1 SUNIL NARINE (16 matches, 357 runs, SR 189.89, HS 75, 2×50, 17 wickets, SR 21.5, Econ 7.65
Narine had two things going for him: his strike-rate in the Powerplay and his very economical spin bowling, which resulted in the West Indian being named Most Valuable Player of IPL 2018. A proper allrounder in his own right, Narine was destructive at the top, smashing his runs at a strike-rate of 189.89 which was the best for all batsmen with over 75 balls faced. His highest score of 75 off 38 balls powered KKR to the season’s highest total (245/6), but the innings that blew the mind was Narine’s 17-ball fifty in the opening game against RCB. The second most successful spinner of IPL 2018, with a very good economy rate, and a fire-starting option as opening batsman. What’s not to like?
2 SHANE WATSON (15 matches, 555 runs @ 39.64, SR 154.59, HS 117*, 12×100, 2×50)
A match-winning unbeaten century to deliver CSK the IPL trophy automatically added Watson into this list, because an innings of that magnitude, scored while struggling with a hamstring injury, was just impossible to ignore. Even before Watson’s innings of his career on Sunday, the Australian allrounder had scored a game-winning century, two fifties and a series of 30s during the league phase to help CSK to second place on the points table. Such a stupendous season, weeks shy of turning 37, underlines all the reasons that CSK’s owners went for him at the player auction — and what a smart purchase Watson proved to be.
3 KANE WILLIAMSON (17 matches, 735 runs @ 52.50, SR 142.44, HS 84, 8×50)
When David Warner was confirmed to be out of the IPL, many wondered how Sunrisers Hyderabad would fare without their talismanic captain-opener. Williamson ensured that the blow was softened, courtesy a superb run of form that carried his franchise into the playoffs with 18 points. Most critically, he batted SRH through the middle overs while maintaining a very low dot-ball percentage. His tally of 735 runs from 17 innings is the third best for a single IPL season after Virat Kohli (973) and Warner (848) and fetched him the Purple Cap for most runs. Williamson’s marshalling of a very crafty and varied bowling attack was equally important, but he was edged out for the captaincy of this XI by the peerless MS Dhoni.
4 AMBATI RAYUDU (16 matches, 602 runs @ 43, SR 149.75, HS 100*, 1×100, 3×50)
Over 600 runs, with key contributions as opener and No 4, puts Rayudu into our XI. His strike-rate in the middle order was actually higher than when he opened, underscored by an ability to make strong starts despite not having the advantage of the Powerplay. His 37-ball 39 to set up CSK’s win over SRH during the league stage was arguably the middle-order innings of the season, coming as it did on a tough pitch and against the most varied bowling attack of the tournament.
5 RISHABH PANT (14 matches, 684 runs @ 52.61, SR 173.60, HS 128*, 1×100, 5×50)
The batsman of IPL 2018, hands down. All tournament, Pant batted with a crispness and flamboyance that left rival captains and television commentators searching for superlatives. With more support from some of his Delhi Daredevils’ team-mates, Pant could have ended up on the winning side more often. A strike-rate of 173.60, six whirlwind fifties and a scarcely believable 128* off 63 deliveries out of a team total of 187. His final innings was 64 off 44 balls that dragged defending champions Mumbai Indians out with them, and took his run tally to 684 – which is the most scored b a wicketkeeper in any IPL season. No surprise that Pant was name Emerging Player of the Tournament.
6 MS DHONI (16 matches, 455 runs @ 75.83, SR 150.66, HS 79*, 3×50, 14 dismissals)
Aged 36, Dhoni came within five runs of equalling his best-ever returns in an IPL season – which indicates just how influential he was for title-holders CSK. Just look at that strike-rate. This season saw Dhoni the finisher rise to the occasion several times, belting the ball at a ferocious rate. A third IPL title to his name, Dhoni can look back at IPL 2018 with plenty of pride, knowing that his role as captain, batsman and wicketkeeper was unparalleled.
7 HARDIK PANDYA (13 matches, 18 wickets, SR 14.2, Econ 8.92, 260 runs, SR 133.33, HS 50)
At one stage of the tournament, with Mumbai Indians struggling, it looked like Pandya was on the road for a terrible season. But to his credit, his bowling turned potent and he finished as the third-highest wicket-taker, even if the economy was on the higher side. Pandya’s bowling was critical to the defending champions launching a stirring comeback. In three successive matches, each of which MI won, Pandya played starring roles. In back-to-back wins over KKR, he scored 35* off 26 balls and 19 off 13 to go with 2/19 and 2/16, while in the six-wicket win over KXIP he had 1/44 and 23 off 13 balls.
8 RASHID KHAN (17 matches, 21 wickets @ 21.80, SR 19.4, Econ 6.74, BB 3/19)
Lived upto his reputation as the best spinner in T20Is, finishing second best to Tye on the wickets’ table. Rashid’s economy of 6.74 was comfortably the lowest this season, and his ability to strike at the death was equally critical to SRH’s progression to the play-offs. There were doubts after two expensive and wicketless matches before the mid-point of the season, but Rashid dispelled all those with sustained excellence in the latter half. For his impact, look no further than the Eliminator versus KKR, when he smashed an unbeaten 34 off 10 balls, took 3/19 and held two catches to go with a run out.
9 UMESH YADAV (14 matches, 20 wickets @ 20.90, SR 15.9, Econ 7.86, BB 3/23)
Umesh had a superb IPL, finishing third in the wickets column. He looked renewed under Virat Kohli’s captaincy and repeatedly dished out spicy spells of fast bowling that had opposing batsmen hopping. Fast bowling has long been a bugbear for RCB, but in Umesh they found a strike bowler who could deliver breakthroughs up front on a regular basis (14 of his 20 wickets came during the Poweplay overs). Thrice he took wickets off successive deliveries during the Powerplay, most famously against Mumbai when he bounced out Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma. When KXIP were bundled out for 88 in 15.1 overs, Umesh was at the forefront with 3/23 with a barrage of short stuff during the Powerplay.
10 SIDDARTH KAUL (17 matches, 21 wickets @ 26.04, SR 18.8, Econ 8.28. BB 3/23)
Ignore his wicketless two overs for 32 runs in the final, and Kaul was a highly valuable asset for runners-up SRH. A few very fine penultimate overs during the season underlined his skill at the death, while his spells in the first Qualifier (back-to-back dismissals of Suresh Raina and Rayudu) and Eliminator (getting Narine pulled back KKR) were worth their weight in gold. His 21 wickets were joint second best with team-mate Rashid, further indication of how important Kaul was in IPL 2018. Even though Kaul leaked the most runs in the IPL (547), gear in mind he also bowled the most overs in the IPL 2018 (66) after his counterpart Rashid Khan (68). His striker rate with the ball was better than the likes of Rashid, Jasprit Bumrah and Narine. He finds a place in the XI as the leading uncapped Indian bowler on show this season.
11 JASPRIT BUMRAH (14 matches, 17 wickets @ 21.88, SR 19, Econ 6.18, BB 3/15)
The second best economy rate for all bowlers to have bowled more than 20 overs, and the fifth highest wicket-taker. His best figures of 3/15 came in a three-run win over KXIP, in which conceded just four runs during the 17th over and in the 19th only six while dismissing Rahul for 94. An economy of 3.75 in a match where the others went at 8.72 underlined Bumrah’s excellence at the death. Another superb showing was his 1/19 in four overs against KXIP in Indore, when he bowled 11 dot balls and choked the home team’s chase on a small ground. There were a few off days, such as the losses against CSK and Rajasthan Royals when his lengths went missing, but overall Bumrah was an asset.
12th MAN: 1 KL RAHUL (14 matches, 659 runs @ 54.91, SR 158.41, HS 95*, 6×50)
After he got Kings XI Punjab’s campaign going by smashing the tournament record for fastest fifty, off just 17 balls, Rahul spoke about his desire to change impressions of being a “Test player”. Thirteen innings later, he bowed out of the tournament with 659 runs at a superb strike-rate and average, having hit six half-centuries in all. Rahul crossed 20 in all but two innings, and his form was directly related to KXIP staying in contention for the play-offs until their last match. He was reliable behind the stumps too, effecting 11 dismissals.