The 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League is nearly upon us and there is no shortage of elite players on show.
With the World Cup set to begin almost immediately after the tournament, some stars have a point to prove while others are focused on hitting optimum form.
Here, we do our best to compile the best talent the IPL has to offer into one glorious Dream XI.
David Warner – Sunrisers Hyderabad
After missing last season due to his ban, David Warner makes his highly-anticipated return for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He’s scored three tons and 36 half centuries in his 114 IPL innings at an average of 40.54, which is bettered only by his fellow opener in this XI. His 38-ball 65 in a practice match on Sunday suggests rustiness is not an issue.
Chris Gayle – Kings XI Punjab
See the ball, hit the ball. No one does it better than Chris Gayle. His trademark power-hitting at the top of the order has set him up for some big scores, including his unbeaten 175 in 2013 that remains the highest in IPL history. The West Indies batsman also holds the records – by some distance – for the most sixes (292) and centuries (6) while also boasting the best average (41.17).
Virat Kohli – Royal Challengers Bangalore
Coming into this tournament at the peak of his powers and the title of world’s best batsman firmly bestowed on him, Virat Kohli will hope to replicate his 2016 season when he shattered the record for most runs in a campaign (973). He scored an unbeaten 72 off 38 deliveries in his most recent T20 innings against Australia and will want to usurp Suresh Raina as the IPL’s leading run scorer.
AB de Villiers – Royal Challengers Bangalore
His Pakistan Super League season was cut short by injury but not before he made a big impression by scoring 218 runs at an impressive average of 54.50 for Lahore Qalandars. AB de Villiers is a class act and has it all – experience, temperament, every shot in the book and then some. His extraordinary use of the crease makes him a nightmare to bowl at and his phenomenal shot selection has earned him a strike rate of 150.93, edging even that of Gayle’s (150.71).
Sunil Narine – Kolkata Knight Riders
His reputation as a quick scorer has made Sunil Narine arguably one of the best all-rounders in IPL history. The mystery spinner’s ability with the ball is undoubted. Armed with a vast array of weapons in his repertoire, no bowler has taken more four-wicket hauls (6). His strong average and economy of 22.30 and 6.54 are complemented by his strike rate of 168.81 – the second highest in IPL history.
Suresh Raina – Chennai Super Kings
With his ability to clear the ropes with ease and score quickly from the onset, Suresh Raina is tailor-made for the shortest format of the game. It’s no wonder he’s earned legendary status in the IPL, leading the way for most runs scored (4985). Apart from his consistency with the bat, the 32-year-old has consistently been one of the best fielders in world cricket.
MS Dhoni (wk/c) – Chennai Super Kings
For someone whose batting and wicketkeeping techniques are unorthodox to say the least, MS Dhoni’s success in the game is staggering. He boasts an average of 40.16, guiding his side over the finish line on numerous occasions. His tally of 186 sixes only ranks behind De Villiers (187) and Gayle (292). Having captained CSK to three IPL titles, his leadership is second to none.
Kieron Pollard – Mumbai Indians
While playing for Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL earlier this month, Kieron Pollard became only the third player reach 9,000 runs in T20 cricket behind Gayle and Brendon McCullum. With a healthy average of 28.13 in IPL, he’s one of the best at accelerating an innings down the order. With 56 wickets as well, he’s more than handy with the ball.
Rashid Khan – Sunrisers Hyderabad
Given his meteoric rise in international cricket, Rashid Khan’s effectiveness in the IPL comes as no surprise. The 20-year-old leg-spinner boasts an average of 21.47 in the competition and has proved himself in other domestic T20 leagues as well. With 38 wickets in just two IPL seasons so far, Rashid has earned his place among the best in the world.
Jasprit Bumrah – Mumbai Indians
It’s safe to say that Jasprit Bumrah is yet to produce his best in the IPL. With an average of 28.14 across five seasons, he hasn’t done badly but given his emergence as India’s pace spearhead in recent times, expectations will be much higher going into this campaign. He boasts a far better record in T20Is and impressed with figures of 3-16 against Australia in February. Few can bowl a better yorker than the 25-year-old who may be set to shine this time.
Lasith Malinga – Mumbai Indians
Speaking of a good yorker, fans will relish the prospect of seeing Lasith Malinga back in action. He’s hardly in his pomp and injuries even forced him to consider retirement in recent years but the IPL’s all-time leading wicket-taker (154) is still a huge threat. With plenty of experience under his belt and a desire to hit form ahead of the World Cup, the Sri Lankan fast bowler who boasts an IPL average of 19.01 remains one of the standout bowlers to watch.
Rohit has been opening for India in the limited-overs formats for several years now but his batting position with the Mumbai Indians has remained flexible so far.
In the 2018 edition, Rohit batted at No3 or below in 12 of the 14 innings and could only aggregate a total of 286 runs. With the ICC World Cup immediately following the IPL this year, the right-hander is no mood to experiment anymore.
“I have in the past batted in the middle order and I’ve opened also in a few games so wherever the team requires me to bat I have to bat to get the right balance,” Rohit said at Mumbai Indians’ media interaction on Tuesday.
“But this year, I will open the batting for all the games, that is for sure. That (World Cup) is one of the factors but also keeping in mind that this is where I bat, that is my position when I play for India and that is where I have got a lot of success of late.
“The team does understand that, and as a team also the composition of the players we have right now, we’ve got some experience in the middle order so that allows me to go and bat at the top of the order. This season I’ll try and do that – open in every game possible.”
Rohit’s dismal form mirrored Mumbai’s poor campaign in the 2018 edition with the franchise failing to qualify for the play-offs. The three-time IPL champions will be looking to add a fourth title this year when they open their campaign against Delhi Capitals on March 24 at Mumbai.
Gambhir, who lead Kolkata to two IPL titles as skipper, believes that Kohli has a long way to go before he can be considered as a good captain.
Kohli has been leading Royal Challengers Bangalore since the 2012 edition but has failed to end the franchise’s title drought in the competition despite having a star-studded side at his disposal.
Speaking about Kohli’s captaincy on Star Sports’ show Game Plan, Gambhir said, “Still a long way to go.”
“I don’t see him as a shrewd captain. I don’t see him as a tactful captain. And he hasn’t won the IPL. So ultimately, a captain is only as good as his record.”
While Kohli has been highly successful as India skipper across all three formats, his seven-year captaincy tenure at Bengaluru has left plenty to be desired. Under Kohli in the IPL, Royal Challengers have managed to make it to the play-off stage on just two occasions with the side finishing sixth in the 2018 edition.
Gambhir believes the India superstar is lucky to still be at the helm of Royal Challengers despite their years of underachievement.
“There are people who have won the trophy three times. MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma. So I think he (Kohli) has a long way to go,” said Gambhir.
“You cannot compare him to someone like Rohit (Sharma) or (MS) Dhoni at this stage because he has been part of RCB, and captaining RCB for the last seven to eight years, and he has been very lucky and should be thanking the franchise that they stuck with him because not many captains have got such a long rope where they haven’t won a tournament.”
Kohli and Royal Challengers Bangalore will open their IPL 2019 campaign against defending champions Chennai Super Kings on March 23 at Chennai.