Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: BCCI/IPL)
When it comes to the Indian Premier League (IPL), fans discuss the extraordinary achievements of star players such as Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Shane Warne, and many more illustrious names.
In the cash-rich league, star players become the apple of fans’ eyes while on the other hand, contributions of some players is often forgotten by the supporters. After 16 editions of the T20 extravaganza, these players rocked the tournament with their scintillating performances but did not get enough recognition for their efforts.
Here is the underrated XI of IPL:
1. Ajinkya Rahane (C)
Ajinkya Rahane has been active in the league since 2008 and in these years, he represented teams such as Mumbai Indians (MI), Rajasthan Royals (RR), and Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). The right-handed batter has played 172 matches in his vast IPL career and has amassed 4400 runs with two tons and 30 fifties.
In 2023, he played for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and made a vital contribution to the Yellow Army’s fifth title triumph. Appearing in 14 matches, he scored 326 runs in 11 innings at a marvellous strike rate of 172.48. Playing his maiden game of IPL 2023, he notched up his half-century in just 19 deliveries at the Wankhede Stadium.
Rahane isn’t seen as a dangerous batter in the league as Shikhar Dhawan, Faf du Plessis, and David Warner but it should not be forgotten that the Maharashtra-born batter ended up as the third-leading run-getter in IPL 2015, scoring 540 runs for RR in 13 innings.
2. Shaun Marsh
Back in IPL 2008, Shaun Marsh grabbed a lot of eyeballs for his magnificent batting performance for Punjab Kings (PBKS). Racking up 616 runs with a ton and five fifties in 11 innings, he ended up as the leading run-getter in the maiden IPL edition and also became the first Orange Cap winner.
In IPL’s fourth installment, the Australia batter looked spunky with his bat again. Representing PBKS for the third time, he scored 504 runs with four half-centuries in 13 innings. With these numbers, he concluded the season as the fourth-highest run-scorer. Marsh looked decent with his bat in the 2012 and 2013 seasons as well.
The Aussie remained active in the league until 2017 and during these nine years, he gave his services to Punjab only. He is the second-highest run-scorer for the Punjab-based outlet to date, scoring 2477 runs for the franchise in 69 innings.
3. Robin Uthappa
Robin Uthappa took his retirement from all forms of Indian cricket in September 2022 and with this announcement, he brought down the curtains on his IPL career as well. In his 14-year league career, he piled up 4952 runs in 197 innings of 205 games at a strike rate of 130.35.
In IPL 2014, KKR lifted the coveted trophy for the second time with their three-wicket win against PBKS in the final held at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. Uthappa reinforced KKR’s batting unit throughout the competition and scored 660 runs with five fifties in 16 games to bag the Orange Cap.
CSK won their fourth title in 2021 and Uthappa emerged was an unsung hero. In the crucial playoff contest against Delhi Capitals (DC) in Dubai, the veteran produced a 63-run knock off 44 deliveries to help his team score 173 runs with four wickets in hand.
4. Ambati Rayudu
Ambati Rayudu hung up his boots after playing the IPL 2023 edition for CSK. Back in 2010, the right-handed batter joined MI and scored 356 runs in 14 matches of IPL’s third season. Until 2017, Rayudu was associated with Mumbai and during this period, he scored 2635 runs for the franchise in 136 outings.
In 2018, MI released Rayudu before the 11th IPL auction and CSK, who were making a comeback after a two-year ban, signed up Rayudu for INR 2.2 crore. Chennai won the trophy for the third time and made their comeback memorable. Donning the yellow jersey, Rayudu played an enormous role with his bat in CSK’s success.
Piling up 602 runs in 16 contests at a strike rate of 149.75, he ended up as Chennai’s best batter in the season. Rayudu played his last game against Gujarat Titans (GT) in the IPL 2023 final at the Narendra Modi Stadium. In the important match, the veteran player made a cameo with 19 runs off just eight balls to help his side achieve a target of 171 runs in 15 overs.
5. Yusuf Pathan
Back in 2008, when RR became the first IPL winner under the late Shane Warne’s captaincy, Yusuf Pathan made a major contribution with his bat. Scoring 435 in 15 innings at an impressive strike rate of 179.01, the Baroda-born player ended up as RR’s third-leading run-getter.
In 2010, Royals failed to qualify for the knockouts but Yusuf exuded confidence as a batter. Smashing 333 runs in 14 games at a strike rate of 165.67, he played his part efficiently. Playing his first contest of the season, he hit the fastest IPL hundred against MI at the Barbourne Stadium.
Yusuf’s record was bettered by Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) Chris Gayle against Pune Warriors India at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in 2013. In the IPL 2014 final, KKR beat PBKS and Yusuf showcased his batting mettle with his solid 36-run knock off 22 deliveries to help the former emerge victorious.
6. Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
Wridhimman Saha has been playing in the T20 league since 2008 and in these 15 years, he has hoarded 2798 runs in 161 outings at a strike rate of 128.05. After struggling to be among the runs in the first six IPL installments, the wicketkeeper batter looked confident for PBKS in 2014.
Scoring 362 runs in 13 innings at a superb strike rate of 145.38, Saha put up a decent show with his bat. In the final game against KKR in Bengaluru, he hit an unbeaten 115 off 55 with 18 boundaries (10 fours and eight maximums) to help his team post 199 runs on the board.
In the end, PBKS lost the match but Saha received a lot of appreciation for his excellent batting display. The veteran joined GT for INR 1.9 crore for IPL 2022 and he justified his amount as an opener. In Gujarat’s title win, he chipped in with 317 runs in 11 matches at a strike rate of 122.39 .
7. Dwayne Smith
In IPL, most West Indies players have justified their roles excellently while serving the franchises. Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, and Sunil Narine are perfect examples to corroborate the fact. Back in 2012, Dwayne Smith went unsold in the fifth IPL auction but was signed up by MI midway due to the unavailability of the Australia pacer Mitchell Johnson due to an injury.
In the crucial contest against CSK at the Wankhede Stadium, Smith made his MI debut and scored 14 runs in the last three deliveries against Ben Hilfenhaus and took the Men in Blue home with his unbeaten 24-run innings off nine deliveries.
Mumbai won their maiden title in the 2013 season under Rohit Sharma and the Caribbean player became a silent contributor to the success with his 418 runs in 13 matches. Smith became a part of Chennai in 2014 and this time, he displayed his best with the bat, notching up 566 runs with five fifties in 16 matches.
8. Amit Mishra
Amit Mishra is one of the oldest players in the league who has been active in the T20 extravaganza since 2008. In his massive IPL career, Mishra has picked up 173 wickets in 161 contests at an economy of 7.38. Delhi Capitals (DC) ended their journey in the semi-final against Deccan Chargers in 2009 but Mishra delivered a notable performance to his side.
Bagging 14 wickets in 11 matches at an economy of 7.00, he strengthened the Capitals’ spin-bowling unit magnificently. In 2010, the leggie scalped 17 wickets in 14 matches at an economy of 6.84 and ended up as Delhi’s leading wicket-taker in the season.
In 2011, Deccan Chargers fetched Mishra in the fourth IPL auction and he looked fierce with the ball for the new franchise. Grabbing 19 wickets in 14 contests at an economy of 6.71, he concluded the competition as the fifth-leading wicket-taker. In the IPL 2013 edition, the leg-spinner played for the new franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and took 21 wickets in 17 matches at an economy of 6.35.
9. Imran Tahir
South Africa’s spin wizard Imran Tahir played in the cash-rich league from 2014-21 and in these seven years, he picked up 82 wickets in 59 matches at an economy of 7.76. The leg-break bowler served Delhi from 2014-16 but failed to do wonders with the ball.
In 2017, the Proteas veteran played for Rising Pune Supergiant (RPS), and he fetched 18 wickets in 12 contests at an economy of 7.85. Following his remarkable bowling display for Pune, Chennai signed him up at his basic amount of 1 crore in the IPL 2018 auction.
However, his best for the Yellow Army came in 2019 when he scalped 26 wickets in 17 games at an economy of 6.69 and won the Purple Cap. In the final against MI at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Tahir delivered a frugal and wicket-taking spell to his side, registering 2/23 figures in his three overs.
10. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
India pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar is known for his sensational swing bowling in cricketing circles. In his 13-year IPL career, he has hunted 170 batters in 160 matches at an economy of 7.39. The paceman represented SRH in IPL 2014 and in his debut season for Hyderabad, he ended up as the third-leading wicket-taker with 20 scalps in 14 contests at an economy of 6.65.
In 2016, David Warner guided SRH to their maiden trophy triumph and Bhuvneshwar also shone with the ball. Bagging 23 wickets in 17 games at a fabulous economy of 7.42, he became the recipient of the Purple Cap. To date, SRH supporters remember Warner’s fearless batting in the season but a few only talk about the speedster’s disciplined bowling.
SRH failed to retain the trophy in 2017 but Bhuvneshwar created history with the ball. Fetching 26 wickets in 14 games at an economy of 7.05, he became the first and only bowler to win the Purple Cap for consecutive two seasons.
11. Sandeep Sharma
Sandeep Sharma is one of the most disciplined bowlers in the league. Back in 2013, he made his IPL debut for Punjab Kings (PBKS) in style against SRH in Mohali. In a losing cause, Sandeep won the hearts with his extraordinary bowling, taking 3/21 figures in his four overs.
Playing only four games in his debut season, he ended up with eight wickets at an economy of 7.43. In 2014, PBKS concluded their journey as runner-up, losing to KKR in the final, and Sandeep emerged as the most efficient bowler in the team with 18 wickets in 11 contests.
Sandeep hit the headlines in 2017 again with his remarkable bowling for PBKS. With 17 scalps in 13 contests at an economy of 8.29, he became the best bowler for the Punjab-based outlet in the season. Back in the 2017 season, he also became the first bowler to dismiss RCB’s trio of Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villiers at the M.Chinnaswamy Stadium.