The Indian Premier League now has plenty of worldwide company, with leagues being played in Australia, the Caribbean, Bangladesh, South Africa and elsewhere. But, being the first of the lot, the longest and biggest of all these domestic Twenty20 tournaments and the one with the biggest prizemoney, it attracts the best players.
And, it’s only inevitable that the best players of them all want to prove themselves under the brightest lights. Over the years there have been enough stunning performers powering different teams. A list of the ten best is a who’s who of world cricket.
Rohit Sharma: The King of Mumbai
For a batsman who likes to take his time at the start of an innings, Rohit Sharma is an unusual powerhouse in Twenty20 cricket. While it was the Deccan Chargers that Rohit won his first title, it was for the Mumbai Indians that he reserved his best. Having cracked the code of what was needed to succeed in the IPL, Rohit has won four times with the Mumbai Indians, and his overall tally of five crowns is more than any other player. Add to this the fact that his stint at Mumbai was as captain, and you have a serious case to make for him being the most valuable IPL player of all time. Rohit has 4898 IPL runs at an average of 31.60, with only two players having scored more runs than him in the history of the tournament.
David Warner: The run machine
The left-handed pocket rocket has made it a habit to batter bowlers into submission in the IPL. He has won the Orange Cap for being the edition’s highest scorer on three separate occasions, more than any other player. He is also one of the few international captains to leaf his team to the title, taking the Deccan Chargers to the top in 2016. Warner’s numbers in the IPL are staggering. His 4706 runs have come at a strike rate of 142 at the top of the order, ensuring that his team always get a good start. But, despite being explosive, he is also consistent, averaging 43.17. No other batsman in the top five rungetters averages even 40, that is how good Warner is.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni: Captain cool
When the Chennai Super Kings plumped for Dhoni in the very first IPL auction, breaking the bank to secure the services of the Indian captain, there were a few experts who questioned the move. After all, he batted low down the order more often than not, and wicketkeeping was not considered a significant enough skill to warrant such a premium. But, CSK were clear that they wanted a captain whom they could build a team around.
Over the years, this proved to be a masterstroke. Dhoni is the only captain to have won back-to-back titles in the IPL, and his insistence on continuity in personnel meant that CSK were a tighter unit than other teams. Despite batting low down in the order, Dhoni has racked up 4432 runs and this comes at an average of 42.2 because, more often than not, Dhonj is still around at the end of the innings, unbeaten.
Sunil Narine: The enduring mystery spinner
Every year the IPL throws up a fresh spinner of some new variation. This could be a young Indian tweaker of whom much is not known or a veteran of domestic cricket in Australia or South Africa who has re-invented himself to match the demands of Twenty20 cricket. When Narine succeeded early on in the IPL it was believed that it was only a matter of time before batsmen studied tapes of his bowling and worked out his variations.
However, with 122 wickets in 110 games, Narine is the most successful foreign spinner in the IPL. His bowling has been integral to the success of the Kolkata Knight Riders, with the franchise winning the title in 2012 and 2014. Add to Narine’s bowling his shock and awe batting at the top of the order as a bonus and you have a player who is always going to have a high impact on the game.
Suresh Raina: The powerhouse and batting backbone
Identified very early on by India as a rock star of white-balls cricket, Suresh Raina was absorbed by the Chennai Super Kings at the drawing board stage and he has not let them down. Season after season Raina has produced for the Chennai team, irrespective of whether he was in the Indian team, in the larger scheme of things in international cricket or not. Raina’s ability to produce the boundary at will, through both off side and leg, have given him the ability to control the tempo of an innings. CSK have built their batting around Raina and this has allowed him to rack up big runs year after year.
Raina has not only played more IPL matches than anyone else (193 games), he has also ticked off the milestone of 5000 runs scored. An able deputy to Dhoni, Raina knows his place in the larger scheme of things and is always at hand to contribute to the team’s cause. It’s no wonder that he is valued so highly by CSK.
Lasith Malinga: The yorker king who goes on and on
With his express pace and pin-point yorkers, Lasith Malinga was a quick bowler built for Twenty20 cricket. Over the years Malinga’s efficacy for Sri Lanka has dropped, so much so that he gave up Test cricket, pushed himself as long as he could at One-Day Internationals and finally had to settle for playing only Twenty20 cricket, where get only needed to bowl four overs. But, in the IPL, captains have used Malinga’s skills to great effect. It should surprise nobody that Malinga is the top wicket taker in the competition, with 170 scalps. Even as Malinga has lost pace and gained the extra kilos that inevitably come with age, he has kept his threat level high, developing clever slower deliveries and cutters to go with his yorkers.
Dwayne Bravo: The original West Indian all-round show
West Indian players coming into the IPL have always been ones to watch out for. With undeniable muscle, genuine athleticism and a fearless approach that is perfectly suited to the shortest format of the game, the entertainers from the Caribbean have threatened to run away with the game. But, few have brought a street smart attitude to performance as Dwayne Bravo.
While he came to international cricket as a nippy medium-pace bowler and dashing batsman, it is with his control and variations in bowling that he made a name for himself in the IPL. A canny death bowler, Bravo treated his fielding and batting as occasional bonuses, focusing on bowling. With 147 wickets, including two editions as the top wicket-taker, in 2013 and 2015, Bravo gave the Chennai team the balance it needed to become the best in the league.
Andre Russell: Strike force
Andre Russell was not the happiest man in the IPL for the first few years of the tournament. While he was rated highly and snapped up at good prices in the auctions, Russell never could seem to get enough game time. Without opportunities to prove himself, time was ticking away, injuries kicked in and it appeared that Russell might end up as one of those players bursting with potential but short on performance.
This changed at the Kolkata Knight Riders. While Russell is at the crease for only short periods of time, rarely getting to play more than 30 balls, he makes them count, scoring at a blistering pace. His bustling pace, especially the ability to crank it up enough to surprise batsmen, ensures that he can break partnerships when others are struggling. This batting-bowling combination has won him Player of the Tournament in 2015 and 2019. Bravo might have provided the template, but there is no doubt that Russell has blown in out of the water as an allrounder.
Virat Kohli: Standing tall even without silverware
The captain of the Indian team might be the hottest property in world cricket, but the fact that he has never won an IPL title still rankles. A Royal Challengers Bangalore player through and through, Kohli has led a team of superstars through highs and lows, but the team has never been able to go all the way. Opening the innings, Kohli controls the state of play, especially at the high scoring Chinnaswamy Stadium, his team’s home ground, but even that has not been enough to bridge the gap between personal performance and team glory.
With 5412 runs from 177 matches, Kolhi sits at the very top of the table of run scorers in the IPL but you can bet he would not mind being toppled if it meant his team, whom he has been with for all 12 years of the competition, would win a title.