We love being architects of our own universe — that small cluster of stars which twinkle to our, and only our, fancy.
In every season, at some point of time, the cricket pundits sit down to decide their own set of eleven players. All the experts have their own set of eleven players. They expect each of their players to be invincible in their own way. This is an age-old exercise, probably as old as cricket itself.
However, over the years with the growth in internet and other forms of media, this privilege has been smoothly transferred to the audiences. A fantasy eleven with an array of stars at disposal and the ability to strategize your own unit makes this game such a fun exercise.
Yet more often in such games, budget becomes a big hindrance. Here with a stringent budget of some undisclosed petty amount I am trying to build a team of players who were near-anonymous to you before the tournament began, but their performances have shown that they deserve equal notice.
The Eleven (in order)
- Richard Levi
- Francois du Plessis
- Ajinkya Rahane
- Owais Shah (c)
- Ambati Rayudu (wk)
- Steven Smith
- Kevon Cooper
- Lakshmipathy Balaji
- Siddharth Trivedi
- Ashok Dinda
- Sunil Narine
Richard Levi – The South African came with a lot of hoopla after hitting the fastest T20 hundred in his very second international match. The explosive opening batsman was lapped up by the Mumbai Indians in the pre-season auction and he did not disappoint his franchise. In the inaugural match, he notched up a lively half-century against Chennai. He mistimed a few in the process but it hardly mattered on that day. Mumbai won the match and Levi collected his man-of-the-match award. Since then he hasn’t really fired, but Tendulkar will tell you that this bloke has serious potential.
He is my obvious choice for the opener’s slot for his aggressive batting and clean hitting which is a must for an opener in this version of the game.
Francois du Plessis- Francois or Faf as they call him is another South African who was a step away from becoming English. After noticing what they were losing, and on the realization that they had already lost a lot, the South African Cricket Board took the wise decision of getting him back to the country of his birth. An excellent batsman at the top and a fine leg-break bowler, du Plessis is already an established player in the South African ODI and T20 team.
One of the fine discoveries South Africa made last year, he has lived up to the expectations of his IPL team, Chennai Super Kings. He has already scored 171 runs from his four games at an average of 34.20, which includes an innings of 71 and another of 49.
He will partner Levi at the top as he is a fine player of pace bowling and has opened with élan for the Super Kings.
Ajinkya Rahane- After being on the fringes for quite some time now, it seems Rahane is finally kicking on the doors of the Indian national team. A player who plays with a compact technique and attempts no rash shot might seem oddball for T20 cricket. But he is clearly the best batsman in the IPL so far. His scores read 98, 0, 40, 19, 103* after five games — stars ahead of his contemporaries.
Rahane has appeared in 11 ODIs and two T20s for India, and has shown enough promise. By batting with aplomb against England on their pitches when the rest of his teammates were running for cover, this lad has shown us how important he will be for India at the top once the stalwarts depart.
The Rajasthan Royals player is my player at number three.
Owais Shah – A player who reminds the county enthusiasts of their beloved Mark Ramprakash and us of our beloved Mohammed Azharuddin, Shah has been through tough times. He might be a veteran of 71 ODIs, but his “abundant promise” as Wisden once wrote, is yet to be fulfilled.
On his days he bats like a fairytale. But after Ramprakash and Hick, the English fans know the actual difference between dreams and reality.
Yet if you thought that at 33 his career is well over, his recent IPL form suggests a different story. He has notched up 204 runs from his five innings for Rajasthan Royals with two fifties — it includes a 76 against Mumbai Indians and 60 in the just concluded match against Bangalore.
He will bat at number four for me, and will hold the team together. With so much experience under his belt, he is also my team leader.
Ambati Rayudu- The first time I had read an article about this player was way back in 2000. Fourteen-turning-fifteen the kid was already a sensation. Sadly, unable to keep up with the public glare he almost faded away.
His resurrection came in the IPL season of 2010. The phoenix had risen; the world stood bemused and took notice.
A technically solid middle-order batsman and a capable wicket-keeper, Rayudu hasn’t really set the field on fire this year. But if his undefeated 47 against Royals was anything to go by, he solves the keeping problem for me.
Steven Smith – In Australia, they know that this young man is destined for bigger things. After his 44 runs blitzkrieg off 22 balls, which won Pune their match against Chennai, we know why the Aussies think so.
A butcher of the ball and a very promising leggie, this man is a boon for any team in any format. Thus, Smith fits in as my batting all-rounder and takes the number six spot.
Kevon Cooper – West Indians haven’t done anything extraordinary in recent years. We often wondered how it is possible for a team with such illustrious past to consistently not produce any bowler of quality. Jerom Taylor and Fidel Edwards are different and so are Andre Russel and Ravi Rampaul; things are suddenly looking a bit better. And now we have Kevon Cooper. In the three IPL matches he has played for Rajasthan Royals this season, he has picked up eight wickets at 12.12 apiece — best being 4/26.
A bowling all-rounder capable of picking up crucial wickets, Cooper is my player at number seven. He adds to the long list of pace bowlers.
Lakshmipathy Balaji – His smile wasn’t all that made him famous in 2003-04 in Pakistan. We know how important a bowler Balaji can be. The people who understand cricket might agree that in a struggling KKR team he has been underplayed this season. Yet when the calling came, the smiling assassin was up to the task. His 4/18 got Kolkata its first victory and Balaji the man-of-the-match award. It should be mentioned that his wickets included Kohli, de Villiers, the dangerous looking rookie Mayank Agarwal and Vettori.
Balaji would be my choice for opening the bowling with Dinda. He is also capable of hitting some lusty blows with the bat when needed.
Siddharth Trivedi – Trivedi is another Indian player who has spent enough time on the fringes. A very hardworking bowler, after looking at the dismal Indian bowling line-up, one realises how unlucky he has been.
One of the heroes for Rajasthan in their first IPL, Trivedi still bowls meticulously — his recent 4/25 against RCB is a living proof.
Trivedi is likely to bowl as first or second change, depending on the situation.
Ashok Dinda – Dinda is one of the positives KKR has brought to Indian cricket. He is considerably fast and has a rawness that’s pleasant. Spotted early in his career and hailed by Ricky Ponting in his very first IPL season as a future international prospect, this pacer has improved a lot since those days. Playing under the captaincy of Ganguly this season seems to have helped him. He rhythmically destroyed Mumbai Indians in his very first match, taking 4/18. Since then he hasn’t been brilliant but has been nothing short of being consistent.
He will partner Balaji with the new ball.
Sunil Narine – This West Indian spinner is known to be magical. He has proved it in various stages of his very short cricket career. Relatively new to international cricket, we hope this man fulfills his promise.
For us, so far, he has provided much-needed entertainment. His 5/19 against Kings XI Punjab was a treat to watch. Narine is my sole regular spinner and this shows my confidence in his ability.
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