While the IPL is renowned for being a breeding ground for new talent, there are players in the tournament’s history who have left an indelible mark. Every team is a blend of the new and the old, and while the injection of young blood is important for continuity’s sake, the importance of old hands cannot be underestimated one bit.
Here, we look at five old timers in the IPL who are still going strong, but have already left behind a legacy at the respective franchises they have turned out for.
There is little to be said about ‘Thala’ Dhoni as he is known to supporters of Chennai Super Kings, that hasn’t already been said. Over the years, Dhoni has perhaps been the single most important players for CSK both in terms of ability and what he means to the entire ecosystem around the team.
In fact, it says a lot about Dhoni that after CSK completed their two-year ban from the IPL, he was the first player to be bought by the franchise once again, and immediately led them to another IPL title – their third since the inception of the league way back in 2008.
With 4016 career IPL runs across 175 matches, a strike-rate of 138.19, an average of 40.16 and 87 catches with 33 stumpings to his name, Dhoni is all set to lead CSK in yet another season of the IPL. And one wouldn’t put it past him to come out on top once again.
Even though retired from international cricket, Shane Watson is still as dangerous a batsman as they come in the T20 format of the game. Watson was as important to Rajasthan Royals in the first season of the IPL as Royals was to him, as it was after being one of the most important players for the team and helping them to the title did he find his way back into the Australian side.
With legend status at Rajasthan already assured, Watson most recently moved to Chennai Super Kings a few seasons later for a price of Rs. 4 crore from RCB – the team he joined when the Royals were suspended for two seasons. Last year, he scored 555 runs from 15 matches at an average of 39.64 and a strike rate of 154.
Currently 37, Watson still has a lot in the tank to offer, and will no doubt play an integral role for CSK if they are to have a successful season.
Even in the twilight of his career, Chris Gayle continues to be one of the most destructive batsmen in the sport. With 3994 runs in 111 innings (the second highest for an overseas batsman in the history of the tournament), Gayle hit peak form for Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2011 to 2013 where he averaged more than 60.
With the Windies cricket board seeming to have come to a temporary resolution for Gayle’s contract, the ‘Universe-Boss’ is expected to play the upcoming edition of the World Cup if things go to plan. Which means he will be even more motivated to put in solid performances for Kings XI Punjab this season, having been picked by them late in last year’s auction.
Even though Gayle is hit-or-miss when he is at the crease, when it’s the former, it’s entertainment guaranteed for the spectators. Expect plenty of that this IPL.
The perfect example of a late-bloomer, South African Imran Tahir found cricketing success much later in his career. It is a testament to his never-say-die attitude that he attained the status of the number one bowler in T20Is at the age of 37.
Tahir has previously played for Delhi Daredevils, Rising Pune Supergiant and now Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. In an environment where variation and experience are keys to success with the ball, Tahir might prove to be the differential once again for his team.
One of the modern day comeback-kings of Indian cricket, Yuvraj Singh’s career has seen him win two World Cups, face disappointment, battle cancer and yet come out successfully at the end of every ordeal.
After going unpicked in the initial rounds of the auctions for the 2019 edition, Yuvraj was picked by Mumbai Indians in the last round, and he has since gone on to say it’s the franchise where he feels trusted and comfortable. From being picked for 16 crore in the 2015 edition by Delhi Daredevils to going for one crore in the last auction, there is no denying that Yuvraj’s stock has dropped.
But that’s exactly when the old hand is most dangerous. Underestimate Yuvraj at your own peril, for when he gets going, there are not many batsmen better to watch in world cricket.