The Indian Premier League certainly isn’t among the oldest professional sports leagues in the world, but it is already one of the most popular. Each year, 10 teams battle it out for the IPL championship and the valuation of the league is now several billion dollars. Along the way, there have been some truly great players, with some establishing themselves as legends.
Out of the many IPL players in the early parts of the league, which ones have been the best? Taking their contributions and production into consideration, there are five players that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack to be considered the best IPL players of all time.
5. Shane Watson
The other non-Indian-born player on the list is Shane Watson, who hails from Ipswich, Australia. Watson is one of the most influential cricket players of all time and spent eight years playing professionally before making his way to the IPL when it began in 2008. Watson started his IPL career with the Rajasthan Royals where he stayed for seven years, and has since played for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings during his IPL career.
Watson is tied for third all-time in the IPL with four centuries which spanned from 2008 to 2020 in 141 innings. Watson collected 3,874 runs and 92 wickets, joining just a handful of players to assemble 500 runs and 20 wickets, playing away the milestone. Watson is also one of a select few to record a hat trick.
4. Suresh Raina
A batsman who joined the Indian national team in 2005, Suresh Raina stuck around for 13 years while also having a long career in the IPL. At the advent of the league, Raina joined the Chennai Super Kings where he played until 2015, and rejoined the team in 2018 after spending two years with the Gujarat Lions.
Raina finds himself close to the top of the leaderboard in many IPL career marks, including runs. In fact, Raina holds the team record for most career runs on two different teams. Raina also set the record for best strike rates in an inning with 1.5 that he set in May 2011.
3. Dwayne Bravo
One of just two players on the list that were born outside of India, Dwayne Bravo is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, with the all-rounder representing the West Indies. Bravo was around for the start of the IPL, starting with the Mumbai Indians before also playing for the Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Lions. During that time, Bravo also spent time playing professionally outside of India.
Bravo holds the IPL record for most wickets taken at 183, with no other player being particularly close. 33 of those wickets have come against the Mumbai Indians and another 22 against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
2. MS Dhoni
The former captain of India’s national team made his international debut in 2004 and played domestically before the formation of the IPL. In 2008, he was part of the first Chennai Super Kings team (squad no. 7) where he remained through 2015. MS Dhoni would return to the team in 2018, and for those two years in between, he was a member of the Rising Pune Supergiant team.
Dhoni is sixth-all time in the list of most career sixes with 229, which he did in 206 innings. He also dominates a couple of career records, recording 170 dismissals and 131 catches to go along with 39 career stumpings.
1. Virat Kohli
At the top of just about everybody’s list for best IPL player of all time is Virat Kohli, the New Dehli-born legend who came into the professional ranks at the right time. Kohli was beginning to hit his prime when the IPL was formed, and he joined Royal Challengers Bangalore at their inception and has remained with the team ever since.
Kohli holds the IPL record for the most runs in his career and has feasted on teams like Rising Pune Supergiant and the Delhi Capitals, holding the record for most runs against both franchises. Kohli has a career-high of 108, which occurred on May 7, 2016, against RPS, and he’s third all-time in half-centuries with 44.