Date: May 12, 2019. Venue: Hyderabad. Protagonists: Two of the most successful Indian Premier League sides, on the verge of creating history.
And at the end of a rare cricket match where both teams seemed determined to lose, Mumbai Indians edged past arch-rivals Chennai Super Kings to stake claim as the single most successful side in the history of the tournament. Before the match started, both teams were tied with three titles. When the match ended with a Lasith Malinga special (preceded by some Jasprit Bumrah magic), MI moved ahead in the race.
On March 29, 2020 the two sides were supposed to renew their stories rivalry at the Wankhede Stadium. The tournament’s two most popular sides would have made their bow in front of a packed stadium in Mumbai... but the coronavirus has had other ideas.
With the wait for IPL 2020 ongoing, fans have had to be content with memories of their favourite teams from the past 12 seasons. On that note, we take a look at which players would make it to the all-time best XIs of the two greatest teams the tournament has seen so far.
MI top 10 bowlers
MI top 10 batsmen
Let’s start with the obvious picks. And the reality is that more than half the all-time MI side picks itself.
If you have a captain who has led you to all four titles, then he is a candidate for the greatest captain the tournament has seen, leave alone the all-time XI. Rohit Sharma becomes the first name of the paper just for his leadership. That fact that he has scored more than 300 runs in all but one edition so far and also, by some distance, the leading run-scorer for the franchise just makes his selection glaringly obvious. It is sometimes easy to forget Rohit played three seasons for Deccan Chargers (and won a title with them too) before making his mark at MI, his home franchise. Destiny, you could say.
The next name on the team sheet has to be Malinga, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker. A grand total of 170 wickets at a stunning strike rate of 16.6 makes him arguably the best pacer in IPL history.
Then comes the the trio of all-rounders who will walk into any good T20 side in the world. In Pollard and the Pandya brothers, MI have three players who feature in their top bowlers as well as batsmen list.
Indian cricket owes a great deal to MI and John Wright for unearthing the pace sensation that is Bumrah. And in no time, he has climbed up the wicket-takers charts.
That makes it six definite picks for an all-time XI from just the current crop of players.
In Harbhajan Singh and Ambati Rayudu, MI can welcome two players from the current CSK squad into their best ever side. Apart from the aforementioned all-rounder trio, Harbhajan also features in the top bowlers and batsmen lists for the franchise where he enjoyed great success before moving on to the other side. As for Rayudu, it is with MI that the outrageously talented cricketer, who had lost his way, initially found his footing again. The enigmatic cricketer Hyderabad who is behind only Rohit and Pollard in the run-scorers list will also don the gloves for the all-time MI XI.
And yes, without any further delay, it is time to call upon a certain Sachin Tendulkar into the best MI side of all time. The fact that IPL came at the fag end of his career is the only reason we waited this long before making the pick. Some might remember an awkward Tendulkar at the top of MI’s batting order, not quite knowing how to strike a balance between orthodox and unorthodox cricket but let’s not forget that he was the orange cap winner of the 2011 season with 600-plus runs that year.
We are now left with two slots in the side and with just two overseas players selected so far, we look away from the Indian players to complete the process.
The opening partner for Tendulkar has to be one among Sanath Jayasuriya and Lendl Simmons. And it is the West Indies player who gets the nod based on the sheer weight of his numbers. In a few seasons time, Quinton de Kock might just walk into this side but for now, the vote goes to Simmons.
Now to the final overseas slot. It’s kind of fitting that the overseas pacer position in the side is the one we come to last because it is one area that the franchise has, in general, struggled to get right over the recent years. The top 10 list above would tell you Mitch McClenaghan is the choice here but, in this case, we have to look past numbers. The Kiwi pacer has often come under fire in the death overs and is regarded by MI fans as a weak link. It is here that we look to the Aussie legend Mitchell Johnson, who won the title for his side with a sensational final over against RPS in 2017. The fact that he has the best strike rate (16.2) among bowlers with more than 10 wickets for MI also makes him the strike option for the side.
Chennai Super Kings
CSK top 10 bowlers
CSK top 10 batsmen
The glass-half-empty brigade will tell you CSK, who have reached a total of 8 IPL finals, have lost more IPL finals (5) than they have won (3). The glass-half-full type will point to the fact that just making it to the finals 8 times in 10 seasons will count as a stupendous achievement, to go with the fact that CSK remain the only side to make it to the playoffs every time they have been part of IPL.
And as the captain, leader and legend of such a consistent side, MS Dhoni is the first name of the team sheet. He is followed by Mr. Consistency as far as batting in the IPL is concerned. Suresh Raina has never scored below 300 runs in an edition of IPL. Even when he has looked rusty as he has done in the last two editions, he managed to score more than 380 runs in both seasons. The yellow jersey brings out the best in Raina.
Then, the man who adds so much flavour to this CSK side. DJ Bravo has been the most important overseas player in this CSK side over the years with as much impact off the field as on it. It helps that he is also the only CSK player to feature in both the batsmen and bowlers lists above.
He might not be part of his home franchise anymore but CSK is where Ashwin had his breakthrough as a cricketer of irrefutable quality. He is behind only Bravo on the wicket-takers list. In the now defunct Champions League T20 where CSK were twice champions, Ashwin and Raina are (by some distance) the best performers for CSK with the ball and bat respectively.
The second overseas slot in the side goes to Mr. Cricket, Michael Hussey. An average of a shade over 42 is incredible in the shortest format for a top order batsman and the Australian legend showed time and again for CSK why he is one of the greatest players to have worn yellow.
Ravindra Jadeja might not have quite lived up to the reputation of rockstar in CSK colours but for his three-dimensional skillset, he still makes it to the all-time XI for the three-time champs. He is already third on the wicket-takers list for CSK and could well finish on top if he remains with the side in the future.
Albie Morkel’s towering sixes for CSK, his crucial wickets at crucial junctures made him a fan favourite and he walks into the all-time XI for his all-round skills.
Unlike MI though, the fight for the remaining slots in this CSK side is tighter. With just one overseas slot left, one has to choose between Matthew Hayden, Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir and Doug Bollinger.
Imran Tahir is a firm favourite among CSK fans these days but with Ashwin and Jadeja in the side, the ‘Parasakthi Express’ will have to miss out. Bollinger’s importance to the side in the early days of the IPL cannot be understated but in Mohit Sharma and Deepak Chahar, two solid Indian pacers will make it to the final XI, thereby freeing up space for one of the overseas batsmen.
Watson and du Plessis have both come up with match-winning performances in the last two years for CSK and have been vital cogs in the batting lineup (the former more so than the latter). The Aussie has scored two centuries as well. But for the sheer impact he had in those early days of the tournament (remember the mongoose bat?) Hayden edges Watson (and Murali Vijay) as the opener for this side.
While Vijay also has the numbers in his favour, his case is similar to that of McClenaghan for MI: the numbers are the result of being in the side for a long time without ever convincing as a legit contender for an all-time XI. The Tamil Nadu opener had one sensational season but with Hussey and Hayden now set as the openers, we go to ‘umbrella man’ S Badrinath in the middle order to finish the XI. A strong case could be made for Watson-Vijay in the final equation but the Hayden-Badrinath selection offers this CSK side greater balance, something Dhoni craves as the captain.
All time MI-XI vs all-time CSK XI
|Mumbai Indians||Chennai Super Kings|
|Sachin Tendulkar||Matthew Hayden|
|Lendl Simmons||Michael Hussey|
|Ambati Rayudu||Suresh Raina|
|Rohit Sharma||S Badrinath|
|Kieron Pollard||MS Dhoni|
| Hardik Pandya||Albie Morkel|
|Krunal Pandya||Dwayne Bravo|
|Mitchell Johnson||Ravindra Jadeja|
| Harbhajan Singh||R Ashwin|
|Jasprit Bumrah||Deepak Chahar|
|Lasith Malinga||Mohit Sharma|
And now that we have arrived at what we feel at the all-time MI and CSK XIs, it brings up the tantalising question of who would have won this dream match-up?
Let us know who you think would have come out on top in the match in the comments sections or on Twitter. And also let us know if you have a different all-time XI in mind for either team.
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