Franchise Twenty20 leagues are now a common fixture of the cricketing schedule around the world. The Indian Premier League and the Big Bash are some of the premier tournaments in cricket globally, not just domestically.
The rules differ between each individual competition for how the players end up on their respective teams with the most interesting being the draft set up of the Caribbean Premier League. For those who are fans of American sports this will be a concept you understand but for those that are not, the draft works by each team taking it in turn to select a player, with the worst side from the previous season getting the first choice from the pool of available players.
It would be fascinating to see how this would work for a league in its infancy. The entire player pool available for franchises to build the team as they want, with the following season’s new recruits then being subject to the annual draft as the worst sides get the chance to improve their squad. The potential for parity using the league format is quite interesting.
This article is going to look at what that first round of picks would look like. A franchise has all the players in the world to choose from, who would be selected as the linchpin for their franchise? For this hypothetical league, there will be eight sides taking part, just like in the IPL, and there will be no limit of homegrown players. Also in this fictional competition players from Pakistan will be eligible.
So, with the ground rules set, lets get on with the draft.
Pick One – Virat Kohli
There really are not enough superlatives to describe the Indian captain. His record-shattering 2016 IPL in which he scored 973 runs and four centuries may never be bettered and makes him the obvious choice to be selected as the first player off the board.
His desire to win makes him also a clear choice to be captain so there’s little else to say about probably the best batsman in world cricket at the moment. With that in mind, the most staggering statistic that belongs to the 29-year-old is that he averages 50.84 in T20 Internationals. It seems almost impossible that on average he scores more than 50 runs every time he goes out to bat in a 20 over match.
Pick Two – Ben Stokes
His importance to balancing the England team across all formats is blindingly obvious and he can do the same thing for any T20 side, including our fictional one here.
There aren’t many bowlers who can hit 90mph regularly in world cricket, let alone also being able to bat at the top of the order and score rapidly. Yes, when bowling at the death during the last T20 World Cup he was infamously hit away by Carlos Brathwaite but that happens to even the best.
During his debut IPL season, he averaged 31.60 with the bat and took 12 wickets at an average of 26.33 runs per wicket, all while going at just a fraction over seven runs conceded per over. A campaign that culminated with the 26-year-old claiming Most Valuable Player honours for the 2017 IPL.
Add to that he’s a livewire in the field and it makes him pretty much the perfect cricketer for the shortest format of the game.
Pick Three – AB de Villiers
The 2017 IPL was not the best in the South African’s career as he averaged 27 and it was the first time since 2010 that he averaged less than 34. If his recent Test match form against Australia is anything to go by his is nearing his best once more.
One of the most destructive batsmen in the world thanks to his ability to hit the ball all around the ground, the 34-year-old is vital to any team he is a part of. It is not just down to the weight of runs he scores either, his average IPL strike rate in the last seven years is 155.55 runs per 100 balls, that demonstrates his ability to take a game away from the opposition and that is key in the T20 format.
A former captain of his country and his uncanny knack at making things happen in the field mean de Villiers can affect the game at any time.
Pick Four – Rashid Khan
The fastest player to 100 ODI wickets, purchased for $1.4million in the recent IPL auction, the first player to take a hat-trick in the Caribbean Premier League, Afghanistan captain and still just 19 years of age. The rise of Rashid Khan in the past 12 months is nothing short of miraculous.
Leg spin bowling is now considered critical in T20 cricket and in his short career to date, he has shown that he has the knack for picking up wickets throughout the innings; he took a tournament-leading 18 wickets during the BBL.
The Shahid Afridi-like speed at which he bowls also ensures that he’s economical. His T20 runs per over conceded is just 5.80 from 91 matches played. Wickets while also being economical is the holy grail of white ball cricket and at 19-years-old Rashid Khan’s best years are still in the future.
Pick Five – Mitchell Starc
Before leg spin was the magic ingredient for T20 success, left arm fast bowling was the part of the bowling attack that every captain was looking for. Having that angle going across the right-handed batsman adds increased difficulty when trying to hit towards midwicket as the ball goes across the body.
Obviously, he will not be taking part in the upcoming IPL due to a stress fracture but he healthy Starc is one of the most deadly death bowlers anywhere in the world. His slingy action means the ball skids off the pitch and he has unerring accuracy when it comes to hitting his yorkers, just go back and watch his display against New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup to see how devastating he can be.
The 28-year-old did hold the record of fastest to 100 ODI wickets before Rashid Khan’s recent exploits in the World Cup Qualifiers and it’s that wicket-taking which see’s him make the top five here, nothing changes a T20 match like wickets.
The main worry with him is injuries. He hasn’t played in the IPL since 2015 and the latest injury is his second of the Australian summer after a heel injury during the Ashes.
Pick Six – Jasprit Bumrah
It was his strange bowling action that first gained him attention but soon it was his performances at the end of the innings that gained Bumrah accolade.
At just 24-years-old he has already become the number one ranked bowler in ODI cricket but it was his performances in the IPL that saw him rise to this peak. In the past two seasons, he has taken 35 wickets at an average of 24.29, while his strike rate is just 19.26 balls per wicket.
One worry for this hypothetical tournament would be the fact that Bumrah has yet to play any franchise cricket outside of India but if his International T20 record is anything to go by, 41 wickets at an average of 20.43, then he will continue to be one of the best-limited overs bowlers in the world.
Pick Seven – Hardik Pandya
Of all the picks in this list, it’s the selection of Hardik Pandya will be the one that makes the least sense when just looking at the numbers. His IPL career to date has yielded just 406 runs in 37 matches at an average of 21.36 and 10 wickets while going at over nine runs an over.
As previously mentioned with Ben Stokes, the ability to contribute with both bat and ball instantly increases your value as a white ball player. Many believe that the 2018 Indian Premier League is going to be the 24-year-old Pandya’s coming of age tournament.
His international statistics show that the breakout is not far away. In T20i’s Pandya has taken 26 wickets at an average of 24.84 with a strike rate of 18.6 balls per wicket. While that economy rate floats around the eight runs per over mark that is something a captain can live with when you take wickets with the regularity that he does.
The other key part of his game is his destructive hitting with the bat. His international strike rate is 131 per 100 balls and in the IPL that increases to 142, that is game-changing striking of a cricket ball that any side looks for. If you need further evidence of this then look no further than his innings in the final of the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. He smashed 76 from 43 balls, breaking Adam Gilchrist’s record for the fastest 50 in an ICC competition.
Pick Eight – Glenn Maxwell
His star may have waned slightly in the last few years but Maxwell’s game-breaking capacity is still visible whenever he walks to the crease. Since 2005 no player has scored at a higher strike rate per 100 balls in T20 internationals than the 29-year-old. Of the players to have scored 1000 runs in that same period his strike rate of 165.68 dwarves all others.
The recent tri-series against New Zealand and England saw Maxwell return to his best as he flayed the opposition to all parts of the ground averaging 89 across the six matches, including an unbeaten 103 against the English.
Another string to the Maxwell bow is his underrated off-spin bowling. 20 International wickets at an average of just over 29 is not to be sniffed at, especially on slower wickets like those in the IPL.
Maxwell might not immediately come to mind when thinking of the best T20 players anymore but when he executes with the bat, more often than not your side will win the game. He’s also a human highlight reel in the field, an asset to any side.
For full disclosure, it should be mentioned that if not for his recent ban, David Warner would have been selected in the top five. He’s excelled as a captain in the IPL and his batting in that competition has been both consistent and quick scoring but this disciplinary action would inevitably put some teams off.
So that is how an NFL style draft could work for a franchise T20 league. Going through this process has shown me that building a squad is not easy, even with all the players available it was difficult to know who would go where. Outside of Kohli, Stokes, de Villiers and Rashid Khan, the rest could be selected at any point.
There are plenty of players who could have gone in this draft, Pakistan’s Shadab Khan is going to rival Rashid Khan to be the best leg-spinner over the next five to ten years but he is yet to play on those biggest stages on a regular basis. Of course, Aaron Finch is another who just missed out on this top eight as a destructive batsman but having game altering talents across multiple facets of the game is what many look for in a player.
One thing is definitely clear, being in charge of a team certainly is not as easy as it seems.