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Indian Premier League 2021

CricViz’s IPL team of the season

by Ben Jones 5 minute read

With the 2021 IPL postponed just after the halfway point in the group stage, Ben Jones picks CricViz’s IPL team of the tournament so far.

1. Prithvi Shaw (Delhi Capitals)

Prithvi Shaw came into this tournament in red-hot form from the Vijay Hazare Trophy, having plundered 827 runs in just eight innings, averaging a staggering 165. That good touch wasn’t wasted once the IPL began, building a formidable and balanced partnership with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order. Shaw was tasked with being the aggressor of the pair, and he managed it with ease, scoring at 9.9 runs per over (rpo) across eight matches while averaging a more than sufficient 38.50. Scores of 72 (38) v Chennai, 32 (17) v Punjab, and a quite remarkable 82 (41) v Kolkata, were the stylish standouts for the young opener.

2. Shikhar Dhawan (Delhi Capitals)

Prithvi’s partner opening the batting for Delhi Capitals also makes it into the team of the ‘season’. Shikhar Dhawan is the second-leading run-scorer in the last three years of IPL, and 2021 was similarly prolific, with the left-hander in possession of the Orange Cap as the competition was drawn to a halt. Excellence against spin was the most obvious aspect of his game this year, averaging 79.50 and scoring at 7.3rpo.

3. Moeen Ali (Chennai Super Kings)

Moeen Ali has been a key addition to Chennai Super Kings’ squad in 2021, helping transform them from bottom of the table fodder, to play-off contenders – or maybe more. With bat (206 runs @ 9.4rpo) the Englishman contributed to a renewed vigour and aggression in CSK’s batting, and with ball (5 wickets, averaging 14.80, economy 6.2rpo) he offered variety to an attack that thrived on its flexibility rather than individual stardom. Short sharp batting efforts (only one half-century, all but one innings quicker than 8.5rpo) gave impetus to the lengthy batting order, and set the tone and template for the team as a whole – his Attack Rating was the third highest of any established batsman in the tournament.

4. Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals)

Given the shortened season, the opportunity for a player to stand out due to a single innings was increased, and that’s exactly what happened with Sanju Samson. His first innings of the season – his first as captain of Rajasthan Royals – saw him batter 119 (63) against Punjab Kings. Almost single-handedly taking RR to victory, Samson fell just metres short of leading them to a chase of 222, agonisingly caught on the boundary from the final ball. However, his individual performance will live on; his Batting Impact, +52, is the fourth highest for any batting innings in the last six seasons of IPL. While he was effective at other times in the competition (currently in a run of three consecutive 40+ scores), that one night in Mumbai was enough on its own to get him in this side.

5. Glenn Maxwell (Royal Challenger Bangalore)

Glenn Maxwell struggled enormously in IPL 2020. Cobbling together just 108 runs in 13 innings, the Australian was released by Punjab Kings. At the auction earlier this year, RCB gave him one last chance, placing their faith in his obvious T20 pedigree – and he’s repaid them wholeheartedly. Two innings in particular – 59 (41) v SRH, and 78 (49) v KKR – showed his talent to its full extent, Maxwell able to cope with the turning ball on tricky Chennai surfaces better than anyone on either side barring AB de Villiers, a caveat most batsmen would dream of. His batting Impact in the KKR knock was +29, the third highest for any innings in the tournament, and the fifth highest for any of Maxwell’s 84 IPL innings. As well as these standout individual moments, he backed it up with consistency – Maxwell’s average of 47.33 against spin, scoring at 9.7rpo, was a key component in an RCB middle order given plenty of responsibility, often working with shallow batting depth alongside an expectation to score briskly at the death.

6. AB de Villiers (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

For similar reasons, AB de Villiers also makes it into the XI. Arguably the best T20 batsman the game has ever seen, his performances rarely shock or surprise anymore, because our expectations are so high, but occasionally he still manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat. His 48 (27) against Mumbai Indians was such a moment. In pursuit of 160, RCB had slipped to 106-5, then 122-6, with only de Villiers remaining of the main batting group and the required rate touching 12 – and Jasprit Bumrah still to come. With the game on the line, de Villiers just went up a gear, taking Trent Boult for 14 in an over, then Bumrah for 12, before the tail finished it off in the final over. A few days later, he decimated Andre Russell to take 76 (34) from under KKR’s noses, and the prevailing sense was that with de Villiers in this sort of form, RCB were a seriously impressive outfit.

7. Ravindra Jadeja (Chennai Super Kings)

If Moeen Ali was the necessary addition to spark CSK into life, Ravindra Jadeja was the most obvious flame. A rockstar if ever there was one, Jadeja’s season was a series of high-profile, attention grabbing moments. Most notably, he became only the second batsman in IPL history to score 36 runs from a single over, when he dismantled Harshal Patel’s final (seven-ball) over when Chennai met RCB. It was a perfect illustration of Jadeja’s hitting power, and was immediately matched by his wicket-taking threat, as figures of 4-1-13-3 completed one of the most remarkable all-round performances the competition has seen. It wasn’t confined to that match only though, as a batting average of 131 (scoring rate 9.7rpo) alongside a 6.7rpo economy attests.

8. Chris Morris (Rajasthan Royals)

Chris Morris had heaps of pressure on him going into this season, after becoming the most expensive auction signing in the history of the IPL. However, his performances in Rajasthan Royals pink this season went some way to paying that cost back. A raid on Delhi Capitals – one of his former sides – saw him crash 36* (18) to take RR home in a tense finish at the Wankhede, but it’s with the ball that he’s left his mark. 14 wickets in seven matches has seen Morris take control of the attack in Jofra Archer’s absence, his pace through the middle overs and death bowling a huge part of Rajasthan’s structure in the absence of the two English stars.

9. Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad)

In a faltering Sunrisers Hyderabad side, Rashid Khan has stuck out like a sore thumb. Only two of their bowlers recorded a positive Average Bowling Impact: Rashid, and Jason Holder who played only one match. 10 wickets in seven matches, with an economy of just 6.1rpo, is hard to turn down, and while Sunrisers tanked amidst on-field confusion and apparent off-field politicking, Rashid continued on, as the best T20 spinner in the world.

10. Deepak Chahar (Chennai Super Kings)

The third CSK player to make it into this XI is Deepak Chahar. An unassuming traditional swing bowler, with a very solid IPL record, Deepak’s consistent role in yellow has been a hallmark of their traditional style of play, continually bowling two, three or even four overs with the new ball. However, while the CSK batting has seen something of a revolution in terms of their intent, Deepak has offered a flavour of classic CSK. 83 per cent of his bowling this season has been done in the powerplay, and nobody in any side can match his tally of seven wickets in that opening phase (striking every 17 balls). Four of them came in one match, against KKR, with that burst all but sealing the game before lacklustre efforts by the rest of CSK’s middling seam attack allowed Morgan’s side back into the game, but for Deepak it was job done.

11. Avesh Khan (Delhi Capitals)

Last season, Delhi Capitals’ bowling was defined by their overseas bowling pair of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. However, this season Delhi have gone with only one – Nortje made zero appearances – and the success of that strategy has been defined by Avesh Khan. The young Indian quick has blitzed through the first half of the group stage, taking 14 wickets in eight matches and recording the highest Average Bowling Impact of anyone in the competition. Delhi needed him to succeed if their shift in balance was to work, and he’s delivered.

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