Indian Premier League 2011 May 29, 2011

The IPL XI

Firdose Moonda picks her best XI of the fourth season of the IPL

Chris Gayle 12 matches, 608 runs, average 67.55, two 100s, three 50s, eight wickets, economy-rate 6.77

The Jamaican juggernaut crashed into town by complete accident, but after he propelled Bangalore into the final, virtually single-handedly, it will be tough to find someone who will say his inclusion was a mistake. He was the architect of a complete turnaround for Bangalore, and changed a three-match losing streak into a record seven-match winning one. Gayle showed the bowling no respect, fearlessly smashing whatever he could. He played fewer matches than most others, but took the orange cap, and had a strike rate of 183.13. He scored centuries against Kolkata and Punjab, but it was his 89 in the play-off against Mumbai that was his most destructive knock of the competition. He was also handy with the ball, his offspin capturing eight scalps for Bangalore.

Sachin Tendulkar 16 matches, 553 runs average 42.53, one 100, two 50s

Tendulkar's insatiable appetite for runs has not dried up, even after India's successful World Cup campaign, and he scored over 500 runs in the IPL. He opened the batting with his usual combination of solidity and flair, and a main contender for the orange cap until the Gayle force blew in. Tendulkar marshalled the top order of Mumbai Indians with such aplomb that eight games into the competition, Kieron Pollard had only faced three balls. He also achieved another first - his maiden IPL hundred, which he scored against Kochi Tuskers Kerala. His captaincy didn't go unquestioned, but he remained the glorious batsman he has been for the last two decades.

Shaun Marsh 14 matches, 504 runs, average 42.00, four 50s

Shaun Marsh was one of the chief reasons Kings XI Punjab remained in contention for the play-offs until the dying stages of the tournament. His 95 against Delhi Daredevils and unbeaten 79 against Bangalore were his two standout knocks but he had other, smaller contributions at No. 3 which were just as important. Marsh is one of the cleanest and most elegant strikers of the ball, and he showed he is not an IPL one-season wonder after claiming the orange cap in 2008.

Virat Kohli 16 matches, 557 runs, average 46.41, four 50s

Tipped to be the future captain of India, Virat Kohli showed that consistency is one of his biggest assets, batting with maturity through the league. Kohli paced his innings' well, finishing second on the run-scorers' chart. Although he often was just a spectator to Gayle's fireworks, he played his part to perfection, both as the standout supporting actor and stand-in captain when needed. In Daniel Vettori's absence, he was handed the reins and led the side with distinction.

S Badrinath 16 matches, 396 runs, average 56.57, five 50s

A man for all occasions, Badrinath performed in situations where he was needed to consolidate after a top-order failure and when he was sent down the order after a solid start. His yo-yo functioning in the batting order did not upset his sound temperament. His technical superiority was on display during crucial knocks like his 63 not out against Pune, his best knock of the tournament. Badrinath also established himself as one the best fielders in the Chennai side.

MS Dhoni 16 matches, 392 runs, average 43.55, 2 fifties

Quickly becoming the best leaders of his generation, MS Dhoni's ability to guide teams to champion status is now almost legendary. The face of calm under pressure, Dhoni's role as tactician and planner is unmatched. He was particularly impressive with the way he used his bowlers, allowing the spinners and fast bowlers to share centre stage, and kept faith in players - Chennai fielded an unchanged XI in six consecutive matches at the league's business end. While technically Dhoni may not be the best wicketkeeper in the tournament or world cricket, he is one of the most trusted. His skills with the bat came out in the 70 he scored against Bangalore. He promoted himself up the order in the final, in a move reminiscent of his World Cup final strategy, and although he didn't accumulate nearly as many runs, his handy 22 was not wasted.

Rahul Sharma 14 matches, 16 wickets, average 17.06, economy-rate 5.46

The fairytale story of this IPL, Rahul Sharma recovered from a problem which affected the nerves around his eye, Bell's Palsy, to become one of the most eye-catching players of the tournament. A legspinner, whose height helps him achieve extra bounce on almost any wicket - drawing some comparisons with Anil Kumble - he was a threat to the opposition whenever he bowled. He maintained a tidy economy-rate, the best among all bowlers who had played more than two matches. He impressed with his 3 for 13 against Rajasthan and 2 for 7, one of the standout players for the new franchise, Pune Warriors.

Iqbal Abdulla 15 matches, 16 wickets, average 19.06, economy-rate 6.10

This young left-arm spinner is one of the chief reasons for Kolkata emerging as one of the top four sides this year. Abdulla has been around the block a few times, playing for India's under-19 side and on the club circuit in Mumbai, but came to the fore in this competition, with his aggressive performances. He took the new ball four times in the tournament, showing no fear in bowling in the Powerplay overs, breaking early partnerships as a result. He was awarded Man of the Match awards twice - and eventually named under-23 player of the IPL - when opening the bowling, once for his 2 for 19 against Punjab and 1 for 15 against Chennai.

R Ashwin 16 matches, 20 wickets, average 19.40, economy-rate 6.15

The ever-impressive R Ashwin was one among a galaxy of star performers from the Chennai team, and once again used the IPL to stake his claim for more regular place in the national XI. An experienced hand at opening the bowling, Ashwin is now comfortable in this role and achieves early breakthroughs with regularity. His most impressive one came when it mattered most, in the final, when he removed Chris Gayle for a duck. Ashwin is also a man for big occasions and he performed at crucial times, claiming 3 for 16 in the final to break the Bangalore's back.

Doug Bollinger 13 matches, 17 wickets, average 19.35, economy-rate 7.00

Bollinger's aggression and accuracy made him one of the most fearsome fast bowlers in this edition of the tournament. The left-armers' consistent lines and lengths often saw him create early breakthroughs for Chennai, but that wasn't the only stage he was effective at. He was one of the best death bowlers in the league, mixing up bouncers and slower balls, to prevent a late burst from the opposition on many occasions. His performance in the play-off, where he took 1 for 20, was key to Chennai's progression to the final.

Lasith Malinga 16 matches, 28 wickets, average 13.39, economy-rate 5.95

Lasith Malinga was head and shoulders above any other bowler in the tournament, and that's not even when taking his curly, blond mop into account. Besides the unusual action, which has now been around long enough for batsman not to be alarmed by, Malinga is as accurate as it gets, landing the yorkers perfectly almost every time. He had batsmen's toes crying for mercy and stumps being uprooted with regularity. His 5 for 13 against Delhi was the most destructive spell of the IPL and one that will be remembered for being as lethal as it was precise. More than 50% of the wickets he took were bowled, an incredible feat on its own.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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