After every one or two years, IPL thinktank becomes the workshop which start fixing all that isn’t broken. The new unwanted innovation, by BCCI, came in a IPL 2023 is Impact Player Rule for gimmicky tweak, introduce with the purpose of adding more drama, is for a format that is anyways overloaded with twists and turns.
The Impact Player addition to the Indian Premier League rule is a rewrite that could have easily avoided.
According to the Impact Player Rule, teams are now allow to have a substitute player at any point in the game.
As specialist batsman, after scoring a huge can make way for a pure bowler, who in turn can help himself with a wickets.
Means cricket isn’t 11 vs 11 any more, it’s 12 vs 12.
Does the T20 format really need an additional player?
Basic thing says that 7 skill batsmen in a T20 team would barely get 3 overs each.
By any stretch of imagination, these are way too many batters to conquer the highest of run peaks.
An additional batsman in T20 is an indulgence.
It’s a problem of plenty.
More batsmen waiting in the dressing room can make those on the pitch, and also the coaches in the dugout, restless.
Drinks break messages to push the score can get more frequent and this outside pressure can trigger panic on the pitch.
In IPL 2023, it has been prove that the extra Impact batsmen in the line-up don’t make chasing easy.
As in the ongoing IPL, only 3 of the 9 chases have successful.
In certain bad day, forget 8, even 11 batsmen can’t stop a collapse.
As the nature of T20 cricket that even bringing in a bowler as Impact Player has a low probability of success.
Only in rare cases will it prove to be an inspire move that turns the game on its head.
Cricket’s pro-substitute apologists have a habit of quoting the football example.
They talk about scheming managers in overcoats, sitting on the sidelines, changing the complexion of the game with their smart change of players.
Over the years, football has had many stories of how a sudden influx of a couple of new players, changes team tactics, formation, flow of the game and, in many cases, even the eventual result.
While Cricket works differently, and the administrators should have known their sport better.
By its nature, it isn’t a free-flowing dynamic game.
It’s a unique team sport that is the sum total of many individual battles.
At any point in the game, it’s always a one-on-one situation, a direct batsman-bowler face-off.
As T20 is mostly play on flat and dead tracks, teams always pick their best bowlers in the playing XI.
If a bowler on the bench comes in as an Impact Player and changes the game, it’s seen more as a stroke of luck and less of a manager’s tactical victory.
As we all know substitution has been part of football from long time.
It was a necessity, not like in the case of cricket, an after-thought.
Football, the rough energy-sapping sport for real athletes, always need extra men on the sidelines.
Over the years, as football evolve, managers would use the bench strength strategically.
Stopping the game to change personnel hasn’t always been about swapping the tire legs with fresh ones.
It would become a tactic to bolster the defence, slow down the game or waste time.
With time, the rule grew into a strategic weapon that the managers use judiciously.
Cricket has a leisure sport.
It has never match football’s frantic pace.
Back in the day, even if a batsman got tire or develop a niggle, he didn’t leave the field.
There was always the option of opting for a runner.
A bowler too got a breather between balls, overs and sessions.
He could even walk into the dressing room and return after a shower.
Cricket has always believe in telling every player, very early in the day, before the toss, if she or he will be need to bat or bowl.
It also taught you to live with the cards dealt to you.
Cricket’s off-spring, the T20 format, is going against the grain.
By wanting to be football, it faces an identity crisis.
It has also fought the tag of frivolity since its birth.
T20 has lack the depth of its eldest sibling, the Test.
This audacious change takes T20 cricket further away from the pure form of cricket, denying it the seriousness it dearly aspires for.
The most common narrative arc in a T20 game is about six-hitting sprees against bowlers under pressure or hat-tricks during the period of play when bats were being swung like bar stools at a drunken brawl.
But there are days when T20 gives a glimpse of real cricket.
Instead of waiting for T20 to widen its narrative arc, grow a thin layer of gravitas, the cricket administrators change the core of the sport to make it seemingly cerebral.
But by rewriting the cricketing template for the T20 format making it a virtual 12 vs 12 contest, the administrators have once again repeat their mistake.
As it happen in ODIs, the T20 continuity too is gone.
In ODIs, the shift from one to two balls made run-making easy and erase the credibility of the ‘all-time‘ run-getters list.
With the latest shift, T20 too has now turn into a different ball game altogether.
So is there any good the Impact Player rule has done to the game?
- It has extend the careers of ageing super stars (May be).
- The substitution option means the seniors can avoid fielding.
- Mean, this could not be MS Dhoni’s last season for CSK?
- Even if his batting form dips, he can play as an Impact Player who keeps wickets and leads the side.
Rahul Ram Dwivedi (RRD) is a senior journalist in 2YoDoINDIA.
NOTE : Views expressed are personal.