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ESPNcricinfo picks the XI of the tournament
Andrew Fidel Fernando
October 7, 2013
(223 runs, strike-rate 143)
Smith was Mumbai Indians' rock atop the batting order, fashioning brisk starts from power and touch in equal measure, and rarely failing to punish the poor deliveries - particularly if there was an error in length. Four times in five innings he crossed 40, and often had to contend with an ambling Sachin Tendulkar at the other end. His 48 off 25 against Perth Scorchers set the tone for the frenetic chase that put Mumbai into the semi-finals, while his 59 against Trinidad and Tobago made a challenging chase seem like a cakewalk.
(288 runs, strike-rate 119)
Having made four half-centuries on the trot - a Champions League record - Ajinkya Rahane finished with the most runs in the tournament this year. Less explosive than Smith, he was perhaps even more important to his team, whose dashers thrived because of the stability Rahane provided. He set up the win against Chennai Super Kings in the semi-final with his 70 off 56, during which he also smote the prettiest six of the tournament - a caress off a R Ashwin legbreak over deep cover.
Sanju Samson (wk)
(192 runs, strike-rate 127, five catches and a stumping)
Samson began his tournament with a match-winning half century against Mumbai Indians, but it was his valiant 60 off 33 in pursuit of a tall target in the final that puts him in this list. Only 18, but nerveless in the biggest match of his life so far, he played authoritatively through the leg side to elevate his side to a winning position. Has the tendency to get out playing one big shot too many, but has the raw material to become a future star. He kept tidily during the group matches, before being relieved of the gloves - perhaps to ease the burden on his batting.
Rohit Sharma (capt)
(173 runs, strike-rate 152)
Has his ability invoked so often that his name may as well be listed as a synonym for 'talent' in the thesaurus, Rohit had another good Twenty20 tournament with the bat, and was a steady, if not always an inspirational, captain. Didn't make any gargantuan scores, but he was impactful when it counted. His 51 not out off 24 balls against Perth Scorchers rescued the side from the brink, after their indifferent group stage performances, and his 33 from 14 in the final began the frenzied sequence that propelled Mumbai to their giant score. Although Mumbai were without their pace spearhead in this tournament, they barely missed Lasith Malinga, thanks to Rohit's intelligent use of Nathan Coulter-Nile.
(221 runs, strike-rate 145.39, 3 wickets)
Has been one of the most consistent Twenty20 batsmen since the IPL began, and he found a way to contribute in some way in each of his Champions League matches. A 47 against Titans began his tournament, before he struck 84 from 57 balls to set the scene for MS Dhoni's ballistics against Sunrisers Hyderabad. That blazing start with the bat was followed by three middling scores, but his tight spin bowling was also an asset to Super Kings.
(109 runs, strike-rate of 198)
Only batted thrice in the tournament, but played a game-changing hand in two of those innings. His 46 off 23 against Lions transformed what would have been a middling Twenty20 total into a commanding one, and his 52 from 23 six days later overcame Royals' middle-order stagnation and sent them to the top of their group. Royals' run chase in the final was crying out for a Hodge finish, but he was instead forced to watch from the sidelines, with a knee injury.
(145 runs, strike-rate 169, 6 wickets, economy rate 7.31)
Twenty-three year old Neesham was perhaps the find of the tournament, as he impressed with nerveless hitting and steady medium pace, as Otago breezed through the early stages of the competition. His unbeaten 32 against Kandurata Maroons ensured Otago finished their innings strongly, but his finest moment came against Lions, when he bludgeoned 52 from 25 to revive an ailing chase, to tie the match. Otago were knocked out of the tournament when they lost a must-win match against Royals, but that was no fault of Neesham's, who took 3 for 22.
(6 wickets, economy rate 6.37)
Coulter-Nile only played in the tournament because Malinga was unavailable, but he quickly became the most reliable bowler in Mumbai's attack. Delivering tight lines at a sharp pace early in the innings, then returning with a bag of death-over tricks and the smarts to go with it, an expensive Coulter-Nile over was a rarity. He took three wickets when Mumbai were desperate to keep Perth Scorchers to a low total, but was even better in the semi-final against Trinidad and Tobago, whose explosive batsmen he kept in check throughout the innings.
(7 wickets, economy rate 8.04)
Gets here almost solely for his bowling, which was effective in tandem with Super Kings' spin bowlers, particularly in the middle overs. His 2 for 34 against Sunrisers helped scuttle a promising chase, but his best bowling came in the semi-final, when he took 3 for 26 to keep Royals to a par score.
(12 wickets, economy rate 4.10)
Tambe's is without a doubt the most uplifting story in the Champions League, though he was denied a perfect 42nd birthday present in the final, through no fault of his own. Having played only three IPL matches, Tambe was added to the XI in Royals' second match of the tournament, and he immediately shone, taking 4 for 15. His flat, fast legbreaks proved difficult to put away, and his effective use of the googly claimed him plenty of wickets. In a final where his team conceded more than 10 an over, Tambe bowled four overs, took two wickets, and gave away only 19. He also finished the top wicket-taker in the league, edging past Sunil Narine by a wicket.
(11 wickets, economy rate 4.30) Often difficult, sometimes unplayable, Narine's mystery has not waned in Twenty20 cricket, where batsmen have begun to play the man, rather than the ball. Twice the team suffered because Denesh Ramdin kept him out of the attack for too long. He took four wickets for nine runs against Sunrisers, but T&T still lost the match. Against Mumbai in the semi-final, he was again brought in only after the openers had put on 90 together. Still, he was the cornerstone of his team's campaign, and his knuckle ball was as destructive as it has ever been.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets hereFeeds: Andrew Fidel Fernando
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