This is the fifth in a series of features where we will be taking a detailed dive into the various factors that stood out during the course of the Indian T20 League 2020 season.

Now that we are past the 2020 edition of the Indian T20 League, it is high time to look back at some of the top performers who duly entertained one and all despite the anomalous circumstances. While there were some unforeseen surprises that Rahul Tewatia and Devdutt Padikkal, there were others who lived up to the hype heading into the tournament.

"The Indian T20 League once again showcased the cream of the cricket crop with the usual suspects rising to the occasion and backing up their stout salaries with some stout knocks! observed Brett Lee. "From KL Rahul leading from the front and AB de Villiers winning matches single-handedly. Rashid Khan continued to bowl economically deadly spells while the inclusion of Chris Gayle provided an instant boost to his side, the stars were certainly shining bright in Dubai!"

That said, here we look at six players who delivered the promise in the recently concluded T20 extravaganza.

KL Rahul - Punjab

Key contributions: 

  • 132* off 69 vs Bangalore
  • 69 off 54 vs Rajasthan
  • 63 off 52 vs Chennai
  • 74 off 58 vs Kolkata
  • 61* off 49 vs Bangalore
  • 77 off 51 vs Mumbai

Leading from the front, KL Rahul became the fastest ever Indian to reach the 2000-run landmark in the Indian T20 League (60 innings) in only his second match of the tournament. On the day when his team posted 206 against Bangalore, Rahul scored a whopping 64.08% runs (132) of his team's total, marking the carnage that was to follow. It was for the third consecutive year that Rahul scored more than 500 runs in a single season and that certainly speaks volume.

The Punjab captain averaged an impressive 152 in the powerplay overs this season, scoring 304 runs, including 33 fours and nine sixes. His strike rate, however, was superior between overs 16-20 overs where he batted for six innings while scoring 82 at a rate of 182.2. The fact that Punjab failed to make it to the playoff despite Rahul outscoring all the other batsmen explains how heavily reliant the team was on their captain; something that he himself admitted after scoring 77 against Mumbai. 

Rahul’s explosive approach, his gradual acceleration and his formative partnerships with Mayank Agarwal were truly a treat, and one just cannot argue the fact that he indeed was the most reliable batsman of the tournament.

AB de Villiers - Bangalore

Key contributions:

  • 51 off 30 vs Hyderabad
  • 55* of 24 vs Mumbai
  • 73* off 33 vs Kolkata
  • 55* off 22 vs Rajasthan
  • 56 off 43 vs Hyderabad

Let’s just admit it once and for all; Bangalore wouldn’t have made it to the playoffs without AB de Villiers. Period!

Hitting at a strike rate of 222.4 during the final four overs (16-20) this season, the South African mastermind scored an astonishing 258 runs off 116 balls, including 20 sixes, during the phase. That return translates to a whopping 56.83% of his total runs (454) this season. Watching de Villiers changing the course is certainly not a new sight to witness, but watching him doing that 36 was surely a divine visual, to say the least.

Bangalore without de Villiers are like a fish without water; helpless, or even better, in an unfamiliar situation. Like his old self, the 36-year-old was Bangalore’s lone survivor at times. On just cannot forget his unbeaten 55 against Mumbai in late September. If not for him, Bangalore would have collapsed like a mere house of cards. Arriving at the crease when his team were scoring at just over seven runs an over, de Villiers took the rate to over 10 by the final over of the innings. His onslaught against Kolkata (73*) and Rajasthan (55*) was even more destructive.

Quick stat: Bangalore won four of the five games where de Villiers scored a half-century.

Chris Gayle - Punjab

Key contributions:

  • 53 off 45 vs Bangalore
  • 29 off 13 vs Delhi
  • 51 off 29 vs Kolkata 
  • 99 off 63 vs Rajasthan

Chris Gayle’s inclusion in Punjab’s setup inflicted a whole new life altogether. A team that had won just one of their last five games before Gayle, went on a five-game unbeaten run and a large part of its credit goes to the veteran West Indian. Not even once in his seven games for Punjab this Indian T20 League season that he scored less than 20 runs. And the fact that he finished his season as the fourth-highest run-scorer for Punjab despite playing subsequently fewer games than his teammates is simply astonishing.

Gayle’s impact was instant, to say the least. He capped off his arrival with a quickfire half-century against Bangalore, which was, in fact, an eight-wicket victory for Punjab. The 41-year-old was not only a consistent presence for Punjab, but also managed to adjust to an unfamiliar No. 3 role. A powerplay average and strike rate of 72 and 160 respectively underlines how potent he was this season. He did strike at a lowly rate of 118.9 in the middle overs, but an average of 48.3 underlines how dependable his innings were. In a mere seven games this season, Gayle hit a whopping 23 sixes, which is just six short of the leader Ishan Kishan, who played 15 games this season.

Ben Stokes - Rajasthan

Key contributions:

  • 41 off 35 vs Delhi
  • 107* off 60 vs Mumbai
  • 50 off 26 vs Punjab
  • 2/32 vs Punjab

England all-rounder Ben Stokes arrived quite late into the Rajasthan setup, and although it took time for him to settle his nerves, his late blitzes showed Rajasthan how their season could have been if only they had him since the beginning. With their batsmen failing to gather runs, Stokes services early in the campaign might very well have altered some of their results. The all-rounder played a mere eight games this season but managed to score 285 at an average of 40.71. He, however, was far from his best in bowling, conceding over 10 runs per over. Nonetheless, his match-winning knocks in two of Rajasthan’s final three games remain his highlight from the season.

The 29-year-old was particularly effective in the powerplay overs, scoring 177 at an average and strike rate of 35.4 and 142.7 respectively. During the period, he smashed a whopping 26 fours, a figure which is second-best amongst the players in this list. During the only inning he played in the final four overs, he notched 36 off a mere 16 deliveries. Stokes was particularly at his best against Mumbai; a game where Rajasthan were chasing a target of 196 against the bowling contingent of Jasprit Bumrah, Trent Boult and James Pattinson. The pacers, however, were hit all across the park as he Stokes played a match-winning knock of 107 off just 60 balls.

Rashid Khan - Hyderabad

Key contributions:

  • 3/14 vs Delhi
  • 3/12 vs Punjab
  • 2/25 vs Rajasthan
  • 2/14 vs Punjab
  • 3/7 vs Delhi

Maintaining an economy of under six runs in 16 Indian T20 League games can be an arduous task, but Hyderabad’s Rashid Khane made it look so easy. The Afghan leggie picked 20 wickets this season, bowling at an impressive average of 17.20, to become the first bowler since Indian T20 League 2013 to manage an economy rate of under six runs/over and pick 15 or more wickets. He was at his lethal best this season, picking three wickets on three occasions. In none of those three outings did he give away more than 15 runs his quota of four overs; a figure that underlines his supremacy in a rather bleak tenure for Hyderbad this season.

The 22-year-old didn’t bowl a single over in the powerplay overs this season, and understandably so, as his captain, David Warner, kept him to avoid the hard-hitting prowess of his opponents in the middle overs. During overs 7-15, Rashid conceded 299 runs off 342 balls, while bowling 151 dots and picking 19 wickets at an economy of 5.24. Contrary to that, he gave away 45 off 42 balls in seven innings in the final four overs. Was he the best player for Hyderabad this season? Absolutely!

Faf du Plessis - Chennai

Key contributions:

58* off 44 vs Mumbai

72 off 37 vs Rajasthan

87* off 53 vs Punjab

58 off 47 vs Delhi

48 off 34 vs Punjab

In a rather troubling season for Chennai, a certain Faf du Plessis was the shining light throughout the campaign. The 36-year-old notched 449 runs this season, scoring at an average of just over 40 to finish as the top run-scorer for his team. The South African started off in a blistering fashion, scoring 282 in only his first five outings, which included three half-centuries. He did slow down a bit in the middle of the season, but he played his bit part as Chennai ended their season with three back-to-back victories.

Faf was arguably Chennai’s best player this season, and the fact that the next best scorer, Ambati Rayudu, was almost 100 runs off further ratifies this fact. Despite being 36, the South African played some of his best cricket this season against some of the best bowlers of the format. His unbeaten 58 against Mumbai,72 against Rajasthan and another unbeaten 87 against Punjab stood out in particular, and it’s sad that no other batsmen managed to match his potential this season.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Saeed Khan