Mumbai Indians are champions again. They now have a record four IPL titles, with Rohit Sharma lifting the trophy on all four occasions. Yet, despite leading Mumbai to four titles in seven years of being in charge, Rohit has not managed to earn a spot in ESPNcricinfo’s IPL 2019 team of the tournament (collated on the basis of staffers’ votes).
Here’s what that dream team picked looks like:
David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
692 runs in 12 innings; Avg – 69.20, SR – 143.86, 1×100, 8×50
He batted just 12 times, and got to at least 50 in nine of those innings. Enough to earn his third Orange Cap (for most runs in an edition of the IPL) – an unprecedented feat. There were question marks around him – as with Steven Smith – following the ball-tampering ban and an elbow surgery, but Warner was supreme in the IPL, forming one half of an outstanding opening combo for Sunrisers with Jonny Bairstow and keeping them in the contest before leaving to join the World Cup-bound Australians.
521 runs in 16 innings; Avg – 34.73, SR – 135.67, 5×50
He didn’t start well for his new-old team, after being traded for a trio of players by Sunrisers. But, a talking-to from coach Ricky Ponting after the first few games changed his approach, and Dhawan was quite unstoppable after that, playing a key role in Capitals’ surge to the top three.
KL Rahul (Kings XI Punjab)
593 runs in 14 innings; Avg – 53.90, SR – 135.38, 1×100, 6×50
Another of the very consistent run-scorers this season (his tally was second only to Warner’s), Rahul, as he said himself, played as an accumulator more than an aggressor for the best part of the season, his orders being to bat through innings and let Chris Gayle and others do the big-hitting. Did it work against the team, in hindsight at least? Possibly, because Rahul showed in the last few matches that he was capable of attacking with flair too, without losing out on the consistency.
488 runs in 16 innings; Avg – 37.53, SR – 162.66, 3×50
It was a blow-hot-blow-cold kind of season for Pant, who looked like he was on hit-everything mode for the best part. Having missed out on the World Cup (provisional) berth, Pant opted to couch his disappointment by striving to finish off games without losing his signature aggression. The best of his knocks was, arguably, the one at the start of the tournament when he smashed 78* from 27 balls, but he did keep the big hits coming almost all the way through, and each time he got a good score, it improved his team’s chances of winning significantly.
MS Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings, capt & wk)
416 runs in 12 innings; Avg – 83.20, SR – 134.62, 3×50; 16 dismissals
He’s still got it – in case you were wondering. He failed in the final, a rare run-out putting paid to his, and Super Kings’, plans of taking the chase against Mumbai deep and finishing it off in a blaze of big hits, but he used his resources brilliantly, backed horses that not many other teams would have, and dragged the team to an eighth final appearance in ten seasons. He still has the skills with the bat, clearly, and anyone who watched the stumpings of Chris Morris and Shreyas Iyer in one Ravindra Jadeja over during the second qualifier will know what he can still do behind the stumps – apart from calling the shots, that is.
510 runs in 13 innings; Avg – 56.66, SR – 204.81, 4×50; 11 wickets, Avg – 26.09, ER – 9.51
It was close to being a one-man show for Kolkata Knight Riders this year, and as with many one-man shows in big tournaments, it wasn’t enough. But Russell totally bossed large chunks of the IPL, his hitting brutal as it was brilliant, and relentless. He also played his part with the ball, but it was with bat that he scripted one win after another for his team early on, before other sides figured out a way around him, and Knight Riders. But no one could deny him the Most Valuable Player of the tournament title, a well-deserved honour.
Fortunately, unlike Dinesh Karthik, we have brought him up to No.6. And with Dhoni as captain, chances are Dre Russ will bat where he is best suited in any case. As will be the case with the next man in the list – one step too low here perhaps, but don’t worry; he’ll bat where he needs to.
Hardik Pandya (Mumbai Indians)
402 runs in 15 innings; Avg – 44.66, SR – 19.42, 1×50; 14 wickets, Avg – 27.85, ER – 9.17
If Russell didn’t get enough time to bat, Hardik got even fewer balls to face (210 to 249), but what an impact the man had, even finding enough time to record the fastest fifty of the tournament. Hardik has mastered the helicopter now, and used it with telling impact, as he did his whole range of shots in a series of late-order bursts for Mumbai. With the ball too, he was effective, and he was flawless on the field.
Shreyas Gopal (Rajasthan Royals)
20 wickets in 14 innings; Avg – 17.35, ER – 7.22, SR – 14.4, Best – 3-12
Rajasthan Royals had a poor season, but that wasn’t because of want of trying on the part of Shreyas, or Jofra Archer. The two of them were outstanding, especially the uncapped Shreyas. Of his 20 victims, 16 were top-three batsmen, twice he sent back the No. 4, and once each a No. 5 and a No. 6. He also proved he could hold his own as a batsman, showing his skills in pressure situations, including the seven-ball 19 against Super Kings, 13 off 12 in the successful chase in Mumbai and the run-a-ball 18 in the victory at home against Knight Riders.
25 wickets in 12 innings; Avg – 14.72, ER – 7.82, SR – 11.2, Best – 4-21
The Capitals’ bowling wasn’t Rabada-dimensional by any stretch, with many of their bowlers putting in impressive performances along the way, but the South African certainly stood out, especially at the close, where he was brilliant with his yorkers – 19 of his 25 wickets came in the death overs (16-20). His best was arguably in the game against Knight Riders early in the season, when he gave Russell the Block Hole Treatment in the Super Over. Three balls to Russell: 4-0-W. Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik got just a single apiece from the remaining deliveries.
Jasprit Bumrah (Mumbai Indians)
19 wickets in 16 innings; Avg – 21.52, ER – 6.63, SR – 19.4, Best – 3-20
The Man of the Final for his 2 for 14 against Super Kings, Bumrah hardly put a foot wrong throughout the tournament. He is, arguably, the best in the business, especially at the death, and Mumbai used him smartly, not necessarily to get wickets upfront, but at the most key passages in the game; and always at the death. He was masterful. Not a massive bag of wickets, sure, but stifling spells that gave Mumbai an edge at all times.
Imran Tahir (Chennai Super Kings)
26 wickets in 17 innings; Avg – 16.57, ER – 6.69, SR – 14.8, Best – 4-12
Just look at that strike rate, no wonder Tahir – 40 years young, not to forget – ended up with the Purple Cap, snatching it away from Rabada in the final. In many ways, Tahir flew under the radar for the most part, except when he took flight after each of his wickets – 26 times. But he was there, one of the aces in Dhoni’s pack; picking up wickets in buckets, never going for too many either. The other Super Kings spinners were rotated, but Tahir – with Ravindra Jadeja, in a more restrictive role – was at the forefront, spinning it both ways, mixing up his pace and lines, and keeping a stranglehold on the batsmen.
*Tahir and Bairstow got the same number of votes, but Tahir was picked ahead of the Sunrisers opener for better balance in the team.