Short-form allstars

The pick of the IPL crop

Sriram Veera

June 5, 2008

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Gambhir: unhurried, instinctive © Getty Images
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Shaun Marsh
616 runs at 68.44 from 11 games; S/R 139.68; 441 balls faced: 171 dot balls, 59 fours, 26 sixes
In an IPL minute, a star is born. We knew him as Geoff Marsh's son, and by the end of the tournament Swampy was a pretty proud dad. Marsh junior kept things simple: no fancy paddle shots or walking across the stumps for him; instead, he would stay still on leg stump guard, make no premeditated movements, pick the length early, and ping them in the V perfectly. Five fifties and a hundred speak for his consistency.

Sanath Jayasuriya
514 runs at 42.83 from 14 games; S/R 166.34; 309 balls faced: 162 dot balls, 57 fours, 31 sixes
Jayasuriya's success can be gauged by the fact that his IPL performances persuaded the Sri Lankan sports minister to put pressure on the national selectors to pick him for Sri Lanka's next ODI series. Jayasuriya started the tournament slowly, picked up steam, and exploded brilliantly in a flurry of violent short-arm pulls and cuts after Sachin Tendulkar joined the side. Those powerful forearms unfurled the most sixes in the tournament, and he finished with the best strike-rate of any batsman who scored more than 450 runs. His big moment of weakness couldn't have come at a worse time for Mumbai - against Rajasthan, he failed to collect a throw that would have put his side into the semi-final - but by then he had done enough to stamp his name on the tournament.

Gautam Gambhir
534 runs at 41.07 from 14 games; S/R 140.89; 379 balls faced: 134 dot balls, 68 fours, 8 sixes
He was the one of the stars in the World Twenty20, and predictably, one of the leading run-getters of the IPL. A cool head and an unhurried technique, and a penchant for staying beside the line of the ball, saw him lead the running for the Orange Cap till late in the piece, when Marsh stole a march on him. "In this format, I don't think about whether my head is still, where my front foot is," Gambhir said. "It's all about instinct." That's the sort of confidence that saw him hit the most fours in the tournament.

Kumar Sangakkara (wk)
320 runs at 35.55 from 10 games; S/R 161.61; 198 balls faced: 69 dot balls, 41 fours, 8 sixes
There was tough competition for this spot from Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but with Shane Warne nominated captain, Sangakkara edges out the Indian ODI captain in the XI. He had a higher strike-rate than Dhoni and rarely failed in crunch situations. Sangakkara did not make dramatic changes to his approach or technique for the IPL. His Twenty20 mantra: "You try and plan exactly what areas are your strength, and you wait for suitable deliveries to come along. All the other deliveries you try to work for a single." Also in his favour is that he was the vice-captain by proxy, providing valuable inputs to Yuvraj Singh.



Maharoof: a McGrath clone, but dangerous with the bat as well © Getty Images
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Shane Watson
472 runs at 47.20 from 15 games; S/R 151.76; 311 balls faced: 114 dot balls, 46 fours, 19 sixes
Long touted as the next great Australian allrounder but for injury problems that did not allow him to showcase his true potential. The IPL changed everything for Watson: he batted furiously, bowled aggressively, and prowled the field. In terms of technique he was the one who made the most adjustments among the high-scoring players in the tournament. He took an off-stump guard, created his own line, and repeatedly swung to his favoured on side. Even while bowling, he ignored the conventional yorkers and slower ones and pitched consistently short. It all paid off, and how.

Yusuf Pathan
435 runs at 31.07 from 16 games; S/R 179.01; 243 balls faced: 89 dot balls, 43 fours, 25 sixes
8 wickets at 28.75; S/R 21.1, econ 8.16

Yusuf emerged out of his younger brother's shadow in the IPL, spectacularly. He showed he could win a game with his violent batting in half an hour, or turn one with his miserly bowling just as quickly. With the second-best strike-rate among batsmen who scored more than 200 - Virender Sehwag was the best, with 184.54 - he was arguably the purest clean hitter of the tournament, thrusting his left leg out of the way and knifing through the line repeatedly. He came to the IPL on the back of a great List A limited-overs tournament on the domestic circuit and continued on his merry way. He reserved his best for the final - a three-wicket haul, in the course of which he ran rings around the batsmen, and an explosive half-century to charge his side home. He couldn't have scripted it better.

Rohit Sharma
404 runs at 36.72 from 13 games; S/R 147.98; 273 balls faced: 100 dot balls, 38 fours, 19 sixes
The most classical and stylish of the IPL's leading batsmen, Sharma batted with a nonchalant ease that defied the hurried format of the game. He took care not to get behind the line too much, but stayed adjacent, saw the ball early and played it late. He repeatedly made room to hit length deliveries over covers, and pulled well. Pity he had to end up carrying his out-of-sorts team on his shoulders and be denied the taste of success. His IPL efforts, coupled with the good showing in the CB Series in Australia, made critics forget his dismal time in the Ranji Trophy - in which he only faced 294 balls all season - and has had purists licking their lips at the prospect of watching him in Tests.

Farveez Maharoof
15 wickets at 16.60 from 10 games; S/R 14.4, econ 6.91
125 runs at 20.83; S/R 158.22

Parsimonious. Nagging. Almost a McGrath clone. A great value-for-money buy for Delhi for just US$200,000, Maharoof tied the batsmen down with his tight line and length, struck vital blows with the bat, and emerged from the tournament with his reputation considerably enhanced. He mixed his pace up and punctuated his slower ones with yorkers. He hit Shane Warne for 27 runs in an over, and even took a running, diving boundary catch reminiscent of Roshan Mahanama to dismiss Yuvraj Singh in one game.



McGrath: normal service resumed © Getty Images
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Sohail Tanvir
22 wickets at 12.09 from 11 games; S/R 11.2, econ 6.46
The best bowler of the IPL, well clear of the pack on the wickets list though he played just 11 games. Tanvir's arms whir like fan blades at release, making it difficult for the batsmen to pick him out of the hand - a crucial advantage in a version of the game where every ball is supposed to go over the fence. He has a slower one that not many read, and fires in yorkers at will. He had the best economy- and strike-rate among bowlers who took more than six wickets in the tournament. No mug with the bat, it was apt that he hit the winning runs in the final for the Rajasthan Royals.

Shane Warne (captain)
19 wickets at 21.26 from 15 games; S/R 11.2, econ 7.76
They said he was the best captain Australia never had, and he proved it by marshalling a bunch of unknowns to stardom. Warne inspired Rajasthan's local Indian players, such as Swapnil Asnodkar, Yusuf, Dinesh Salunkhe, Niraj Patel and Ravindra Jadeja, to play well above their potential, and made sure the big guns like Graeme Smith - with whom he had an infamous past - and Shane Watson kept firing game after game. He constantly improvised - sent Tanvir in as a pinch-hitter, made Dimitri Mascarenhas open the bowling against Virender Sehwag, used Patel as an opener, sent Yusuf and Watson in according to the demands of the situation - and kept the opposition guessing. His bowling, unsurprisingly, was as good as ever and he finished with the second-highest wicket tally.

Glenn McGrath
12 wickets at 29.75 from 14 games; S/R 27, econ 6.61
It was a year since McGrath had played competitive cricket but nothing had changed. The balls leapt off the short-of-length zone around off stump as they had done for a decade. Yo Mahesh, his team-mate, said of him in awe, "He will say, 'Outside off, he'll leave the ball' and that's what the batsman does. Then he'll say, "Legcutter, middle and leg, batsman takes one.' And that's what happens!" McGrath's best was 4 for 29 against the Royal Challengers and the wickets included Rahul Dravid and Ross Taylor. He turned up for practice the day he landed in Delhi. "Do I look fit?'' he asked, reportedly. Plenty of batsmen now wish he hadn't been. And to think he only cost $315,000.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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