPL 4 XI: 1. Chris Gayle, 2. Virender Sehwag, 3Shaun Marsh, 4. Virat Kohli, 5. Subramaniam Badrinath, 6. Jacques Kallis, 7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 8. Iqbal Abdulla, 9. Rahul Sharma, 10. Doug Bollinger, 11. Lasith Malinga


After what seems like months of non-stop DLF sixers, Citi moments of successes and Maxx mobile timeouts, the world’s most glitziest and glamorous domestic cricket tournament is heading to the finish line. I think it is safe to assume that the final four will be the Mumbai Indians, defending champs Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and (surprise, surprise!) Kolkata Knight Riders.


With just a few games to go, it is not too early to pick the Best XI of IPL4. The chosen ones have been the most impressive of the lot, in an edition which has seen the addition of two new teams. I have not gone by reputation or past performances and picked my XI purely on the basis of their performances in this edition.


The 11 most impressive players of IPL 4, according to their role in the team:


The swashbuckling openers


Chris Gayle – He has made this IPL his own. It’s hard to believe that he went unsold in the auctions. He had reacted then that his absence would be the IPL’s loss. Sure enough, when he was belatedly brought in as a replacement for Dirk Nannes, he showed all the team owners who didn’t bid on him, just what they had missed.


Rejected by the WICB, snubbed by the KKR and asked by the RCB management to imagine the white ball as the symbol of the WICB and KKR, Gayle launched his return in style against his old team with a blistering ton. That was no flash in the pan, as he repeated the dose to other oppositions he came across. In the process, he took RCB to the top of the pile. Having joined midway and with a few games to go, he is already among the leading run scorers and highest ‘six’ getter, He has slammed two hundreds and even managed to score 36 runs in a 7-ball over. Perhaps the only other team happier than the RCB right now is Pakistan!


Virender Sehwag – If Gayle and Sehwag play for the same team, the opposition might as well concede the game and go home! Before injury cut short his run in the tournament, Sehwag single-handedly kept the Daredevils afloat. He did it in his inimitable manner. A blistering ton, a skilful half century in a game where every other batsman struggled, and another high-impact innings were three of his most memorable performances this year. It is one thing to bat like Gayle, secure in the knowledge that you have an array of reliable batsmen to follow you; in Sehwag’s case, he was the batting line-up. It makes his performance in this IPL all the more incredible.


The ‘backbone’ of the line-up


Shaun Marsh  He is one of the most consistent batsmen in IPL history and his performance this year is one reason why Punjab have been in the running for the play-offs till the end. He has a simple technique and an unfettered approach to run-getting, which has served him well so far. While he may not grab eye balls like a Sehwag or Kieron Pollard, he has been equally effective for Kings XI Punjab. If he keeps performing this way, the KXI captaincy is not too far away.


Virat Kohli  While the Gayle force has been capturing all the headlines for RCB, the future captain of the Indian team has been quietly supporting the efforts of the opener in his own way. How much faith the management has in him, is indicated by the fact, that he was the only player to be retained from the previous seasons. He has justified the belief by ensuring Gayle’s knocks are not in vain, by applying the finishing touches in their victorious games. He has also stepped in admirably for skipper Daniel Vettori, when the Kiwi was injured. The future is looking bright for this Delhi tyro.


Subramaniam Badrinath – India’s very own Michael Hussey has recently been rewarded for his consistent performances in the Ranji Trophy and the IPL, with a ticket to the ODI leg of the West Indies tour. It was a well-deserved call up, as he is in the form of his life. When everything is going well for the Super Kings, it’s unlikely you will see Badri. But when the going gets tough, CSK will pull out their crisis specialist and expect him to set things right. More often than not, he has done exactly that. As Dhoni’s Super Kings are in the hunt for their second consecutive title, Badri is becoming their MVP of the season.


The all-rounder


Jacques Kallis Ever since he was dropped from the South African squad for the initial World T20 Championship, Kallis has made it his mission to prove the critics wrong. He had already mastered the Test and ODI formats, but there were many who felt that he was too slow for the shortest version of the game. He has corrected that image in fine fashion, first with RCB, and now with the Knight Riders. This season, he kick-started their campaign and was the Orange Cap holder/wearer in the early stages. With the ball, he is an effective partnership breaker and is always safe in the field. If KKR are to emerge as IPL champions for the first time, expect this man to be at the forefront of it all.


Wicket keeper/Captain Cool


Mahendra Singh Dhoni Right now, there is nothing he can do wrong. Fresh from winning the World Cup off his own blade, Dhoni looks in murderous touch for the Super Kings. After somewhat of a relatively slow start, he has already played a couple of blistering innings down the order (one of which Irfan Pathan will not forget in a hurry). His pedigree as captain is unquestioned and his instincts in this IPL have been spot on most of the time. As a ‘keeper, he has been somewhat shoddy, as can be expected after almost four months of non-stop cricket. Still, he has been the best ‘keeper/batsman in this edition and looks good to lift the second trophy as skipper in two months.


Spin Kings


Iqbal Abdulla He is one the brighter talents in the IPL and has been earmarked for the national team, for a while now. He came into prominence first with the U-19 team, where he played a crucial role in winning the World Cup. Now, with KKR, he has been their main man in keeping the opposition batsmen under control while taking wickets at the same time. While it won’t be easy to break into the Indian senior team with the competition hotting up, if he keeps performing the way he has been doing this season, a call from the national selection committee is not too far away.


Rahul Sharma The addition of two new teams in this IPL has paved the way for more domestic players to show their skills to a global audience. While the majority have disappointed, Rahul Sharma is one of the few who has grabbed the opportunity with both hands. While the Pune Warriors have had a disappointing campaign, he has been the find of the season. A lanky leg-spinner who brings back memories of Anil Kumble, he has bowled with unerring discipline and accuracy throughout the last few weeks. In a tournament featuring some of the world’s most destructive batsmen, he has virtually remained unscathed with an economy rate of less than six runs per over. While a nondescript domestic record will prevent him from making the national team immediately, he has started out well in this IPL. Only time will tell if he is the real deal.


Speed merchants


Doug Bollinger  Till Bollinger came along, the Super Kings were a decent team who could win more games than not. They were in the doldrums last season, thanks to a weak bowling line-up when Bollinger joined them. Along with Ravichandran Ashwin and Muttiah Muralitharan, he added teeth to the attack, and soon CSK turned into a top class side, winning the IPL and the Champions League in the process. This season, he has delivered the goods again. At the top of the innings, he ensures that the opposition doesn’t often get off to the start they desire, but it is at the death when he is virtually unplayable. Bouncers, yorkers, taking pace off the ball – he’s got it all. He remains crucial to CSK’s chances of winning their second IPL trophy on the trot.


Lasith Malinga The slinga’ from Lanka might have retired from Tests due to a degenerative knee condition, but in the IPL, he remains an omnipresent threat to batsmen’s toes. He is the best bowler by a mile in the IPL with a bowling average under 10 and an economy rate under six. For Mumbai Indians, who have been strangely inconsistent in their last few games, he remains their biggest weapon and it is safe to say that for them to win their first championship, Malinga is their biggest hope.

(The writings of Benjamin Prabhu (Benny, aka tracer007) are products of a fanatical cricketing mind for over a decade and a half. After a brief stint in school cricket in the 90s, he decided that chasing a red ball around a field in white flannels as a substitute fielder was not really getting him anywhere. He subsequently entered medical school, where he spent half the time learning how not to kill a patient and the rest of the time, sharing his opinions about the state of international cricket to people who had no idea of what he was talking about. Since graduation, he is living in the US, where he chanced upon the world of cricket blogging; and in an instant, an idea to start a cricket blog shot through his brain ‘like a tracer bullet’ and (likeatracerbullet) was born)