T20 is known to be a game of big hitting. A chase that requires nine runs an over is easily achieved and sixes are hit with effortless ease. To a casual observer, it must seem like the batsmen rule the sport but in reality, the key skill is the ability to stop runs and take wickets.
A good bowler is worth his bidding price in gold. As we stand on the cusp of the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), it is worth having a look at the bowlers who have excelled in the previous editions of the competition in terms of their all-time strike rates.
Mitchell Starc has been excluded in the list because he will not take part in the IPL.
To keep the list current and avoid flash-in-the-pan performances, only players who have featured in more than 25 IPL matches have been considered. Anyone who isn’t playing in IPL 2017 has also been excluded.
#5 Mitchell McClenaghan – Mumbai Indians
Mitchell McClenaghan has been terrorising the opposition batsmen with his searing pace as one of Mumbai Indians’ main strike bowlers for the past two editions of the IPL. He was their highest wicket taker in 2016 and in Lasith Malinga’s absence, he led the bowling line-up with characteristic aggression.
The bowler holds the record for being the fastest to get 50 wickets for New Zealand in ODIs. He has been out of the national team for the past few months due to a pelvic injury and skipped the Indian tour last year as well. However, he has been declared match fit and played in the Kiwi domestic season this month.
Mumbai Indian supporters will hope he can continue his form in 2017. His three wickets in the IPL 2015 final against Chennai remain a reminder of the devastation he can cause when defending a score for his team.
#4 Yuzvendra Chahal – Royal Challengers Bangalore
Yuzvendra Chahal would have come to the notice of those who don’t follow the IPL after his series-winning performance for India a couple of months ago. With six wickets in the final T20 match, the wily leg-spinner was the main architect of the Indian victory against England.
But he has been demonstrating his skills in the IPL from much earlier. He began his IPL career with the Mumbai Indians in 2011 but most of his success in the tournament has come since he became a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team in 2014. Under the watchful eyes of captain Virat Kohli, he has flourished and was the team’s highest wicket-taker in the last two seasons.
The only spinner to feature amongst the ten bowlers who bagged the most scalps last year, Chahal narrowly missed the Purple Cap and is expected to be an important feature in RCB’s push towards the title in 2017. They have been runners-up thrice, falling at the last hurdle every time, and the fans are impatient. They want the trophy in their cabinets this year.
#3 Dwayne Bravo – Gujarat Lions
Dwayne Bravo is one of the few players who has been around in all nine previous editions of the IPL, though his stint was only one match long in 2014. Still, his presence in this list is a testament to his consistency and longevity.
Bravo began his IPL career with the Mumbai Indians, moved on to Chennai Super Kings and was drafted into the Gujarat Lions in 2016. His bowling strike rate in the tournament currently stands at 16.54 and he also averages a healthy 22.94 with the bat.
All-rounders are an asset in every format of cricket and particularly in T20, they add extra depth to a team’s batting and bowling. However, Bravo is expected to miss the first few IPL games due to a hamstring injury that he suffered during the Australian Big Bash League. The Gujarat Lions would be hoping he can rapidly return to fitness.
#2 Lasith Malinga – Mumbai Indians
With a slingy round-arm action that batsmen around the world have struggled against for many years, Lasith Malinga has proved his worth with the Mumbai Indians. His in-swinging yorker remains the perfect ball for any situation and he has been responsible for many of his team’s wins.
In the 2011 IPL, he won the Purple Cap and powered his team’s title win in 2015. His economy rate is only 6.67 across 98 matches in the tournament and with 143 total wickets, he has sent more batsmen to the pavilion than any other IPL bowler.
He missed the 2016 IPL season and started 2017 injured as well, but played for Sri Lanka in the T20 matches against Australia in February. As the veteran approaches his 34th birthday this year, the sun is perhaps setting on a glorious career.
But as long as he stays hungry and injury free, his bowling will remain formidable and batsmen will always have to save their toes from his deadly yorkers.
#1 Sreenath Aravind – Royal Challengers Bangalore
Sreenath Aravind has a bowling strike rate of 14.42 in the IPL and tops the list amongst all bowlers. He made his tournament debut in 2011, when he took 21 wickets and was the highest wicket-taker for the Royal Challengers. However, he got hit for 48 runs in three overs in his first match in IPL 2012 and with injuries also taking a toll, he was dropped and only returned to the squad again in 2015.
Since then he has displayed an uncanny knack for picking up wickets at crucial moments. With innocuous deliveries that are neither too fast nor too slow, he bowls in an uncertain range that leaves batsmen unsure. He is an expert in tempting them into playing the wrong shot.
Aravind was RCB’s most economical bowler in the final against Sunrisers Hyderabad last year and got the danger man, David Warner, when he was really taking charge. But while his statistics show so much potential, he only played nine matches in the tournament in 2016. The team management haven’t trusted him in every situation and he has been, at times, inconsistent.
But no one can doubt that there is promise hidden in his figures. If Aravind can bowl at his best in IPL 2017, he can become the wildcard that RCB needs to break their jinx and win the title.