Strategy in cricket’s shortest format is key. There’s barely enough time to scratch out a guard and then face some thunderbolts or eye-poppers. The battle between ball and fielder is almost always won by the little white pill, especially when a boundary line is involved.
Try then to fit an absolute score of talent into just 12 spots for a delicious, crunchy and powerful Twenty20 side. As the tournament goes on, there is no doubt this team may change.
- David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Four half-centuries in 317 runs with a strike-rate well above 150 is the perfect start for any high-powered side. Warner’s explosive hitting and exquisite timing is why he’s become a feared opponent for bowlers from 22 yards away.
Just one single figure score (nine) for the tournament against the Mumbai Indians means there’s plenty left in the tank.
- Brendon McCullum (Chennai Super Kings)
Warner and McCullum are like ying and yang – they are destructive, and pull it off more often than not. “Baz’s” shot of the tournament so far came against a thundering Pat Cummins of the Kolkata Knight Riders, standing at the crease and bludgeoning the young speedster 70+ metres into the stands.
An opening platform in Twenty20 sets the game up for the rest of the side, and McCullum’s leadership qualities shine through at the top of the order.
- Steve Smith (Rajasthan Royals) (Captain)
Australia’s captain-in-waiting has statistics that bely his impact and significant status as part of this year’s strongest side. With Ajinkya Rahane and Shane Watson having done most of the damage recently at the top of the order, Smith has sat back at number three without bat in hand.
It is his leadership on field that continues to turn heads, and helped Rajasthan start the IPL with a bang.
Leaving arguably the world’s greatest batsman going around in this day and age out of any side would be criminal. His two highest scores, 57 and 47*, have come against Rajasthan, with the half-century being battered off 45 balls.
Pick one thing out from de Villier’s repertoire and arsenal is the ease in which he plays his strokes. Remembering his blistering 162 against the West Indies during the World Cup rubber-stamped the South African as the benchmark in cricket today.
- Suresh Raina (Chennai Super Kings)
Chennai have undoubtedly spoken volumes to the cricket sphere with their depth across batting and bowling. Raina is perfectly suited in the middle order to be able to put a salvo of runs on the board without wasting any time. His cracking 62 from 32 balls against Bangalore included an alliterative six sixes in a total of 181.
With a Twenty20 strike rate hovering above 140, Raina’s form allows him to bat anywhere between three and five without skipping a beat.
- JP Duminy (Delhi Daredevils)
Some criticism has been pushed on to the South African dynamo due to his slow starts (Duminy has a Twenty20 strike rate sitting around the 121 mark), but when the left-hander gets going, he is a miserly workhorse. More than 4,500 Twenty20 runs speaks volumes, and perhaps the only thing that’s held him back is the inconsistency from the Daredevils, in particular the top order.
- Dwayne Bravo (Chennai Super Kings)
Perhaps having a better tournament with bat than ball, Bravo still has the ability to put on quick runs when required. However, 11 wickets at a strike rate of 13.8 has put Bravo in the top three wicket takers for IPL 8. With Twenty20 cricket all about being curbing runs and clever bowling, Bravo fits well into the mould, where others like James Faulkner are currently sitting at the back of the pack in the competition.
- Keiron Pollard (Mumbai Indians)
There needs to be a drastic improvement in his bowling strike-rate, but two powerful innings from the West Indian big man allow him to scrape in. When on song, there is no stopping Pollard, especially in a situation lower in the order that can require a team to be pulled from a rut.
- Ashish Nehra (Chennai Super Kings)
Being 36 is not stopping Nehra from a) topping the wickets list and b) being a vital cog in the Super Kings opening bowling attack. Guile and delivery at the crease puts Nehra as a leader in Twenty20 bowling, and 109 wickets in 86 Twenty20 matches backs up his work ethic. Left-armers are at a premium, and swinging the new ball the opposite way to a right-hander in the game’s shortest form allows for greater flexibility, especially to those strong on the leg side.
Imran Tahir (Delhi Daredevils)
Spin bowling has proved to be more than just a tool; rather a weapon. Tahir has looked vastly improved since his debut in test whites, and his 13 wickets at 15.76 justify the faith put in the South African spinner. Batsman have a mentality to target spinners in Twenty20, but Tahir has hit back with enough bite to be enjoying reasonable success.
- Sandeep Sharma (Kings XI Punjab)
Outside of India, Sharma is little known, but puts together a well-oiled action and delivery that has been a shining light in a misfiring Kings XI side. A best of 4/25 against Kolkata was unfortunately not enough to save his side from defeat.
- Shreyas Iyer (Delhi Daredevils)
Not one that pops into a cricket lover’s head as a household name, Iyer has looked fluid at the crease – and his strike rate of a touch under 140 backs this up. Like any batsman, it’s key that the right-hander gets himself going. The only error against Royal Challengers Bangalore was the scintillating delivery from Mitchell Starc that trapped him LBW.
Honorable mentions: Brad Hogg and Robin Uthappa (Kolkata Knight Riders)