978 sixes in T20 cricket, close to 13,300 runs in the same format, Chris Gayle is arguably the greatest ever match-winner to have stepped on the 22 yards. The mighty West Indian, known more for his accomplishments in limited-overs, possesses a remarkably unique story with the Royal Challengers.
His time at Kolkata was characterised by inconsistency, odd performances and irregular feature in the playing XI. However, upon being unsold in the mega auction in 2011 prior to the start of the fourth edition of the IPL, he was surprisingly snapped up the second time. What followed then, was something surreal.
He only got his chance after the initial round of fixtures but went on to register an enormous 608 runs in just 12 innings. Besides the explosivity he brought to the fore, Gayle added real steel and purpose to the RCB batting right at the top.
The next two seasons were far better, with over 700 runs coming his way in both campaigns. He now wears the red shades of Punjab, but Gayle will most fondly be remembered for his days in the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Drafting a serial match-winner of his credentials in this list is, therefore, a no-brainer.
3. Rohit Sharma (c)
With four IPL titles to his name, Rohit Sharma immediately becomes the leader of this line-up. Speaking of his intelligence on the field, the opener has incorporated proactivity into the setup, often shuffling his bowlers, plotting fiercely attacking fields and of course, changing personnel and quality over the years.
It is of no surprise then, that with the likes of Pollard, the Pandya brothers, Jasprit Bumrah and a heavy batting order at the top alongside a pool of talented starlets, the MI roster is widely heralded as one with the best balance.
As far as his batting goes, Sharma has every right to be considered as ‘Mr. IPL’ – a tag often stapled on the collars of players like Suresh Raina and Chris Gayle. The explosive opener already has the most sixes in T20I cricket and is by far one of the most underrated six hitters in the game. A lethal combination of muscle, timing and balance, Sharma has been a revelation ever since he was promoted to the top order.
With 4,898 runs in 183 innings at a scoring rate of just under 131, the Hitman has served as a beacon of consistency over the years. It won’t be too long before he surpasses Raina’s run tally (5,368 runs in 193 matches) and go toe-to-toe with national captain Kohli.
4. Virat Kohli
A modern-day household name in sport and IPL’s greatest batsman in terms of runs (5,412 in 177 matches at 37.84 per innings), Virat Kohli – the run machine – has been amongst the scoring charts from day one. His mega appetite for runs even in the 20-over format has translated to giant scores time and time again.
Most significant of all the contributions came in 2016 when Kohli scored no lesser than four centuries in a single season and ended with 973 runs to his credit, averaging a titanic 81.08 at a rate of 152.03. These numbers speak volumes of a player who ups the standards for himself and the rest of international cricket.
There’s nothing he cannot do. The 31-year-old is a master in picking gaps, scoring freely and almost hitting sixes at will. He doesn’t necessarily own any weakness, and although the wait for an IPL trophy is not yet over, it is quite certain that Kohli will continue to score big runs in order to lift one of the biggest possessions in T20 cricket.
5. AB de Villiers
One could run out of adjectives to describe the superhuman abilities in Ab de Villiers’ locker. Known by the cricketing globe as a 360-degree willow-wielder, former South Africa international in another one of those special players who has redefined the game in common man’s mind.
The South African stalwart, more often than not, has been a dependable, explosive and entertaining middle-order batsman. On account of his hard-hitting abilities, various ways of scoring and clearing the ropes with aplomb, he has also been referred to as one of the best batsmen in the world.
He has close to 4,400 runs in his IPL record at an absolutely ballistic strike rate of 151.23. De Villiers is more than just a match-winner; he has the capacity to do the unthinkable, both with the bat and on the field as well. And as far as this list is concerned, he ought to be there below Kohli as the pair have together added five 100+ partnerships for RCB along with two 200+ partnerships.
6. Hardik Pandya
Hardik Pandya has been one of the many revelations to enter the frame of world cricket through IPL as a medium. From the Indian cricket team’s perspective, the national side found a deadly yet organised batsman who also lands them at 135 odd clicks or more on a consistent basis, after the legendary Kapil Dev.
Despite the bright, blinding lights that have always been projected on his attributes, Pandya has only stuck to his strengths and grown to become one of the most feared all-rounders in the game. He is as destructive with the bat as it gets, as portrayed in the 91 he smashed off a mere 34 deliveries against KKR, almost snatching a victory from under the opposition’s nose. He has scored 1,068 runs in total, striking them at a massive 154.78. To go with this are his 42 wickets, again displaying his knack of finding breakthroughs courtesy of a strike rate of 20.69.
Pandya is a master in breaking partnerships, but that’s not all. He’s not just someone who bowls quick pace or sharp bouncers, the all-rounder mixes them up well, changes proceedings with his golden arm and is a fine back-up to have at the death. He almost adds a different dimension to the bowling line-up, which in turn becomes more flexible. The younger Pandya brother certainly bolsters dynamism and flamboyance to any XI he is a part of.
7. Kieron Pollard
Should one create a hall of fame for Mumbai Indians’ players, Kieron Pollard is undoubtedly going to be one of the first names on the list. Another serious cricketer with both bat and ball, Pollard was initially brought in as a differential not present within many other teams – a finisher who could release his long levers for fun, while also being more than capable of bowling four good overs at all stages of the innings.
He rose to fame during the now-defunct Champions League T20 for Trinidad and Tobago, before being rewarded with a lucrative IPL contract. Pollard has, since then, been a mainstay and a fan favourite at the Wankhede. Having made 148 appearances in the league, the muscular West Indian has recorded 2,755 runs at an aggregate of 146 per 100 he scores.
Although not been used with the ball in the recent seasons, Pollard still has 56 wickets to his name. He is quite distant in terms of what he used to be back in the 2012-2015 phase when Mumbai genuinely relied on his abilities, but they now back him to win them a couple of matches per season. Well, that’s the ideology of a champion team – to back the nucleus in your team while not remaining dependent on them.
8. Harbhajan Singh
The first of two spinners to be blooded into this side is India’s very own Harbhajan Singh. The cheerful, wily old fox was a wicket-taker right from his early days in the game and also went on to replicate his genius in the IPL. And how could one forget the 2013 season when the Indians relied on their homegrown players such as Harbhajan and Sachin Tendulkar to land the IPL crown?
There was simply no stopping the veteran offie, who claimed a whopping 24 wickets whilst giving away just about 6.5 runs per over on average. Call it whatever you feel like; he was MI’s go-to man, game-changer and talisman. He switched to the Chennai Super Kings camp last season and proved why old is gold, taking 16 wickets in 11 outings.
‘Bhajji’ at number 8 is also a viable option with the bat as he can clear the ropes with cleanliness and powerful hitting. On the overall, Harbhajan has redefined the art of off-spin bowling in the shortest version, which unlike wrist spin in recent years, hasn’t received the hype and recognition it must. 150 wickets in 160 matches serve as a testament to the same.
9. Lasith Malinga
This team not only possesses the IPL’s all-time leading run-getter, but also one of the greatest T20 bowlers – Lasith Malinga – the leading wicket-taker in the competition. The Sri Lankan specialist is another proof of the fantastic groundwork MI have done over the years, having taken 170 wickets in just 122 matches at a healthy conceding rate of 7.14. To hold such a statistic after 11 years of cricket for the IPL giants is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
Malinga has been gifted with a slingy action but has been a master in using it to good effect. We throw various discourses on batsmen who can hit maximums without any fuss at regular intervals but tend to forget the austerity that has gone behind Malinga’s competence to bowl yorkers six out of six times in an over.
He has rattled the stumps and left many a batsman reeling while holding the tendency to give nothing away. More so, it’s almost the most difficult thing as a batsman to get under Malinga’s deliveries – due to his action – and clobber it away. A cherry on the finished product that the legend is comes in the form of his well-disguised slower balls, which hardly any batsman has picked over these couple of decades.
10. Yuzvendra Chahal
Bigger names appear in the form of Anil Kumble and Dale Steyn as far as the famous red of RCB is concerned, but fair credit to present-day leggie Yuzvendra Chahal for surpassing all of them with his 100 wickets that have come in only 84 matches.
Chahal’s inclusion is perhaps, more well-deserved than any other player’s because he spends half of his IPL season bowling in the nightmare pitch of Chinnaswamy where bowlers are taken to the cleaners. Despite that, Kohli trusts him with the new ball as well. The 29-year-old has been a revolutionary addition to the Challengers, who field a wicket-taking spinner even on their own turf.
He has been doing exceptionally well in the international circuit as well, but the lanky bowler’s roots are understood to have emerged from the IPL itself. An economy of 7.78 illustrates his control – a key aspect of leg-spin bowling. Chahal is, to conclude, also astute at executing googlies and other variations such as the flipper.
11. Jasprit Bumrah
Another present-day giant and arguably the best fast bowler in present-day cricket, Jasprit Bumrah completes this prestigious list of IPL legends. He has a lesser number of wickets (82) than the others in this pool, but we shouldn’t forget that he is only 26 years of age.
It’s more than just his age factor; Bumrah already steams in as though he has been around for 15 years. The right-armer owns an unorthodox action with sublimity in its release, thereby cramping the batsman for room and length. At the moment, it only seems like Bumrah is getting better and better with each fixture.
Having learnt from the Malinga school of fast bowling in the MI camp, Bumrah gives very little away, bowls laser-guided yorkers in the blockhole and probably the best slower balls in world cricket. The pacer is a cricketing great in the making, and it’s quite freakish to know where he could end up come eight or nine years from now.
12th man – Ambati Rayudu
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