One hundred and forty five. That's the number of players who got a game in this year's IPL. That means a potential 10 quadrillion combinations of ESPNcricinfo's tournament XI. Fortunately, it wasn't as complex an exercise: unlike earlier occasions where we usually have each staff member sending in their XIs and spots being filled by names that get the most mentions, this time it was more of an actual selection meeting deliberation.
Six from the XI were unanimous picks: Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma stood out as captains, and were also among the better domestic batsmen on show; two left-arm fast bowlers Ashish Nehra and Mitchell Starc; and Yuzvendra Chahal and Harbhajan Singh as the two spin options.
Three batsmen, three bowlers. Now the remaining five spots. Given the format, the openers were expectedly among the highest run-scorers. David Warner, Ajinkya Rahane and Lendl Simmons led the pack this season, and Parthiv Patel was the best wicketkeeper-batsman in the tournament. Not to forget the impressive season that Shreyas Iyer had for Delhi Daredevils. Also, with more runs than both Kohli and Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers surely had done enough to slot in among the remaining three overseas spots.
Then the allrounders from the West Indies. (Being West Indian was not a selection criterion). Andre Russell had three Man-of-the-Match performances, Dwayne Bravo was the leading wicket-taker, and Kieron Pollard stepped up when it mattered for Mumbai Indians. For his consistency with both bat and ball, Russell won our nod, though we did debate if we should have another.
Back to the openers. One suggestion was to stick with Mumbai's pair of Parthiv and Simmons. But Warner had a far more impressive strike rate than Simmons. And if both Warner and Simmons featured, then there would be no place for de Villiers. So, we picked Warner as an opener and de Villiers in the middle order. To partner Warner, the call was between Rahane and Parthiv. The other option was to have de Villiers keep wickets as well, which he didn't in this IPL, and pick an Indian middle-order batsmen instead of Parthiv, but the lack of options and taking the easy cheat-sheet route made it a no-go. Final decision: Rahane opens, Parthiv moves down the order.
Our 12th man would be Bravo: in case the bowling needed beefing up, he could replace either Warner or de Villiers. The XI has six batsmen (two of them wicketkeepers, too), one fast-bowling allrounder, two left-arm fast bowlers and two spinners. Four from the Royal Challengers made the XI, while Warner was the only one from our XI last year who made the cut in 2015. For the captain's spot, who better than a man with two IPL titles: Rohit Sharma.
The IPL 2015 XI
1. David Warner (Sunrisers) - 562 runs, average 43, strike-rate 157
2. Ajinkya Rahane (Royals) - 540 runs, average 49, strike-rate 131
3. Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers) - 505 runs, average 46, strike-rate 131
4. AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers) - 513 runs, average 47, strike-rate 175
5. Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians) - 482 runs, average 34, strike-rate 145
6. Andre Russell (Knight Riders) - 326 runs, average 36, strike-rate 193, 14 wickets, average 23, economy rate 8
7. Parthiv Patel (Mumbai Indians) - 339 runs, average 26, strike-rate 138
8. Harbhajan Singh (Mumbai Indians) - 18 wickets, average 25, economy rate 7.8
9. Mitchell Starc (Royal Challengers) - 20 wickets, average 15, economy rate 6.8
10. Ashish Nehra (Super Kings) - 22 wickets, average 20, economy rate 7.2
11. Yuzvendra Chahal (Royal Challengers) - 23 wickets, average 18, economy rate 8.9
Mathew Varghese is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo