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Should IPL Get Rid of Impact Player Rule?

By Vishal Menon
May 24, 2024 09:59 IST
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Batters are mauling bowlers this IPL like never before, as the impact player rule effectively gives every team 12 players.
Where is it taking the game?

IMAGE: Jos Buttler, who came in as an Impact Sub, scored 107 in 60 balls, steering the Rajasthan Royals to victory against the Kolkata Knight Riders. All photographs: BCCI

Rajasthan Royals' victory over Kolkata Knight Riders was a one-man show.

That one man, Jos Buttler, who scored an unbeaten 107 to take RR to victory was not supposed to be playing.

He had still not fully recovered from the injury that kept him out of RR's previous game.

'For a moment, imagine there was no impact sub. Buttler would either not have played, or may not have had the energy to carry out this heist given how exhausted he was at the end. So, what do you think of the impact sub?' commentator Harsha Bhogle posted on X.

That question Bhogle asked has divided opinion.

'I am not a big fan of the Impact sub rule. It is going to hold all-rounders back... Eventually cricket is played by 11 players, not 12,' Team India Captain Rohit Sharma said on the Club Prairie Fire podcast.

On the other hand, former India opener Virender Sehwag termed the latest rule tweak a 'welcome addition that gives more opportunities to Indian players to showcase their talents'.


IMAGE: Virat Kohli and Mohammed Siraj celebrate RCB entering the play-offs.

Bat mauls ball

The Indian Premier League has evolved rapidly since its advent in 2008. So has the game of cricket.

Bats have gained more heft and hitting sixes is now considered way cooler than the cover drive.

Five-day Tests and 50-overs-a-side formats continue to have fans, but the game's administrators are increasingly seduced by cricket's diet version -- the T20s -- for its commercial attractions.

T20 leagues and franchises have mushroomed across the globe, with the IPL being the biggest, richest, glitziest of the lot.

Combining entertainment with glamour and star power, its popularity as well as brand value have soared.

It is now a decacorn -- a privately held company with a valuation exceeding $10 billion.

But someone somewhere wanted more.

Last year the Board of Control for Cricket in India introduced an innovation called the impact player rule.

It allows teams to substitute one player at any point in the game. For instance, a specialist batter, after scoring a 100 can make way for a specialist bowler.

Effectively, this means each team is fielding 12 players in every match.

Several experts say this is the reason for the bat dominating the ball this season like never before.

This year, teams were ready to embrace the rule, fashioning their strategies and team selection to make the most of it. Which they are.

On March 27, Sunrisers Hyderabad scored what was the highest team total till then: 277. Seven days later, KKR came within sniffing distance with 272. SRH itself created a new record of 287 on April 15.

"The impact player rule has skewed the game heavily in the favour of batters. Franchises are now coming into a game with the cushion of an extra batter. This means no score is safe in this IPL," former Delhi and KKR cricketer Rajat Bhatia tells Business Standard.

In the first 86 innings of this year's IPL, teams have scored at an average of 9.6 runs per over during the Powerplay (overs 1-6) when field restrictions are in place, up from 8.7 runs per over in the previous year.

In the Death overs (16-20), the runs per over balloon to a staggering 12.05, up from 10.81 in the past edition.

To no one's surprise, eight of the 10 highest team scores have been achieved this season.

Two-time World Cup winner and former Australian captain Aaron Finch said in a podcast the latest innovation had widened the chasm between bat and ball.

With small boundaries, flat decks, meatier bats, and range hitting, run-rates were already going through the roof. Now there is one more batter in the fray.

'The 'impact sub' has been a worthwhile trial but I feel it's time to revert to just playing XIs. The sub has created an imbalance between bat and ball, it also covers up for poor selection and auction strategy,' former Australia all-rounder and SRH coach Tom Moody said on X.

IMAGE: Sunrisers Hyderabad opener Abhishek Sharma hits a huge six during his 66 off 28 balls in the IPL match against Punjab Kings, which Sunrisers Hyderabad won to finish second in the league.

The other side

The impact player rule has thrown a lifeline to ageing players.

Out-of-favour leggie Amit Mishra can now happily retire to his dugout after bowling four overs, and not be required to field or even bat, because a more accomplished batter and fielder can step in for him.

It has also revived players with a very specific skill.

Shivam Dube, the big-hitting all-rounder with sinewy forearms, long reach, and an impressive wingspan, has become the go-to impact player for Chennai Super Kings.

Given the licence to thrill, Dube was in the thick of the action during CSK's resounding 63-run win over Gujarat Titans at Chepauk on March 26.

Walking in at No. 4, he blasted a 23-ball 51, taking every GT bowler to the cleaners.

When CSK came out to field, Dube was substituted with medium-pacer Mohit Sharma.

The plan to use Dube as an impact player has worked for CSK. The flip side is that he has bowled in just one of his 10 games.

SRH all-rounder Washington Sundar has not got much game time.

'If you look just from the cricketing aspect of it, I feel guys like Dube and Sundar aren't getting to bowl, which for us (Team India) is not a good thing,' Rohit Sharma said in the podcast.

'If you bat well and you don't lose wickets, you can add another bowler. It gives you an option of six or seven bowlers. You don't require that extra batter because a lot of teams are batting well upfront and you hardly see a No. 7 or No. 8 coming to bat.'

There's another aspect that also gets nullified: Good captaincy.

'In a T20 game, having a gun all-rounder like Ben Stokes adds balance to your side. It gives you the option of playing an extra bowler or batter. It allows a good captain to strategise, pick holes in the opposition team, and manipulate his way through the 20 overs. With the impact player rule, it is nullifying good captaincy,' Finch said in the Willow Talk Cricket Podcast.

IMAGE: Jasprit Bumrah took 5 for 21 against RCB at the Wankhede stadium, inarguably the finest bowling seen in IPL 2024.

Bowlers' day out

There are days when bowlers have their say in the proceedings.

Jasprit Bumrah's spell of 5/21 against Royal Challengers Bengaluru last month at Mumbai's Wankhede stadium is a case in point.

India's spearhead had Virat Kohli in strife, before unleashing a barrage of yorkers and slower deliveries to shut RCB's innings.

"I believe bowlers have an important role to play in this IPL. They need to be smarter, bring in more variations, and also pre-empt the batters," Dilip Vengsarkar, former India player and chief selector, tells Business Standard.

Besides, KKR's Sunil Narine is blazing an example of how an all-rounder can shine, regardless of the new rule.

Due to turn 36 on May 26, he is in the running for this year's most valuable player.

That said, by rewriting the template and introducing the impact player rule to amplify the entertainment quotient, the IPL may be moving further away from five-day Tests and 50-over one-dayers.

Is that a good thing or bad?


Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/

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Vishal Menon
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