The mini Auction for the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) got over in Chennai on Thursday. There were a few surprises, some bold purchases, some big players left out and we had a new most expensive player in the history of the Auctions too! The 8 teams seem to have covered most of the bases and are all set for the mega event to be held in India from early April. While the all-rounders and bowlers attracted the big mollah, this auction was not very productive for the batsmen.
Yet, there are a few teams which stand out for their amazing depth in batting which could dominate any bowling attack in the tournament. We look at the strongest batting unit in IPL 2021.
The Batting Which Matters - KL Rahul, Chris Gayle, Dawid Malan, Nicholas Pooran, Mayank Agarwal, Fabian Allen
Punjab Kings will be led by KL Rahul who has been the best batsman of the IPL in the last three seasons. Rahul has been a run-machine with the highest collective aggregate between 2018-20. The Indian limited overs sensation was the third-highest scorer in 2018 with 659 runs in 14 matches at a strike rate of 158.41. Rahul was again the second-highest run-getter in 2019 with 593 runs in 14 matches at an average of 53.9 recording a hundred and 7 fifties in the competition. He made it a hat-trick of great performances scoring 670 runs in 14 matches including a hundred and 5 fifties in UAE last year. Such phenomenal consistency in the IPL has seldom been witnessed before in the tournament’s history!
There is no need for any statistics for the Universe Boss - Chris Gayle widely considered as the greatest T20 batsman of all-time. But just for the record the left-hander has an aggregate of 4772 runs in 132 IPL matches at an average of 41.13 and strike rate of 150.11. No one has registered more hundreds than his 6 in IPL history. He was the Orange Cap holder (maximum runs in the tournament) for two consecutive seasons in 2011 and 2012. Gayle also has the record for the fastest hundred in IPL history - of 30 deliveries against Pune Warriors India in Bengaluru in 2013. Only David Warner and AB de Villiers have aggregated more runs amongst overseas players in the history of the IPL than Gayle. No one has hit more sixes than Gayle’s 349 in the tournament.
Dawid Malan reached the maximum ranking points for T20I cricket and has an average of 53.43 and strike rate close to 150 for England. He has scored 855 runs in just 19 matches including a hundred and 9 fifties for his country. He was a great buy at only Rs 1.5 crore for the Punjab Kings. Malan has displayed two qualities consistently in his T20I career - to score big runs at a very high strike rate. This makes him doubly dangerous in the format. Malan smashed an unbeaten 99 off just 47 deliveries against South Africa to help England chase down the target of 192 within 18 overs in Cape Town in December, 2020. He had blasted 103 off just 51 balls to take England to 241 for 3 - their highest team total in T20I cricket in November, 2019 in Napier.
Nicholas Pooran has a reputation and a strike rate of 106.51 in ODI cricket and 145.31 in all T20 cricket. He has an aggregate of 521 runs in 21 IPL matches and scores his runs at a rate of 165.39 - amongst the best in the history of the IPL! In a lone effort Pooran blasted 77 off just 37 deliveries (7 sixes) against Sunrisers in Dubai in 2020. He was amongst the highest scorers of the Caribbean Premier League in 2020.
Mayank Agarwal, the India international, is an attacking opening batsman capable of dominating the best attacks in the world on his day. He has played 147 T20 matches scoring 3393 runs at a strike rate of almost 135. Agarwal has had two fine seasons in the IPL in 2019 and 2020. He scored 332 runs in 13 matches at a strike rate touching 42 in 2019 while aggregating 424 runs in 11 matches at a strike rate of 156.45 in the UAE in 2020. Agarwal blasted a magnificent 106 off just 50 deliveries including 10 fours and 7 sixes against the Royals in Sharjah.
In addition, Punjab Kings also have amongst their ranks the bowling all-rounder from the Caribbean, Fabian Allen who can be devastating in the lower-order. Allen has a strike rate of close to 160 in all T20 cricket. He smashed a 32-ball 51 against Sri Lanka in the 2019 World Cup at Chester-le-Street.
The great thing about the batting line-up of Punjab Kings is that they have all the bases covered. While Gayle will go helter-skelter at the top, Rahul will play anchor and look to bat throughout the innings as he has in the previous two editions. They have Agarwal as a back-up opener. The middle order will be boosted by the presence of the Englishman, Dawid Malan who will play the role of the playmaker at number 4. Nicholas Pooran will be the finisher batting in the lower middle-order.