In a first for the Indian Premier League, this year will host a special IPL 2020 all-star match, which is expected to feature big names from all eight teams in the competition.
As if the star factor in a regular season isn’t bedazzling enough, the IPL governing council has decided to hold an all-star exhibition match on March 26, three days before the IPL 2020 opener in Mumbai. Details are to be confirmed, but if this is meant to replace the erstwhile tradition of opening ceremonies – unfortunately mostly in the plural, and always cringe max – we’ll pick up our pom poms and join its cheer squad.
According to reports, players from the northern and eastern Indian franchises, i.e. Delhi Capitals, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders will form one team. The other will feature players from the franchises from southern and western India, i.e Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
There is still no clarity on how the players will be chosen and if all the big names, including the overseas signings, will be available for selection. We at Wisden, though, eager for the chance to line up our own galacticos, with neither budget nor fantasy league rules to hold us back, took a crack at choosing an XI for both teams.
We picked from their full IPL 2020 squads, as announced after the auction in December. Each team has four overseas names, and has been listed in the expected batting order.
All-star South-West XI
David Warner (SRH), Rohit Sharma (MI), Virat Kohli (RCB), AB de Villiers (RCB), MS Dhoni (c, wk) (CSK), Kieron Pollard (MI), Hardik Pandya (MI), Ravindra Jadeja (CSK), Rashid Khan (SRH), Deepak Chahar (CSK), Jasprit Bumrah (MI).
This team picks itself. The IPL titans, with their trophies, and records, and numbers before which the mortals baulk – and Deepak Chahar.
The places of any of this top four and Bumrah, especially on present form, is indisputable, and let’s nobody waste the next 10 minutes of our lives listing their train of T20 and IPL records in support of a debate nobody should even consider.
Dhoni, presently on his own version of a rumspringa, has no ‘form’ to back his inclusion, but Chennai’s yellow has always brought out the best in him, and if the IPL’s biggest star isn’t part of an all-star line-up, we might as well all pack up and go home.
Warner, de Villiers, the big-hitting Pollard and the ever-effective Rashid Khan take the overseas spots.
Pandya, his injury recovery allowing, is the first-choice all-rounder. Jadeja, who has fewer fifties than all-rounders Krunal Pandya and Washington Sundar, makes up for that gap with his fielding and strong bowling performances. Simply as a spinner who takes the ball away from a right-hander, Yuzvendra Chahal deserves a place, but we find Jadeja, based on most recent evidence in New Zealand, where he was economical even on those small grounds, while showing off pace variations, offers a better all-round package.
Among pacers, Chahar has proved himself most adept in the power play and with the new ball, giving him an edge over Navdeep Saini. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, too, is a strong contender, but Chahar’s better figures in IPL 2019, where he bowled 190 dots to Bhuvneshwar’s 168, and had a strike-rate of 17.59 as against his senior’s 27.23, works in the Chennai man’s favour.
All-star North-East XI
KL Rahul (KXIP), Shikhar Dhawan (DC), Steve Smith (c) (RR), Shreyas Iyer (DC), Ben Stokes (RR), Rishabh Pant (wk) (DC), Andre Russell (KKR), K Gowtham (KXIP), Pat Cummins (KKR), Shreyas Gopal (RR), Mohammed Shami (KXIP)
The churn in the teams from the north and east, and their dependence on a host of big overseas names, made this a team that was difficult to pick. Apart from Andre Russell, who has single-handedly won games from impossible positions for Kolkata in recent years, nobody is a unanimous pick. And even with Russell, what’s his best batting position: at No.4, where he could get plenty of time to make a difference, or as No.6-7, purely as a finisher? Decisions, decisions.
At the end, we’d like to think our side is more like Delhi Capitals, taking a punt on local youth and promise, rather than Kings XI Punjab, who, 12 years into the competition, still appear to be asking, ‘Huh?’
There is no room for Gayle in this squad. Not when it needs Smith’s genius, Stokes’ versatility, Russell’s mad power and Cummins’ control. That means there is also no room for Glenn Maxwell’s showmanship (on and off the field), Marcus Stoinis’ form or Jos Buttler’s explosiveness, which is unproven in the middle order and surplus to requirement at the top. The pace of Kagiso Rabada and Jofra Archer is tempting, but Cummins is the most expensive foreign player ever for a reason, offering adaptability in where he can bowl, and promising economy. Sunil Narine, a veritable IPL star, has seen his bowling falling off in recent seasons, and since we don’t need him as an opener, it is with a heavy heart that we leave him out.
Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Coulter-Nile …
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) December 19, 2019
Dhawan’s experience ties the line-up together, giving Rahul, one of the best openers in recent years, the licence to go on the attack. Iyer and Pant add verve, edging out another promising youngster in Shubman Gill.
In a team with two stellar all-rounders in Stokes and Russell, K Gowtham is there to offer depth and another spin option. He is preferred over R Ashwin and Axar Patel, based on his tendency in the past year to come up with the rare high-impact match-winning effort with the bat, but only just.
Kuldeep Yadav is arguably one of India’s finest wrist-spinners, but recent IPL form dictates that Shreyas Gopal, who has an excellent record against Kohli and de Villiers, takes the wrist-spinner’s spot.
Despite the presence of the two fast-bowling all-rounders, Shami claims the final spot, with his knowledge of local conditions and formidable recent record at the death. Sorry Ishant Sharma.