IPL 2018: Team Of The Tournament
After 51 days of breathtaking T20 cricket and 60 matches laden with brilliant performances, the eleventh edition of the Indian Premier League ended with MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings beating Kane Williamson’s Sunrisers Hyderabad. With almost half the games finishing in the last over, IPL 2018 was arguably the best IPL season yet. In this article, I select my Team of the Tournament:
1. Sunil Narine
The IPL 2018 Player of the Season goes straight into my team as an opener. We know Sunil Narine mostly for his bowling skills but in the last couple of seasons, it has been his batting that has created waves. Scoring 357 runs in the tournament at an average of 22.31, it was his belligerent approach that caught the eye. Scoring at a strike rate of 189.89, Narine finished as the “Super Striker of the Season”, an award given to the player with the highest strike rate for playing at least seven matches and 70 deliveries in the season. His headline performances came against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab where he scored 50 off 19 balls and 75 off 36 balls respectively. These quick-fire innings helped Kolkata Knight Riders to get off to fast starts.
With the ball, Narine was effective again. 17 wickets at an economy rate of 7.65, he finished as his team’s highest wicket taker in the tournament. It was a season of all-round success for Narine.
2. KL Rahul
One man with a point to prove at the start of the season was new Kings XI Punjab recruit KL Rahul. Overlooked in India’s limited overs formats, Rahul was picked up at a huge price of 11 Crores in the auction. Given the role of opening batsman and wicketkeeper, Rahul came into a league of his own. Leading from the front, Rahul scored 659 runs in the season at an enormous average of 54.92. Scoring those runs at a strike rate of 158.41, Rahul hit six fifties with a highest score of 95* against Rajasthan Royals. It all started in the first game of the season itself when against the Delhi Daredevils, Rahul broke the record of the fastest IPL fifty in history, getting to it in just 14 deliveries.
With 32 sixes in 14 matches, Rahul proved it to everyone that he could get his runs at a fast clip without playing any rash or overly aggressive shots. There was hardly anyone who looked as good as Rahul in the tournament. In 14 games, the Karnataka star failed to register a double-digit score only once. Though his team fell apart, Rahul held his head high with one brilliant performance after the other. An easy pick to be the second opener in my team.
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3. Kane Williamson
At the auction, it would have been difficult to envisage the phenomenal season Kane Williamson had at IPL 2018. Named captain of the Sunrisers Hyderabad after David Warner had to leave because of turmoil in the Australia tour of South Africa, Williamson truly led from the front in a runner-up finish for his franchise.
Finishing as the tournament’s highest run-getter, Williamson became only the fourth batsman in IPL history to register a season aggregate of 700+ runs. Finishing the season with 735 runs at an average of 52.50 and a highest score of 84, the New Zealand skipper hit eight fifties in 17 innings. This coupled with a strike rate of 142.44 and 28 sixes, Williamson showed what he is worth in the shortest format of the game and how big runs can be made by playing the basic cricketing shots.
In two instances, Williamson hit three and four consecutive half centuries which is an indicator that he maximises good form into big runs. It was a dream season for Williamson and an apt number three in my team.
4. Rishabh Pant
One position that had serious and quality competition was the Number Four slot. Ambati Rayudu had a phenomenal season for CSK, so did AB de Villiers from RCB. To overlook Delhi Daredevils’ explosive youngster Rishabh Pant for the season he had would have been unfair to him. After impressive seasons in the last three editions, Pant announced his arrival at IPL 2018 with one belligerent performance after another. Finishing as the tournament’s second highest run-getter, Pant scored 684 runs at an average of 52.62. With 37 sixes, Pant finished the season with the most sixes. Scoring those runs at a strike rate of 173.60, Pant hit five fifties and a hundred. His best performance came against the best bowling attack in Sunrisers Hyderabad where he smoked a 63-ball 128*. That performance consisted of a 26-run over against perhaps the best IPL fast bowler in Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
In a season where his team finished last, Pant put himself firmly on the map and has presented a serious case to be selected in the Indian limited overs setup. Could he be the long-term heir to MS Dhoni’s Indian spot when the veteran hangs up his boots?
5. MS Dhoni(C & WK)
The heartthrob of millions of cricket fans, MS Dhoni had a point to prove before the start of IPL 2018. With there being doubts over his ability to score quick and finish games in T20 cricket, Dhoni brought out his “A game” and turned back the clock. Producing his best season yet with the bat, Dhoni not only finished games, led his team to the title, but also scored his runs at a very fast clip. It all started with a 44-ball 79* against the Kings XI Punjab, where though the team lost by four runs, the vintage MSD had returned for good. Since that innings, Dhoni was dismissed only thrice. This run included whirlwind innings of 25* off 12, 70* off 34, 51* off 22 and 43* off 25. Staying unbeaten in nine innings, MSD signalled to every critic that he hasn’t gone anywhere.
His numbers are phenomenal too. 455 runs at an average of 75.83 and a strike rate of 150.66, Dhoni hit 30 sixes in the process. Leading his team to the title and his glove work magnificent as usual, Dhoni is my captain and wicket keeper.
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6. Dinesh Karthik
A comeback to the Indian setup has worked wonders for Dinesh Karthik. Ever since he was named the new Kolkata Knight Riders skipper and his heroics at the Nidahas Trophy, Karthik has taken his consistency to a whole new level. Being frequently called as the “New Finisher in Town” by the commentators throughout the season, Karthik went on a run which is his best yet. Unbeaten on six occasions, Karthik played the roles of both anchor and finisher whenever needed. Dismissed for a single-digit score only twice in 16 innings, the Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper batsman made telling contributions. 42* off 23, 43 off 28, 45* off 18, 50 off 23, 41* off 31 and 52 off 38, Karthik bailed his team out on more than one occasion.
Scoring 498 runs in the season at an average of 49.80 and a strike rate of 147.77, Karthik had his second best season yet in terms of runs but his best season yet in terms of average and strike rate. His leadership skills came to the fore as he backed his youngsters to reach the playoffs, a feat not small in any sense. He is my number six for the team of the tournament.
7. Andre Russell
It would be criminal if I do not select Andre Russell in my team. The big West Indian had a strong all-round season and made a huge impact with the bat. In the second game of the season itself, Russell was in a murderous mood when he smacked a powerful 88* off 36 balls against Chennai Super Kings, hitting eleven sixes in the innings. He followed it up with an equally brutal innings of 41 off 12 balls, hitting six sixes against the Delhi Daredevils. Contributions of 44 off 30, 31 off 14 and 49* off 25 meant Russell ended the season with 316 runs at an average of 28.73 at a strike rate of 184.80, hitting 31 sixes in the season.
Russell made an impact with the ball as well. Picking up 13 wickets for the season, Russell had three match winning spells, 3/31 against RCB, 3/41 against Kings XI Punjab and 2/13 against the Rajasthan Royals. Though his economy rate was on the higher side at 9.38, Russell picked up crucial wickets. He is the all-round option in my team alongside teammate Sunil Narine.
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8. Rashid Khan
Age is just a number. If you are good enough, you are old enough. Rashid Khan, at just 19 years of age, has become arguably the greatest bowler in T20 cricket. Receiving praise from the likes of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, Rashid has come a long way. His season was brilliant and he practically would pick himself in anyone’s team of the tournament. Picking 21 wickets at an average of 21.81 and an economy rate of 6.74, Rashid produced match-winning performances one after the another. He finished as the highest wicket taking spinner at IPL 2018.
Some of his performances were beyond imagination: 2/11 in four overs against Mumbai Indians while defending 118, 3/19 in four overs against an explosive Kings XI Punjab batting lineup, 3/27 in four overs against RCB, 2/11 in four overs against CSK in the first Qualifier and 3/19 in four overs against KKR in the second Qualifier, these were some amazing contributions.
9. Siddarth Kaul
After a breakthrough season last year with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Siddarth Kaul took his performances up a notch and in the process has got himself a call-up to the Indian squad for the forthcoming tours of Ireland and England. Kaul, 28, has had his best season yet. Picking up 21 wickets at an average of 26.05 and an economy rate of 8.29, Kaul finished as the joint second highest wicket taker alongside teammate Rashid Khan. Consistent performances and picking up wickets at regular intervals, Kaul was instrumental in helping Sunrisers Hyderabad to a runner-up finish. He makes it to my Team of the Tournament.
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10. Umesh Yadav
A regular in the Indian Test squad, Umesh Yadav has had opportunities far and few for the Indian limited-overs sides. Producing his best season yet, Umesh has reignited his Indian limited overs prospects. Picking up 20 wickets at an average of 20.90 and an economy rate of 7.86, Umesh had a rather unique statistic: most wickets in the powerplay (17). Not only did he have the most wickets in the powerplay, he took two wickets in an over on five different occasions. In a rather disappointing sixth place finish for RCB, Umesh certainly stepped up and is the second specialist seamer in my squad.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
A surprising choice for many, considering I have not picked the highest wicket-taker of the season in Andrew Tye. Considering that I can pick only four overseas players and cannot overlook the ones I have picked, my final pick is Mumbai Indians bowling leader, Jasprit Bumrah. The one thing that stands out regarding Bumrah is the fact that his economy rate of 6.83, the best amongst seamers who have played more than eight games. 17 wickets at an average of 21.88, Bumrah was consistently in the wickets. Bumrah conceded less than 30 runs in ten out of the 14 games he played in. He is my final pick in the XI.
While selecting the IPL 2018 Team of the Tournament is perhaps the toughest task, there have been notable exclusions also:
Ambati Rayudu- 602 runs, Average 43, Strike Rate 149.75
AB de Villiers- 480 runs, Average 48, Strike Rate 174.54
Hardik Pandya- 260 runs, Average 28.89, Strike Rate 133.33, Wickets 18
Andrew Tye- Wickets 24, Average 18.66, Economy Rate 8
My IPL 2018 Team of the Tournament
Sunil Narine(Kolkata Knight Riders)
KL Rahul(Kings XI Punjab)
Kane Williamson(Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Rishabh Pant(Delhi Daredevils)
MS Dhoni(C&WK) (Chennai Super Kings)
Dinesh Karthik(Kolkata Knight Riders)
Andre Russell(Kolkata Knight Riders)
Rashid Khan(Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Siddarth Kaul(Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Umesh Yadav(Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Jasprit Bumrah(Mumbai Indians)
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