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Who is the best player in IPL history?

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the finest domestic T20 leagues in the world and is one of the most anticipated tournaments. The who’s who of world cricket descend each year to take part in the extravaganza that is IPL and the competition is fierce. In a tournament that has some of the finest cricketers on the planet, the answer to who is the best player is tricky. However, there is one name that stands out – Virat Kohli.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore captain, Kohli is undoubtedly the best player in the IPL and there are enough statistics to back him. Let’s have a closer to as to what makes Kohli the best player in the IPL history. We will also take a closer look at some of the other names that stand out in the tournament’s rich history.

Note: All numbers and statistics have been taken up till the end of IPL 2020.

1) Virat Kohli (Royal Challengers Bangalore)
Matches 192 | Runs 5878 | Average 38.17 | 50s 39 | 100s 5

The leading run-scorer in the Indian Premier League, Kohli has time and again proven why he is regarded the best batsman of the current generation. No other batsman has more runs than Kohli in the IPL. The 32-year-old has amassed 5878 in 192 IPL matches averaging a strong 38.17. He has cracked 39 half-centuries and 5 centuries as well in the tournament. Despite not always known for his power-hitting, Kohli has a strike rate of 130.7 and has hit 503 fours and 201 sixes in the 13 years of IPL.

Kohli is one of the very few players to have played for only one franchise, that is Royal Challengers Bangalore. He was acquired by the Bangalore-based team in 2008 for a mere 20 lakhs and his improvement can be gauged from the fact that Kohli currently draws a salary of 17 crore per IPL season.

Let’s breakdown each of Kohli’s seasons which will help you take a better look as to what makes this player the best in IPL.

2008 – Kohli did not have the best of starts to his IPL career. In the first season, he played 13 matches where he could only score 165 runs at an average of 15 and a strike rate of 105.1. His highest score in that edition was a mere 38. It could well have been curtains for the then 19-year-old but the team kept faith in the batsman and he was retained for IPL 2009 as well.

2009 – The year 2009 was marginally better for Kohli but still pretty underwhelming for a cricketer who had shown so much promise. He scored 246 runs in 16 matches averaging just 22.36. He did score a half-century but maintained a lowly strike rate of just 122.36. However, Bangalore managed to reach the final of the tournament in 2009 and Kohli was once again retained by the team.

2010 – Having already earned a permanent place in the India side, Kohli grew in confidence and 2010 was a better year for him. He started to bat in the top four for his side and helped them win a few matches as well. Kohli scored 307 runs in 16 matches averaging 27.91. His strike rate of 144.8 became one of the talking points as well.

2011 – The year 2011 saw Kohli really come of age. Part of the ODI World Cup winning Indian team, Kohli came into the IPL that season with renewed vigour. He scored 557 runs in 16 innings, averaging a massive 46.42, which included four half-centuries. Kohli was also handed the RCB captaincy that year, and the extra responsibility did him a load of good.

2012 – There was a dip in Kohli’s form in 2012. He only managed 364 runs from 16 matches while his average also took a hit. His form also coincided with RCB not doing too well as they failed to reach the playoffs.

2013 – Kohli was back to his best the next year as he smashed 634 runs in 16 matches at an average of 45.29 with six half-centuries to his name. What stood out was his penchant to remain at the crease even with wickets falling all around. RCB, however, could not eke out enough wins and finished fifth on the points table, failing to qualify for the playoffs once again. Kohli though finished the season as the third-highest run-scorer.

2014 – There was another dip in Kohli’s form in 2014 and this coincided with RCB once again not doing well. In 14 matches, Kohli could manage 359 runs averaging 27.62, one of his lowest across seasons in the IPL. Bangalore finished seventh on the points table and started to become the butt of all jokes on the internet.

2015 – One can’t expect a batsman of Kohli’s class to fail twice in as many seasons. He was back to his best in 2015 scoring 505 runs in 16 IPL matches. As a result Bangalore too qualified for the playoffs and went as far as Qualifier 2 where they lost to CSK in a heart-stopping affair that went to the last ball.

2016 – The year 2016 will always be remembered as Kohli’s year. He produced one of the best performances ever recorded in franchise cricket anywhere in the world scoring runs by the truckload. In 16 matches, Kohli amassed 973 runs, averaging 81.08 which included 7 half-centuries and 4 centuries. He was well on course to score 1000 runs for the season but fell short in the final. Kohli almost single-handedly took RCB into the final of the 2016 season where they fell agonisingly short against a determined Sunrisers Hyderabad unit. Kohli also won the Orange Cap that season.

2017 – Kohli was injured for the first few matches of the 2017 season and did not look his absolute best in the remaining games. He played just 10 matches in IPL 2015 in which he scored 308 runs with his strike rate also taking a hit. It came as no surprise that RCB finished at the bottom of the table that season with just three wins in 14 games.

2018 – The year 2018 turned out to be a much better one for Kohli but RCB continued to remain in the bottom half of the table. Kohli played 14 matches in IPL 2018, in which he scored 530 runs at an average of 48.18. He scored four half-centuries in the season.

2019 – The year 2019 was another consistent one for Kohli in which he scored 464 runs in 14 matches averaging a pretty decent 33.14. However, as has been the case for a lot of the editions, RCB failed to make it to the playoffs.

2020 – The year 2020 was a much better one for RCB as they made it to the playoffs while Kohli too showed consistency. The season which was played in UAE due to the prevailing COVID situation in India saw Kohli score 466 runs in 15 outings with three half-centuries to his name. His strike rate of 121.3 though came under scrutiny.

Also Read: Who is the king of IPL?

2) Suresh Raina (Chennai Super Kings)
Matches 193 | Runs 5368 | Average 33.34 | 50s 38 | 100s 1

Easily one of the most recognisable faces of the IPL, Suresh Raina held the record for the most number of runs in the IPL before Kohli overtook him last season. Raina has been one of the stalwarts of Chennai. In 193 IPL matches, Raina has scored 5368 runs which include 38 half-centuries and one ton. His average of 33.34 stands out here. Raina has been MS Dhoni’s go-to man since the first season. During the interim CSK had been banned for two years, Raina led the now-defunct Gujarat Lions side and did that effectively as well. Raina has played for the Chennai-based franchise for 164 matches during which the team won 100 matches. The left-hander is easily the highest run-scorer for the team. After missing the 2020 season due to personal reasons, Raina will be turning out for the Yellow Army yet again in the 2021 edition, which will be played in India.

3) David Warner (Sunrisers Hyderabad)
Matches 142 | Runs 5253 | Average 42.72 | 50s 48 | 100s 4

Has there been a better overseas player in the IPL do date than David Warner? Yes, the likes of AB de Villiers and Chris Gayle have been around for ages but one look at his numbers shows how impactful Warner has been in the cash-rich league. The third-highest run-scorer in the history of IPL, Warner has played 142 matches during which he has amassed 5253 runs averaging 42.72 which includes 48 half-centuries and four tons. All this while maintaining a healthy strike rate of 141.5. Warner was first recruited by the Delhi Capitals franchise but it was only at Sunrisers Hyderabad that he found his true calling. Leading the side, Warner took Hyderabad to title victory in 2016, in a season where he amassed in excess of 800 runs. Warner has the most Orange Caps to his name – 2015, 2017 and 2019 – and he has left quite an impression on the tournament over the years.

4) Lasith Malinga (Mumbai Indians)
Matches 122 | Wickets 170 | Strike Rate 16.6 | Average 19.8 | Econ 7.1

When we talk about the best players to have played the IPL, the bowlers also should get a say. The one bowler who definitely comes to mind who has had a lot of impact on the IPL is Lasith Malinga. The Sri Lankan is by far the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, despite playing a lot fewer games than the rest of his colleagues. In 122 IPL matches, Malinga has picked up 170, striking every 16.6 balls and at an economy rate of only 7.1. Malinga is one of the very few players to have played in the IPL for just one franchise. He was picked up by Mumbai Indians in the year 2008 and has been with the franchise since. He did not play in the 2020 edition of the IPL owing to personal reasons and was released by the Mumbai team ahead of the 2021 season post which he announced his retirement from all forms of the game.

5) Amit Mishra (Delhi Capitals)
Matches 150 | Wickets 160 | Strike Rate 19.8 | Average 24.2 | Econ 7.3

Amit Mishra is the second-highest wicket-taker in the history of the IPL and one of the best spinners seen in this competition. 160 wickets in 150 matches with an economy rate of 7.3 in a format that is punishing for spinners, is a phenomenal feat. Mishra has season after season showed his bag of tricks and batters haven’t been able to decipher it yet. The wily leg-spinner has played for three franchises in the IPL – Delhi Capitals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Deccan Chargers. He has picked up most of his wickets against Rajasthan Royals in the competition followed by Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings). Mishra is the only bowler in the IPL with three hat tricks to his name. He will turn out for Delhi in the 2021 edition of the IPL and with the tournament back in India, Mishra will be expected to once again return a bagful of wickets.

There were a few other names that would have made the list but narrowly missed out. While Virat Kohli stands heads and shoulders above the rest of the pack, Chris Gayle, Shikhar Dhawan, MS Dhoni, Far du Plessis, AB de Villiers, and Yuvraj Singh were some of the names that came into consideration while curating this list. However, these five names are the ones we believe have been the best in the IPL.

Who do you think is the best player in the history of the IPL? Play fantasy cricket league and stand a chance to win big.

Ashish Pant
A fantasy gaming enthusiast, gaming writer and an out and out cricket nerd. I am an engineer by education who found his solace in writing.


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