24th May: Mumbai Indians v R. Royals, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
As the second season of the Indian Premier League draws to a close, albeit an exciting one, it is time to reflect on the performances of the many players involved, and make a bid to formulate the proverbial best eleven. A team that would boast of the best this tournament had to offer.
The Best XI (in batting order): 1.Mathew Hayden 2.Adam Gilchrist (wicket-keeper) 3.Suresh Raina 4.Brad Hodge 5.AB de Villiers 6.Rohit Sharma 7.Yusuf Pathan 8.Shane Warne (captain) 9.Irfan Pathan 10.Lasith Malinga 11.RP Singh 12th man: Jacques Kallis
Without a shadow of a doubt, Mathew Hayden is looking every bit the batsman he had been for all these years at the top of the order for Australia. That the Aussies are preparing for an Ashes series without a settled batting order and that Haydos has overcome his demons to start batting freely again is going to irk the selectors Down Under. Maybe it is the freedom retirement gives, for it is also seen in the play of Adam Gilchrist and the way he is marshalling the Deccan Chargers, taking them to the knock-outs after the disaster story last year.
Suresh Raina, AB de Villiers and Rohit Sharma select themselves backed by some strong performances. It bodes well for India that the two youngsters have found their touch going into the ICC World Twenty20, one as an innings builder and the other as a finisher. And they both field brilliantly, plus, out of nowhere have discovered that they can take some wickets too. Brad Hodge makes the grade simply because in a team that has done little right, he has done little wrong. He has been the one Kolkata player who can go back with his head held high while his team was in tatters all around him.
The Pathan brothers will find their way in any T20 squad, any given day, their multi-utility being a big plus. So much so that there is talk of Yusuf being made an ICON player from next season. Wouldn’t that be a huge endorsement of his talent? Irfan plays the role of the lesser all-rounder but to great effect as he was leading the Punjab attack effectively while Brett Lee was missing. Lasith Malinga and RP Singh have been revelations in this format of the game, the former with his ability to deliver six out of six full length deliveries at a good pace and the latter for his deadly swing.
Spin has been a major factor in South Arica but ideally no team would have one frontline spinner in the eleven. Keeping Shane Warne ahead of Murali serves two purposes, a thinking bowler (not that Murali isn’t one) but also a smart captain who can outfox any opposition. Playing Warne means Dhoni is out and one can pick Gilchrist for the keeper-opener role. Lest one forgets, Jacques Kallis’ stupendous form gets him the 12th man spot.
But this was too easy. Let’s also get a team in with the prevalent set of rules where in only four foreign players are allowed in the eleven, whilst also keeping in mind the BCCI’s Under-23 players’ pool. Hence the team follows: (in batting order) 1.Mathew Hayden 2.T Suman 3.Suresh Raina 4.MS Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper) 5.Andrew Symonds 6. Rohit Sharma 7.Yusuf Pathan 8.Muralitharan 9.Lasith Malinga 10.Irfan Pathan 11.RP Singh 12th Man: Abhishek Nayar
Quite a few similarities from the first eleven and that is so because this bunch of players has been real consistent over the past five weeks. But there are a few odd pickings specifically that of Yuvraj Singh’s name missing from a team that could easily resemble an Indian eleven. Well, that is because he has been too busy garnering hugs and venting his frustrations on the field that he has forgotten the magic he can do with the bat. Yes, he has taken those two hat-tricks but he has as much a chance of doing so on the international stage as Kenya have of winning the 2011 World Cup.
Besides, his position has been taken by Andrew Symonds who had an immediate impact on the tournament on returning from the UAE and that is what matters in this slam bang format of the game. And so, the Prince of Punjab sits out. As also do the Indian openers! At the time of writing, Virender Sehwag seemed to be regaining his touch although Gambhir is still mighty struggling, but the swagger that Tirumalasetti Suman has shown in grabbing the chances that he has got just edges the decision in his favour.
Muralitharan makes this team for it is tough to choose Shane Warne and not make him captain. Plus it is only fair that they make a team each, great legends that they are. Also it could have been Daniel Vettori but for the combination of left arm bowlers Irfan Pathan and RP Singh, and hence some variety with a right arm off spinner, one of the best around. And Warney missing out meant that Dhoni inadvertently dons the skipper’s hat and the keeper’s gloves.
The 12th man selection might seem a dubious one but it is in keeping with what one has maintained ever since the Indian World Twenty20 squad was announced. That the selectors should have been a bit adventurous and picked Abhishek Nayar for the hard hitting batsman and the useful bowler that he is.
There are a few players who have missed the bus here and on any other day could have easily made the grade. Ravi Bopara, Ross Taylor, JP Duminy, Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Abdulla, Pragyan Ojha, Ravindra Jadeja, S Jakati and even Ashish Nehra could have easily found their names in. But for that x-factor the chosen ones bring in!
And there’s the flop XI too: 1.Sanath Jayasuriya 2.Gautam Gambhir 3.Sourav Ganguly (let him be the captain here!) 4.Kevin Pietersen (even he could lead!) 5.Andrew Flintoff 6.Paul Collingwood (he could be skipper too and then get to play a game!) 7.Jesse Ryder 8.Brendon McCullum (wicket-keeper and yes, captain!) 9.Harbhajan Singh 10.Sreesanth 11.Dale Steyn
Four captains, their coach ought to be John Buchanan!
© Cricket World 2009