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Gambhir skippers CricketNext's IPL XI


Jamie Alter, Cricketnext.com
May 28, 2012 at 01:01pm IST

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Picking XIs isn't easy, but here is an attempt to draft up the best line-up of IPL 5 keeping in mind form, contributions, team permutations and the four overseas player cap. Agree or disagree?

Gambhir skippers CricketNext's IPL XI

Chris Gayle, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni are among those we have selected in our dream team from the best of IPL 5.

1. Chris Gayle

Matches 15, Runs 733, HS 128*, Avg 61.08, SR 160.74

Is there a bigger impact player in Twenty20 cricket? In 2011, Gayle scored more IPL runs than any other batsman – 608 at an average of 67.55 and strike-rate of 183.13. In 2012, Gayle did better with 733 runs at a strike-rate of 160.74, scoring eight 50-plus scores – the most in IPL 5 – and hitting 59 sixes, which were 39 more than the next best. That equates to one six every eight balls, and a boundary every four balls.

Though Royal Challengers Bangalore failed to make the playoffs, Gayle once again made the IPL his own with some ferocious batting, the best of which was an unbeaten 128 off 62 balls inclusive of 13 sixes. Gayle didn't always attack from the get-go but his ability to build an innings was exemplary. Though his efforts didn’t always result in victories, there was plenty to marvel at. Highlights included his 86 against Kolkata Knight Riders; a robust 71 against Bangalore; a 59-ball 82 in a win over Mumbai, and his ballistic century. There was no bigger star this season than Gayle.

2. Virender Sehwag

Matches 16, Runs 495, HS 87*, Avg 33, SR 161.23

After a poor start to IPL 5, Sehwag burst to life with a record five consecutive half-centuries, three of which earned him Man-of-the-Match awards.

After his dismissal sparked a collapse against Pune, Sehwag had rued his inability to bat until the 16th over. In the return match against Pune, he slammed 87 off 48 balls to clinch victory. Next up were Mumbai, boasting four of the top six wicket-takers in IPL history, and Sehwag hit 73 off 39 balls to set Delhi up for match-winning 200-plus total. In the next game against Rajasthan Royals, he equaled the record for most consecutive half-centuries in Twenty20s, getting to the milestone for the fourth match in a row. The record was broken against Rajasthan in the return game as Sehwag's 38-ball 73 took Delhi to their fourth win in a row and extended their lead at the top of the table.

A run of five poor scores followed, but for his ability to pummel attacks, Sehwag slips in alongside Gayle at the top of this IPL XI ahead of the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. Rahane was more consistent, but for the fear he strikes in the opposition the man to partner Gayle was Sehwag.

3. Gautam Gambhir (Captain)

Matches 17, Runs 590, HS 93, Avg 36.87, SR 143.55

Gambhir's influence on Kolkata's fortunes was immense, not just as leader but because of his batting at the top of the order. His consistency paved the way for Kolkata's seven-game winning streak and gave them the impetus to make the playoffs. His 590 runs were second to Gayle and he has plenty to be proud of having inspired KKR to their maiden title, and for his role in rebuilding this team over two seasons Gambhir wins the captaincy of this XI.

Gambhir's superb run began on April 10 with a 39-ball 64 to set up victory over Bangalore and continued into the fifth week of the tournament. During this period he clubbed 93 to down RCB again; anchored a tricky chase in Chennai with 63 in 52 balls; a 36-ball 56 was pivotal to victory over Pune; a brisk 36 followed in a comfortable win over Delhi; and after a blob against Mumbai he scored 62 off 43 balls in a last-ball defeat to Chennai.

4. Shane Watson

Matches 7, Runs 255, HS 90*, Avg 42.50, SR 151.78

Watson missed more than half of IPL 5 due to his Australia commitments, but still left an impact as Rajasthan's most valuable player. In seven innings he racked up 255 runs to finish fourth on the team's run chart, five more than Brad Hodge managed in 12 innings and 85 shy of Owais Shah's tally in 13 innings. For his sheer impact as a star allrounder – a big hitter and wicket-taking bowler – Watson earned his place in this XI ahead of his team-mate Rahane who scored 560 runs. With Gayle, Sehwag and Gambhir impossible to overlook, Rahane fell out of the reckoning considering he is an opener and the fact that Watson can fit in anywhere in a line-up. His six wickets at 26.83 were an added bonus for a side lacking quality bowlers.

In just his second match of the season Watson was Man of the Match for a bullish 36 off 17 balls and miserly spell of 4-1-22-2. In the next game Watson smashed an unbeaten 90 off 51 balls to seal a chase of 126 with 22 balls remaining, and was again Man of the Match. A 31-ball 58 and 2 for 19 in victory over Punjab was pipped by the rookie Ajit Chandila's four-wicket haul, and Watson finished the season by top-scoring with 45 in Rajasthan's final defeat to Mumbai.

5. Rohit Sharma

Matches 17, Runs 433, HS 109*, Avg 30.92, SR 126.60

Though Rohit's season was littered with single-digit scores, each time he got a start and converted it his efforts resulted in victories for Mumbai – showing that when he gets himself going he is a match-winner.

After innings of 0 and 1, Rohit's first notable contribution to Mumbai’s cause was a nerveless unbeaten 73 that sealed his team a last-ball humdinger. Deccan gave Mumbai a stirring fight in defense of a total of 139, but Rohit struck a six off the final ball. He scored steadily without taking too many risks and just when the chase entered its final phase Rohit accelerated with alarming speed – smacking four sixes in his last ten balls faced.

On April 25, Rohit's 30-ball 50 gave Mumbai's chase impetus before Rayudu pulled off a thrilling heist. In a low-scoring win over Deccan four days later, in which a red-hot Dale Steyn threatened to run through the batting, Rohit paced himself for 42 off 48 balls to all but seal the deal (the next highest score Ambati Rayudu's 19). Mumbai's chase of 174 against CSK on May 6 owed largely to his 60 and a 126-run stand with Sachin Tendulkar, and after getting a duck in the next game against RCB Rohit stormed back with an unbeaten 109 off 60 balls against Kolkata. His cutting and pulling was exemplary in this excellent innings, and victory enabled Mumbai to stay in the top four. Here on, however, his form dipped dramatically.

6. MS Dhoni (Wicketkeeper)

Matches 19, Runs 357, HS 51*, Avg 29.75, SR 140.53, Cts 12, Sts 2

Though Pune's Robin Uthappa scored more runs, Dhoni makes the cut as wicketkeeper due to his joint season-high 12 catches and sheer ability to perform in the playoffs while coping with the pressure of leading the two-time IPL champions. Dhoni had an average tournament going into the playoffs – 269 runs without a fifty – but fortunately for Chennai, the tentativeness that had affected his form in the league stage was refreshingly absent as he attacked from the get-go in the Eliminator. A 112-meter six off James Franklin that landed on the roof was a sign of things to come and Dhoni reached his fifty off 20 balls to lead his team to a score that proved way out of Mumbai's reach. In the second Qualifier, Dhoni larruped 23 off 10 balls as CSK surged to 222 and his captaincy was tactful and spot on. Defeat in the final will rankle, however.

7. Piyush Chawla

Matches 16, Wickets 16, BB 3/18, Avg. 26.18, Econ 7.35

Chawla was second in the wickets column for Punjab, and his 16 victims were the best for an Indian spinner in the season. The legspinner fills the bowling allrounder's slot in this IPL XI, particularly because of his ability to influence Punjab's fortunes as well as the paucity of other Indian spinners to succeed.

In a low-scoring thriller against KKR, Chawla's 3 for 18 dramatically swung the momentum back Punjab's way when the opposition appeared on course for a win. Chawla applied the skids superbly with three wickets in the middle – Manvinder Bisla, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al Hasan – and the other bowlers ensured Punjab didn't slip up. Chawla's 27-run penultimate over against Mumbai was the reason for defeat, but against Chennai he bounced back with an outstanding spell in which he dismissed Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja to derail the chase.

His batting was overall disappointing, but Chawla did make an impression when he swung a massive six on the penultimate ball to help Punjab register a nervous four-wicket win over Bangalore on May 2. Chawla's will be a debatable decision, but the only other all-round candidates, Ravindra Jadeja and Irfan Pathan, were not as successful with the ball.

8. Morne Morkel

Mts 16, Wkts 25, BB 4/16, Avg 18.12, Econ 7.19, SR 15.10

The tall fast bowler from South Africa was outstanding in the competition, taking the purple cap midway into the season and never letting go. Hostile and accurate, Morkel worked batsmen over repeatedly and was almost always able to deliver wickets when given the ball. His death-over bowling was especially notable, and that is why he edged out Lasith Malinga who finished with 22 wickets at an economy of 6.30. Morkel also bowled a stunning 160 dot balls out of 378 bowled in total, and his success was instrumental in Delhi reaching the playoffs. Undoubtedly the best fast bowler of IPL 5.

In a big match against Mumbai, Morkel was instrumental in bowling out the pre-tournament favorites for 93; after going for 16 in his first two overs he bounced back with 2 for 6 at the death. Against Deccan he removed Kumar Sangakkara with his second ball and finished with 3 for 23 to set up victory. Then there was the thriller against Rajasthan, in which Morkel allowed just three runs in an outstanding 19th over when Rajasthan needed 15 from two overs with nine wickets in hand. In Delhi's final league match Morkel was almost unplayable with the new ball and at the death, taking 4 for 20 in a display highlighted by accurate yorkers.

In the two matches Delhi did not play Morkel, the bowlers conceded over 200. The second of these was the crucial second Qualifier, in which Delhi's attack was savaged by Murali Vijay.

9. Umesh Yadav

Mts 17, Wkts 18, BB 3/19, Avg 23.84, Econ 7.42, SR 19.20

The most successful Indian bowler in IPL 5, Yadav earns his place in this XI. He was impressive on docile Indian tracks, taking 19 wickets with a best of 3 for 19.

In his own words, the highlight for Yadav was his Man-of-the-Match performance that helped Delhi register a five-wicket win over Punjab and qualify for the playoffs. He took 3 for 19 to keep Punjab to 136 for 8, which Delhi managed to chase with an over to spare and consolidate their position at the top of the table with 20 points. Earlier, Yadav's other Man-of-the-Match award had come against Punjab too when he took 3 for 21 to keep the opposition to 136. His form bodes well ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 in September.

10. Sunil Narine

Mts 17, Wkts 24, BB 5/19, Avg 13.50, Econ 5.47, SR 14.70

The mystery surrounding KKR's $750,000 singing was an important factor in the team reaching the IPL final for the first time. His ability to spin the ball sharply both ways, allied by a high trajectory and smart changes of pace made life tough for opposition batsmen who failed to read the ball out of his fingers. Narine's economy rate of 5.47 – inflated by 0.70 after he went for 9.25 in the final - was the lowest of the tournament, and undoubtedly he played a huge role in Kolkata progressing to the final. Narine fills the fourth overseas slot in this XI.

Among the highlights for Narine were his five-wicket haul early in the tournament; 2 for 14 against CSK at Eden Gardens, when he took out the openers; 3 for 14 to help defend 140 against Mumbai Indians; a miserly 1 for 15 against Pune Warriors India; and 2 for 24 in four overs in the first Qualifier. He oddly fell flat against CSK in the final, being taken apart by Raina.

11. Parwinder Awana

Mts 12, Wkts 17, BB 4/34, Avg 21.88, Econ 7.91, SR 16.5

Awana, a right-arm fast bowler who plays Ranji Trophy cricket for Delhi, was the find of the season for Punjab. He finished as the leading wicket-taker with 17 and a best of 4 for 34, and troubled the best in the business with his nippy action.

Coming off the back of a domestic season in which he took 57 wickets, Awana made his debut for KXIP on April 12 against Pune and went wicketless while conceding just 18 runs from four overs. But against Bangalore in the next match, Awana grabbed 4 for 34 including three early strikes to jolt RCB. He took out Mayank Agarwal and Virat Kohli in his opening and added Saurabh Tiwary in this third, before returning to collect Gayle in his fourth. However, it wasn't enough to prevent defeat.

After five matches Awana had taken nine wickets and was making people notice him. The 25-year-old was prone to go for a few runs, but overall his pace and ability to check batsmen with pace and bounce was highly impressive.

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