5 greatest players of the shortest format of the game
It is often said that the T20 format is the most unpredictable form of cricket. It is a game controlled by match winners. A game where it takes only one player in the team to rout the opposition. In this high-intensity and high-risk game, one-off performances are greatly admired. However, the hallmark of a great T20 player is consistency, the ability to repeatedly emulate their match-winning performances.
The IPL is undoubtedly the biggest T20 tournament the sport has ever seen. Success attained in the IPL is a hallmark of evergreen class, skill and legacy. Here are of the greatest players the IPL has ever seen, in my opinion
#1 Chris Gayle
Chris Gayle can be extremely destructive at his best. After becoming the first player to score a century in a T20 international, the left-hander amassed a statistically incredible 20 centuries in T20's, and thereafter nicknamed the 'Don' of the shortest format. The Jamaican superstar's relentless success can be majorly attributed to his power.
IPL 2011 was a breakthrough year for the West Indian, where he amassed 608 runs in 12 games at a stellar average of 67.55. The most remarkable aspect, though, was the rate at which these runs were accumulated. His incredible strike rate of 183.13 gave birth to the very popular IPL phrase: "Gayle force."
Gayle was an impact player, or as the commentators say, 'boom or bust.' However, on his day, he would single-handedly bat the opposition out of the game. Featuring the highest average of 41.2 amongst players with at least 50 games, the T20 giant boasts 5 hundreds in his incredible IPL career. His 265 sixes in the tournament are well clear of Suresh Raina, who stands at a meager 173 sixes.
The highlight of his IPL career is, without doubt, the 175 of 66 balls he struck at the M Chinnaswamy on the 23rd April 2013, at an extraordinary strike rate of 265. The 17 sixes in this innings remained the highest in an IPL innings, and at one stage, the commentators were entertaining the idea of the first T20 double hundred.
#2 Lasith Malinga
Lasith Malinga is a mockery of correct technique and aesthetic beauty. His slingy round-arm action is extremely difficult to read, and his pinpoint accuracy is difficult to negotiate. The left-arm pacer has a reputation for precise yorkers, and even holds the record for most bowled dismissals in T20's.
The Sri Lankan's average of 19 is the best amongst players with at least 30 games. In fact, he is the tournament's leading wicket-taker. With 154 wickets from 110 matches, the seamer is well clear of Amit Mishra, who has 134 wickets.
It is a well-known fact that wickets don't necessarily dent the flow of runs in T20's, however, dot balls certainly do. Malinga, with 1060 dot balls, is second on the list of number of dot balls in the tournament. His ability to maintain pressure on the batsman by bowling dots is the major contributing reason for his knack of taking wickets.
Then again, bowling dots is only part of his skill. It is pivotal that this pressure is relentlessly applied by ensuring that there are no loose deliveries. This was what the man was a master at. Let me compare him with Praveen Kumar. Number one the list of dot balls in the tournament, Kumar only has 90 wickets to show. This is because of his inability to sustain pressure built, by bowling loose deliveries that allow the batsmen to pick up an easy boundary. This is reflected in his economy rate of 7.72, compared to Malinga's phenomenal 6.86.
#3 Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli is a product of controlled aggression. Unlike other Indian superstars that erupted onto the scene with "God-gifted" talent, the right-handed batsman was a story of evolution, of failures and successes. With 4418 runs in the tournament, the Delhi born batsman occupies the second spot on the list of highest run-getters in the tournament.
The Indian captain's stellar year in the IPL was undoubtedly 2016, where accumulated 973 runs and therefore took his side to the finals of the tournament. With 4 hundreds and 38 sixes, the man had a dream-like run.
However, his run scoring is only a part of the reason he made this list. The superstar of Indian cricket is an inspiring leader. Ruthless, consistent and aggressive. Kohli brings a sense of excitement onto the field and his aggression permeates through his entire team. A leader is no good unless he is followed, and Kohli inspires everyone by leading from the front.
#4 MS Dhoni
Apart from Tendulkar, MS Dhoni is the most popularly worshipped cricketer in India. From the deafening chants of "Dhoni, Dhoni, Dhoni" to the countless posters and banners that fans hold up for him, the CSK captain is a legend in the public eye.
The veteran brings so much to the table. His batting is his strength, and the 3561 runs at an average of 37.88 highlight his consistency and dominant presence in the tournament. His biggest strength as a batsman is his adaptability. He can stabilize, rebuild, resurrect and finish an innings. This man is the powerhouse of limited overs cricket.
Apart from batting, the ex-Indian captain is an excellent glove man. From stunning stumpings to valuable advice, he is a master behind the stumps. As a captain of the CSK franchise, the wicketkeeper-batsman carried his team to back to back titles in 2010 and 2011.
A fine wicketkeeper, destructive with the bat, and a mastermind captain, Dhoni combined his talents to leave a lasting legacy on the IPL.
#5 AB De Villiers
AB De Villiers is one of the most popular overseas players amongst Indian crowds because when he comes out to bat, he is a complete entertainment package. A delightfully brutal right-handed batsman, he has a remarkable ability to score all around the wicket. Additionally, he is also a handy wicketkeeper and an agile fielder.
In 129 games in the tournament, the South African captain scored a monumental 3473 runs, at an excellent average of 38.16. However, what was more incredible was that all these runs came at a preposterous strike rate of 148.16.
De VIlliers' special quality was his ability to counter-attack an attacking opposition and take the game away from them. The South African's most memorable innings was an innings of only 47 runs, where his contribution helped RCB snatch a thriller. He unearthed some outrageous and unorthodoxy shots to take Dale Steyn for 23 runs in an over. His most destructive innings though, was, without doubt, the 133 off 59 balls, that lit the Wankhede alight.