The curtains of IPL 2017 fell this Sunday midnight. Thanks to it, the fans watched some great cricket in the last six weeks. Mumbai Indians won the title for a record third time beating Rising Pune Supergiants in a nail-biting thriller. Rohit Sharma became the only captain to have led his team to the trophy thrice, leaving MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir (2 each) behind.
IPL 2017 appeared as a festival rather than a T20 tournament. It’s more because the way the organizers celebrated the 10th anniversary of this stunning league which brings the best international stars from around the world to team up with young Indian talents. The analysts say that the balanced teams achieve greater success than others in IPL.
Cricket is a team game. But in the shortest format, often a particular player grabs all the attention with monstrous batting efforts or maybe delivering a flurry of well-aimed yorkers. 4 overs of just one mystery spinner give his team an edge over the opponents, whereas a hard-hitting finisher can snatch the match away from ugliest of situations!
I attempted to assemble the best performers of IPL 2017. My ‘IPL XI of the Season’ fulfills every criteria to constitute an IPL playing XI. To maintain the rules of having at least one uncapped cricketer as well as maximum four foreigners, we had to skip some great players with good season statistics in this team unfortunately.
1. David Warner (Vice Captain)
Undoubtedly, he once again emerged as the best batsman of IPL this season. Leading Sunrisers Hyderabad from the front, he and Shikhar Dhawan built the innings of their team almost every game, opening the innings together. Warner ended the season with a whooping 641 runs from 14 matches. Also, he is joint-highest in the list of six-hitters with Glenn Maxwell, hitting the ball 26 times out of the park. With one sublime ton against Kolkata Knight Riders, and 4 fifties, he is perfect to open the innings for ‘IPL XI’.
2. Hashim Amla
Amla was unfortunate that he had to return midway this IPL to complete his national duties. But the 10 matches he played for Kings XI Punjab franchise, his performance was laudable. Amla is the only player to have hit two centuries this season. He stunned everyone with his knocks of 104 not out and 104 against Mumbai Indians and Gujarat Lions respectively. He notched up his tally to 420 runs in a striking average of 60.
This IPL was a treat for the opening batsmen, for the way they scored some fine knocks using the field restrictions adequately. Except these two, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Sanju Samson, Ajinkya Rahane, Chris Lynn and the emerging talent Rahul Tripathi were the ones who impressed.
3. Gautam Gambhir (Captain)
The second highest run-getter of this season, the Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir once again displayed his exceptional strategies. Everyone was awestruck when he brought the star spinner Sunil Narine along to open the KKR innings versus Kings XI Punjab. Narine scored a quickfire 18-ball-37, followed by the fastest 15-ball-50 versus Royal Challengers Bangalore later on. Gambhir struck a total 61 fours this season to score 498 runs in 16 innings. He led his team to third position, before losing to Mumbai Indians in the second qualifier.
4. Suresh Raina
It was a disastrous season for him as a captain. The lack of vision from Gujarat Lions team management during the auction weakened their bowling lineup. The few number of matches that they won, fans should thank their batting. Raina scored 442 runs this season at a strike rate of 143.97 and an average of 40. He also recovered the top spot for highest total IPL runs from Virat Kohli.
5. Rishabh Pant (Wicket-Keeper)
In the modern era, a perfect wicket-keeper is one who keeps wicket efficiently and also score runs consistently. The 18-year old Roorkee boy smashed 28 fours and 24 sixes to score 366 runs from 14 innings in a majestic strike rate of 165! The best for him this season was the innings of 97 off just 56 balls he scored chasing 209 versus Gujarat Lions. He missed his maiden IPL ton by a whisker, but made sure Delhi Daredevils win the match with 15 balls to spare. He took 8 catches and did 3 stumping standing behind the wicket.
Some other notable middle-order batsmen who impressed are – Manish Pandey, Robin Uthappa, Kieron Pollard, Shreyas Iyer, Dinesh Karthik, Nitish Rana, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary.
6. Ben Stokes
The most valuable player of IPL 2017, Ben Stokes of England had been the star all-rounder of Rising Pune Supergiants this season. He was one of the reasons why RPSG surged a marvelous comeback from a bad start of the season. Making his IPL debut, Stokes scored 316 runs, took 12 wickets and grabbed 5 stupendous catches this season. Thanks to his maiden ton, RPSG saw its first victory over Gujarat Lions in 2 years. Due to international commitments, he missed the playoffs, which was definitely a huge setback for RPSG.
7. Krunal Pandya
The elder of the Pandya brothers, Krunal scored 243 runs and cracked 10 wickets in 13 games he played for Mumbai Indians. He was brilliant in the field too, specially creating some wonderful ‘caught Krunal bowled Hardik’ moments with his brother. What most mattered was the two brilliant knocks from him under pressure in the Qualifier 2 vs Kolkata Knight Riders and in the low-scoring final against Rising Pune Supergiants. Mumbai was tottering at 79/7, when Krunal started his fight with tail-ender Mitchell Johnson. Krunal ended at 47 runs off 38 balls, and Mumbai eventually won the match by 1 run!
The surprise package in the all-rounders’ list would be Sunil Narine this season. Glenn Maxwell, Axar Patel and Hardik Pandya also showed their worth with vigorous all-round skills.
8. Rashid Khan
When Sunrisers Hyderabad was going high for the rookie Afghanistan legbreak spinner Rashid in the bid, everyone was surprised a lot. The 18-year old created more surprise with the ball in hand this summer! He has scalped a total of 17 wickets in 14 matches giving only 6.62 runs per over. The best part of it was how the globally accomplished batsmen like Brendon McCullum, David Miller, Aaron Finch, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Gautam Gambhir struggled to his googlies. The 5th placeholder in ICC T20I ranking can undoubtedly be termed as ‘find of the season’!
Spinners Imran Tahir, Pawan Negi and Axar Patel were in top form too this summer.
9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
The UP right-arm medium pacer was holding the purple cap for his performance in 2016. He did not let it go this time too. Sublime in form from the start of the season, Kumar was able to scalp as many as 26 wickets in just 14 games. His bowling partners in Sunrisers Hyderabad changed from Ashish Nehra to Siddharth Kaul to Mohammad Siraj, but he went on to perform his duty consistently.
10. Jaydev Unadkat
He had a great season for Kolkata Knight Riders long back in 2013. But he was lost after inconsistent performances in the shortest format. Once improved under the coaching of Wasim Akram, Unadkat made a strong comeback this season for the Rising Pune Supergiants. Captain Steve Smith kept belief in him, and Unadkat valued that faith accurately. After sitting in the bench for first four games, Unadkat replaced Ashok Dinda in the playing XI, and took 24 wickets in rest 12 matches. He ended just second to Bhuvneshwar in the best bowlers’ list. He was acrobatic in the field too, having caught some splendid catches.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
The current best Indian death bowler bowled a brilliant miser spell picking ferocious finisher MS Dhoni in the close final encounter to help his team Mumbai Indians clinch the trophy, winning the match by just 1 run. He has been dangerous this season in the final overs, pitching the yorkers repeatedly. 3rd in the ‘Purple Cap’ list, Bumrah ended the season with 20 wickets beside his name, and of course, the prestigious IPL 2017 trophy!
Some other pacers who were dynamic with the ball in hand were Mitchell McClenaghan, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes and Umesh Yadav.
12. Steve Smith (12th Man)
One of the best batsmen of current generation, Steve Smith was appointed captain of Rising Pune Supergiants early this year. The pressure was heavy on him as he replaced MS Dhoni, the most successful international captain in last 10 years. He took the charge of RPSG after losing a heated Test series versus India 2-1. RPSG did not have a great start this season, but they propelled on later so well that they qualified into playoffs as the second best team. Beating Mumbai Indians in the first qualifier, and restricting the same rivals to a low score in the final, Smith almost took his team to its maiden IPL title. Unfortunately, some brilliant bowling from Mumbai crashed their dreams as his 51-ball-50 also went in vein. Although he ended as the runner-up captain, he was definitely one of the exciting leaders this season!
What changes would you like to do if you were the selector? Share your squads in the comments section below.