The Indian Premier League 2018 edition has only reached the halfway mark and already it has to be one of the most entertaining because of the number of last over finishes and more so, off the last ball in few matches. At this stage though, there is one pattern that has followed from previous IPL seasons. Few teams have galloped to the top in points table and few others struggling to get going and hence languishing at the bottom.
There have been some high scoring run chases, low scores being defended and some excellent catching so far. Let’s look at who makes the IPL XI at the halfway stage.
The Karnataka batsman has been one of the best batsman in the tournament so far and has more often than not given Kings XI Punjab a rollicking start. He set the 11th edition on fire by scoring the tournament’s fastest ever fifty, off just 14 balls and has never looked back from then on.
The big Jamaican almost missed the IPL after he wasn’t picked up by any of the franchise until Kings XI Punjab decided to buy him at the fag end on the second day for his base price and it has turned into a master stroke by Viru and Kings XI think tank. Known for his maverick hitting in this format, Gayle has so far brought method to his madness and that is translated into consistency this season.
After missing most of the season last year due to injury, Ambati Rayudu has looked in exceptional touch for the men in yellow this season. The most impressive aspect of his batting so far has been the adaptability to different situations, be it at the top of the order or batting at No 4. Rayudu has been the fulcrum around which CSK’s batting has revolved this season.
One of the talented batsman in India, Sanju Samson has so far performed to his great potential. The gifted right hander has made batting look ridiculously easy at times and that magical knock of unbeaten 92 off just 45 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore has to go down as one of the best ever knocks in IPL history. He didn’t go bang bang right from ball one, instead paced his innings to perfection and the final onslaught was just something else.
Middle order and wicket keeper
AB de Villiers
He has to be the most liked overseas player in IPL. Not just because of the way he conducts himself off the field but the way he wields his willow is pure magic. Irrespective of the team you support, at times he makes you stand and applaud the way he constructs his innings. One of the most essential facet to good batsmanship in T20s is the innovative strokeplay and this man from South Africa possesses that in abundance. Even though RCB haven’t had a great start, AB de Villiers has shown us why he is one of the best T20 batsman.
MS Dhoni (c)
The powers of one of the best finishers in limited overs cricket is on the way down. That was how critics wrote MS Dhoni off before the season. It’s now halfway through the season and the former Indian captain has certainly turned the clock back with some vintage hitting and as always kept his calm in tense run chases. After conceding over 200 against RCB at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the visitors were struggling at the half way stage. With the help of Rayudu, MS Dhoni guided the team through with some calculated assault at the end.
He was retained by two-time IPL champions Chennai Super Kings in the auction and the all-rounder has so far made impactful contributions with both bat and ball. In the tournament opener, it all looked gone for the men in yellow at the Wankhede and then Bravo decided to win it on his own with the bat. Known more for his bowling at the death, this West Indian reminded everyone that he is still a force to reckon with when he holds a bat in his hand.
The No 1 ranked bowler in ICC T20 rankings has lived up to his expectations in his second year at the IPL. More than the debut year, its always the second year that will be challenging to any sportsperson and that’s where Rashid Khan has shown everyone that he is not a one year wonder. A true character of a bowler in this format is tested on how he makes a comeback after having a bad game. Having gone for plenty in two games against KXIP and CSK, this Afghan star came back with a bang in two consecutive games and ironically SRH defended two low scores against MI and KXIP. His form is very crucial for the 2016 IPL champions.
The man with the headband has been making rapid progress in his career and has impressed everyone in this year’s IPL too. Even though Sunrisers dealt a huge blow in few games when their star pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ruled out, Siddarth Kaul has stood up tall and has in fact donned the role of a lead fast bowler. He has improved on his pace considerably from last season which is making the batsmen hurry and also possesses a good variation with his slower one at the death. With 11 wickets and an ecomomy rate of under 7 per over, Kaul holds the Purple Cap at the moment.
With India captain Virat Kohli in his side, Umesh Yadav is showing his skipper that he has not lost in his pace and that he could have used him more in South Africa earlier this year. He has been in terrific form this season especially with the new ball by moving it both ways and at genuine pace. Although RCB have not collectively bowled well as a group, Umesh Yadav has been giving them early strikes with quality pace bowling. The way he set up Yuvraj Singh at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was a great sight if you are a fast bowling fan. He bowled a good short one to push the left hander on the back foot and followed it up with a perfect good length delivery swinging in at good pace to hit the timber.
A few weeks ago, this name was unknown to many cricket fans. But the Punjab born leg spinner has shown great skills and temperament that is required to perform at this level and has now become a household name in India. Markande has an uncomplicated action and turns the ball both ways without much change in his action. He will not forget the dismissal of MS Dhoni in the first match of the tournament anytime soon. Markande bowled quite a few leg spinners before trapping the CSK skipper with a sharp googly that caught the batsman plumb in front. After an impressive start, this leg spinner has been consistent with good performances so far.