IPL 2016: Best XI team of the tournament
From Left : Virat Kohli, David Warner (c), AB de Villiers, KL Rahul (wk), Yusuf Pathan, Krunal Pandya, Chris Morris, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Yuzvendra Chahal, Mustafizur Rahman

Virat Kohli, Royal Challengers Bangalore:Leading run-scorer of the tournament, captained his side to the final, hit the most sixes, got the most fifty-plus scores of the tournament; there was nothing Virat Kohli did not do in IPL 9. Kohli almost single-handedly took Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) into the final. Kohli was on a different plane from his competitors, finishing over 100 runs ahead of his closest rival, David Warner. Kohli fell an agonising 27 runs short of 1,000 and averaged 81.08 at a strike rate of 152.03 with 7 fifties and an unprecedented 4 centuries.

That he scored almost all his runs as opener makes him the No. 1 batsman (both literal and figurative) of this line-up. It was a close call for captaincy between him and Warner, but given that Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) won the final, Kohli misses out on being a literal one-man army.

David Warner, Sunrisers Hyderabad (c): The IPL- winning captain will lead the team of the tournament and also open batting alongside Kohli. Warner was the second-highest run-scorer of the tournament and actually finished with more runs than anyone has ever scored in a singled edition of IPL — barring Kohli in this season. In 17 matches Warner scored 848 runs at 60.57 and a strike rate of 151.42. He hit 9 half-centuries and reached 90s on two occasions.

AB de Villiers, Royal Challengers Bangalore:It is no co-incidence that the top three batsmen on the run charts are also the top three batsmen of this side. De Villiers was in spectacular form for RCB, batting at No. 3 in virtually all the matches and rarely failing to make it count. His innings in Qualifier 1 ensured RCB made it to the final after Kohli suffered a rare failure. De Villiers smashed 687 runs at 52.84 with 6 fifties and 1 ton.

KL Rahul, Royal Challengers Bangalore (wk):Rahul’s wicket-keeping may not have been up to the mark, but he was an invaluable part of RCB’s batting machinery. Rahul’s keeping has a long way to go, but given that the ones who kept wickets reasonably well (Naman Ojha, Parthiv Patel) had terrible stints with the bat, we have chosen the wicketkeeper-batsman who did at least one job well. Rahul ended the tournament with 397 runs at 44.11 and an impressive strike rate of 146.49 with 4 half-centuries. Rahul was certainly one of the finds of the tournament as far as his batting was concerned.

Yusuf Pathan, Kolkata Knight Riders:Yusuf was a revelation for the way he batted in IPL 9. He bowled reasonably well on the odd occasion he was called upon, but it was with bat in hand that Yusuf truly proved his worth. He smashed 361 runs at 72.2 and a strike rate of 145.56 with three half-centuries. He rarely failed, and rescued Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) from the brink at least twice.

Krunal Pandya, Mumbai Indians :Coming to the all-rounders, Krunal Pandya was one of the finds of the tournament. Playing alongside his younger brother Hardik for Mumbai Indians (MI), Krunal showed he too was a massive hitter of the ball — his strike rate of 191.12 is among the highest in the tournament — and also proved himself a canny bowler. Krunal scored 237 runs at 39.5 with 1 half-century and a 49. In addition, he took 6 wickets at a decent economy rate.

Chris Morris, Delhi Daredevils:Chris Morris was far from a big name before IPL 2016, but his astronomical price at the player auction brought him under intense scrutiny. Morris proved himself up to the task by playing a couple of good innings and bowling some vital spells. His unbeaten 82 against Gujarat Lions (GL) brought Delhi Daredevils (DD) from the absolute doldrums to a mere 2 runs defeat. He hit a 17-ball fifty in that match, having already taken 2 wickets. Overall, Morris scored 195 runs at 65 and a strike rate of 178.89 with a solitary fifty, along with taking 13 wickets at an economy rate of just 7.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sunrisers Hyderabad: Bhuvneshwar Kumar was one of the main reasons why SRH lifted the cup in the finale against RCB.   He grabbed the Purple Cap but more than the wickets he took, it was the way in which he bowled which impressed everyone. Bhuvneshwar found his lost swing and bowled wonderfully in the death overs as well. He mixed his slower balls well and was rarely hit out of the attack. He finished with 23 wickets at an economy rate of 7.42.

Dhawal Kulkarni, Gujarat Lions:Dhawal Kulkarni has been a silent, hardworking bowler for years. He has been in and out of the Indian ODI team, but season after season he puts in the yards in domestic cricket. At this year’s IPL he offered another glimpse of his skills by being perhaps the most threatening bowler in the formidable Gujarat Lions (GL) pace attack. Kulkarni out-bowled the likes of Praveen Kumar, Dwayne Bravo, and James Faulkner. Given that Dale Steyn played a solitary match one could even go so far as to say he out-bowled Steyn. His spell against RCB in Qualifier 1 nearly took GL to the final. With 18 scalps in 14 games at an excellent average and strike rate, Kulkarni finished as one of the best bowlers of the tournament.

Yuzvendra Chahal,Royal Challengers Bangalore:Given how poorly RCB bowled at the start of the tournament it was a miracle of sorts that two of their bowlers ended up in the top 3 wicket-takers of IPL 9. One of them, Shane Watson, narrowly misses out on a spot in our XI due to his poor form with the bat, but could have made the team as a bowler. The other, Yuzvendra Chahal, makes it as the lead spinner. Chahal overcame a tough start to the tournament and ended up bowling his usual dependable leg-breaks every time Kohli wanted a wicket. With 21 scalps in only 13 matches, Chahal was arguably the most potent wicket-taker of IPL 9. He was a bit expensive but also enjoyed a bowling average under 20 and strike rate of just 14 — exceptional numbers by any margin.

Mustafizur Rahman, Sunrisers Hyderabad:Mustafizur Rahman burst on to the scene with consecutive five-wicket hauls against India at home, and since then his legend has only grown. There are few bowlers in world cricket at present who can match Mustafizur’s slower ball. Even Dwayne Bravo, whose USP is the slower ball, could take a leaf out of Mustafizur’s book. The SRH left-armer makes it to the side as the fourth overseas player.

Here is a look at how the batsmen and bowlers of the CricketCountry IPL 2016 XI have done:

table 1

Kohli was by far the best batsman of the tournament, followed by Warner and de Villiers. With the top three run-scorers being the top three batsmen of the side, there is little doubt anyone would be able to beat them in terms of runs. After the three big guns, Rahul, Pathan, Pandya, and Morris round up in what is quite a formidable batting line-up.

table 2

As for the bowling, Bhuvneshwar and Kulkarni will tie things down at the start and again at the death, while Mustafizur will be his usual unplayable self. In the middle overs Morris, Chahal, and Pandya can go for the kill. Good luck to any team coming up against this lot!

This article was first published at CricketCountry

(Shiamak Unwalla is a proud Whovian and all-round geek who also dabbles in cricket writing as a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)