The Indian Premier League (IPL) over the years has seen a number of superstars from all around the world grace the tournament with their top-class performances with both bat and ball. However, it is the local players that have made the most of arguably the toughest T20 league in the world.
Several Indian youngsters have made use of the stage provided by the IPL in order to showcase their skills and prove they belong on the next level of cricket. Indeed, the IPL has proved to be a breeding ground for India's bench strength, the best example of which was their win Down Under last year.
Strongest possible Indian XI of IPL 2021
Although the IPL 2021 was unfortunately suspended due to the COVID-19 cases in the bio-bubble halfway through, it still provided the launchpad for some Indian players to prove their mettle. Not only youngsters but also a few experienced players showed they are good enough to represent the Men In Blue.
On this note, let's have a look at the strongest possible XI of Indian players who did well in IPL 2021:
#1 Shikhar Dhawan
Of late, Shikhar Dhawan was scrutinized for his relatively low strike-rate compared to that of fellow Indian opener Rohit Sharma. Many even felt Dhawan shouldn't be in the reckoning for a spot in the Men In Blue's T20 World Cup squad, picking KL Rahul ahead of the southpaw.
However, the 35-year-old put all doubts to bed after a sensational IPL 2021 season with the bat. He scored 380 runs in 8 games at an outstanding average of 54.28 at a healthy strike-rate of 134.28. He scored three half-centuries and was absolutely brilliant in the powerplay, taking the game to the opposition.
With Rahul struggling to score quick runs in the powerplay, people once again believe that Dhawan is the right partner for Rohit in India's T20 World Cup playing XI.
#2 Prithvi Shaw
Not long ago, Prithvi Shaw became a laughing stock as his poor technique was exposed by the Australian quicks Down Under. He was axed from the Indian squad for the home series against England and knew he had to correct his technical flaws.
Not one to be disheartened, Shaw came back with a bang in the 2021 Vijay Hazare Trophy. He scored an unbelievable 827 runs in just 8 games at a stupendous average of 165.40 including three hundreds and a double ton.
The 21-year-old managed to replicate his form in the IPL 2021 season as well, as he smashed 308 runs in just 8 games at an outstanding strike-rate of 166.48. He was unbelievable in the powerplay and dominated most of the bowling attacks, giving them no respite whatsoever.
Although Shaw has been ignored by the selectors for the Test squad, a stunning IPL season has given the youngster an outside chance of making it to India's T20 World Cup team later this year.
#3 KL Rahul
KL Rahul has been an absolute giant for the Punjab Kings (PBKS), scoring over 2000 runs for them ever since joining them back in the IPL 2018 season. However, his strike-rate was always under scrutiny as many believe he didn't play according to the game situation.
However, Rahul silenced his critics with a fine IPL 2021 season with the bat. The PBKS skipper scored 331 runs from 7 games at a healthy strike-rate of 136.21. Unfortunately, he missed out on their most recent game due to surgery. But KL Rahul has shown he is still good enough to be India's first choice opener in T20Is
#4 Sanju Samson
The Rajasthan Royals (RR) welcomed a new era in their franchise when they appointed star batsman Sanju Samson as their new skipper for the IPL 2021 season. The 26-year-old has been a consistent run-scorer for RR over the years and the franchise hoped he would take his batting to the next level.
Samson had a decent tournament where he scored 277 runs, the highest from his team. His sensational hundred on captaincy debut remains one of the best innings in IPL history. He showed this season that he does have the ability to score consistently and play according to the situation.
#5 Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant was named as the captain of the Delhi Capitals (DC) in the absence of Shreyas Iyer, who was ruled out of the tournament due to a shoulder injury. Pant was in terrific form across formats for India and there were doubts whether the captaincy would add extra burden to his batting.
But the 23-year-old was good in the middle-order, scoring 213 runs from 8 games and registering a couple of half-centuries. He didn't need to do too much as the likes of Dhawan and Shaw were on song at the top of the order. However, Pant showed he had the ability to play responsible knocks.
#6 Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu once again proved to be a total team man as he was given a different role by the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in IPL 2021. The right-hander was slotted in at No.5 and it was obvious he wasn't going to get to face as many deliveries as he would have liked.
However, Rayudu still managed to score 136 runs at a staggering strike rate of 200. His blistering knock of 72 in just 27 balls against MI proved he still has the ability to be successful in T20 cricket.
#7 Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja was in stunning form for India before he was injured Down Under. But he made a superb return to competitive cricket with an impressive IPL 2021 season for CSK. He has arguably become one of the best all-rounders in the world due to his amazing ability in all three departments.
In seven games, Jadeja scored 131 runs at a blistering strike-rate of 161.72 and also picked up six wickets at a brilliant economy of 6.70. He was one of the main reasons why CSK returned to the top of the table.
#8 Harshal Patel
Harshal Patel was traded in from DC by the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). He was identified as a specialist at the death overs and the move paid off immediately. In his very first game of the IPL 2021 season, Patel became the first player to pick up a fifer against MI in IPL history.
Patel had picked up 17 wickets in 7 games and was the holder of the Purple Cap. Although he leaked runs at an economy of 9.17, his wicket-taking ability, coupled with his big-hitting, is what made him feature in this list.
#9 Rahul Chahar
Rahul Chahar has always been a talented bowler, but he couldn't quite have a season where he proved his potential. However, IPL 2021 was a different story as the 21-year-old was the most successful leg-spinner.
In just 7 games, Chahar picked up 14 wickets at an incredible economy of 7.21. He turned the games against KKR and SRH on their heads and gave MI the victories they badly needed in Chennai.
With such a fine performance and Yuzvendra Chahal not being in form, the youngster has surely boosted his chances of making it into India's T20 World Cup squad.
#10 Avesh Khan
DC had a wealth of experienced Indian pacers with the likes of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav in their ranks. However, they backed a young pacer from Madhya Pradesh in Avesh Khan. The fast bowler had made his name in the 2016 U19 World Cup, and he proved in the IPL 2021 season exactly why he is so highly rated.
The 24-year-old picked up 14 wickets in 8 games and was brilliant at the death with his searing yorkers. He has been named as a reserve in India's Test squad and will be keen to make an impact whenever he gets an opportunity for the Men In Blue.
#11 Jasprit Bumrah
Jasprit Bumrah had a modest IPL 2021 campaign by his standards, picking up just 6 wickets from 7 games. Although he was carted for 56 runs against CSK, Bumrah was exceptional in the other games, boasting an economy rate of just 5.91.
Bumrah has once again proved that he is arguably the most difficult bowler to score runs off at the death. The 27-year-old is a real asset for MI and continues to be one of the best ever talents to come out of the IPL.