After six weeks of voting by our readers, 31 nominees were selected for ESPNcricinfo's all-time IPL XI. Over the past week our 17-member panel, comprising five former Test cricketers and a selection of our staff, got a flavour of life as an IPL team owner, making decisions to ensure their sides achieved the perfect balance. Our panel did not have a budget cap or bidding from competitors to worry about, but despite the lack of those constraints, there were hard choices to be made.
ESPNcricinfo's all-time IPL XI
1. Chris Gayle, 2 Virender Sehwag, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Suresh Raina, 5 Rohit Sharma, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Sunil Narine, 9 R Ashwin, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 11 Lasith Malinga
The panel unanimously decided that AB de Villiers would be the 12th man.
Our all-time XI is a reflection of how some of the best sides in the tournament have lined up - six batsmen, one allrounder, and four specialist bowlers. Some of these batsmen have had success rolling their arm over in the past, and while there was temptation to extend the batting order with an extra man, the final XI has five proven bowlers who will rarely fail as a collective, in any conditions.
The overseas players
Our list of 31 nominees featured 14 overseas players, from which our panel had to choose four, keeping in mind the balance of the side. There were clear trends, starting with a split down the middle while picking the openers. There was, by all accounts and logic, only place for one overseas opener, and Gayle received one more vote than David Warner.
AB de Villiers's omission was partly due to the strength of the all-Indian middle-order, and is likely to spur a few debates below the line. The choice between Bravo and Shane Watson for the lone allrounder's slot was decided based on the lack of room in Watson's favoured batting positions at the top of the order, and Bravo's marginally superior numbers and consistent wicket-taking ability while bowling at the death. The bowlers picked themselves, with Malinga, the tournament's highest wicket-taker, and Narine, its most economical bowler, rounding off the overseas roster.
MS Dhoni was the overwhelming favourite to lead the side. Apart from being statistically the most successful captain over nine seasons, he has led most of the players who make up this squad in his role as India's captain over the best part of the past decade. It is a decision that is hard to argue with, considering his trophy cabinet and prolonged success as the leader of one of the most consistent sides in the IPL.
Record-holders of all manner make up the rest of the XI: the three highest run-getters in the IPL - Raina, Kohli and Rohit - the batsman with the most runs during the tournament's knockout phases - Raina - three of its five most successful captains - Dhoni, Rohit, Kohli - and the format's most prolific run machine at the top of the order - Gayle.