It takes two to tango
Master and pupil. Idol and protégé. For three seasons between 2011 and 2013, Dravid and Rahane were among the most prolific opening partnerships in the IPL, building strong platforms for the Royals' middle order to launch from. Despite so many runs together, only 53% of these games ended in a Royals victory - a percentage which only dips further in run chases.
Dhoni and Raina were pivotal in Super Kings' back-to-back title wins, and it is not surprising that significant partnerships between them almost always steered their side to victory. Perhaps the most striking aspect is the variety of situations they handled with ease. Top-order collapse? No problem. Late-innings surge? Leave it to us. Over two-thirds of their runs together came in Super Kings victories, an indication of their combined worth.
Hussey and Raina often came together after an early wicket at the top of the order, and quite often left their side in a position of total dominance. With a strong middle order to follow, they had the license to go after the bowling after steadying the ship. The duo's true worth is reflected in the fact that nine of their ten fifty-plus stands came in winning causes.
Royals' march to the playoffs in 2013 was thanks largely to Rahane and Watson putting together invaluable stands at the top of the order. At one point, six of their seven league victories that season were set up by the duo. While Watson's hitting abilities certainly helped score at a healthy clip, Rahane scored faster than his overall rate when batting with Watson.
A firebrand combination that only came together in 2014, McCullum and Smith have made it a habit to deflate opposition bowling attacks early on, sending them on leather hunts, as the Super Kings middle order then piled on the agony. They continued their destructive partnership under the Gujarat Lions banner in 2016. After three seasons together at the top of the order, the duo's numbers tell a simple story: when they put together a stand of any significance, their side almost always ended up winning.
Hussey and Vijay are among the four pairs on this list to have put together over 1000 runs in match-winning causes. It is an astounding number, considering neither batsman started off the IPL with a big-hitting reputation. Between 2011 and 2013, the pair put together a number of significant stands in must-win fixtures, the most notable of which was their 159-run epic against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2011 final.
Kolkata Knight Riders' title-winning run in 2014 was courtesy Uthappa and Gambhir setting up games with dominant opening stands. As the season approached its final stages, their stands read 121, 106, 68 and 58 at one point, part of their hot streak of 14 wins in the lead-up to the final. In subsequent seasons, their opening partnership has continued to be among the most successful in the tournament.
In a span of three seasons, Dhawan and Warner have accumulated nearly 1200 runs together in winning causes for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Statistically, no other pair on this list has put together fifty-plus stands with the frequency of this duo. Yet another feisty and consistent combination at the top of the order took Sunrisers to their first IPL title in 2016.
While team aggregates of 200-plus are still considered match-winning in T20 cricket, De Villiers and Kohli have become the only pair in the format's history to put on two stands of over 200 on their own. It is hard enough for opponents when one of them is in form; when both wreak havoc in conjunction - as they have with astonishing consistency - they smash a number of records with their barely believable hitting abilities.
Virat Kohli's batting position ahead of AB de Villiers for Royal Challengers Bangalore has meant he has strung together many a heavy-duty opening stand with Chris Gayle. Apart from a dip during the 2014 season, the pair has been remarkably consistent, taking their side to a slew of 200-plus totals batting first.