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Imbalance between bat and ball? 3 reasons why impact player rule has overstayed its welcome

The BCCI introduced the impact player rule in IPL 2023 to encourage more participation of Indian players and to reduce the difference between the two sides. The matches have become close but the lack of opportunities for Indian all-rounders has been one of the three major issues with it.

Written By: Anshul Gupta @oyegupta_ New Delhi Published on: April 22, 2024 8:21 IST
Impact player rule has allowed teams to go hard with the
Image Source : IPL X Impact player rule has allowed teams to go hard with the bat from the outset but it has had an adverse effect on the game

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is resistant to change when it comes to embracing new rules or technology. Whether it was the late application of the Decision Review System (DRS) or the continued resistance to sending their male cricketers to take part in the overseas T20 leagues. However, the sudden introduction of the impact player in the 2023 edition of the IPL as well as the domestic T20 competition in India came as a surprise. Even though this wasn't a new rule as it had been used in the Big Bash League (BBL) as X-factor, there were restrictions.

The X-factor player could be activated by a team only by the 10th over of the first innings. However, in the IPL, the teams have the freedom to bring in the impact player at any point of the match and can replace whichever player they deem fit, irrespective of the amount of role he has played in the game till that point. 

At first, it seemed like a decent innovation, since it tested the teams' bench strengths, their tactics and gave Indian players more chances to showcase their skills. However, now one and a half seasons into the competition, even though the teams are better prepared to use it, its drawbacks and limitations have become too big and evident to ignore and might even hurt Indian cricket going forward.

1. Imbalance between bat and ball

Conditions, pitch and the surface will dictate how the batters play, however, the impact player has definitely had an effect on scores of 230 reaching 260-270, which has surprisingly become a norm in the 2024 edition of the IPL. The impact player has allowed the top-order of teams to come out all guns blazing as they are aware that a pure batter will be batting at No 8, so they can take a few more risks than before and the bowlers, who anyway have not a lot going for them in T20 cricket, are on the receiving end even more.

It's not going to work everytime, the GT vs DC and PBKS vs GT games in Ahmedabad and Mullanpur are recent examples as the surface and how the ball is coming on will dictate the scores for the most part but on small grounds with belter surfaces and short boundaries, it hasn't helped the game given a team scoring 260-270 has potentially ended the game in the first innings itself. Sunrisers Hyderabad in particular have exploited it to the fullest having smashed three of the five highest team scores in one season itself. 

Because no impact player would mean that the batting would potentially end at 6/7 and the bowlers will have a little bit more chance to be in the game and create chances.

 2. Lack of opportunity for Indian all-rounders

The likes of Washington Sundar, Shivam Dube and even Nitish Reddy, Rahul Tewatia and Hardik Pandya, a few of the key Indian all-rounders on show in the tournament, with the impact player rule in force, don't have to compulsorily use one of their two skills, which ultimately might hamper Indian cricket in the future. Already there are a handful of two-in-one all-rounders for India, especially in the pace department and those too are not being required as much.

Tewatia is basically a finisher for the Gujarat Titans, not even being considered a bowler. Shivam Dube is used as an impact player, Hardik Pandya despite being the captain of the Mumbai Indians can pick and choose moments and games he wants to bowl. Similarly with Nitish Reddy, who bowled three overs in one game and not even one in the next while Sundar too is being used as an impact sub by the Sunrisers Hyderabad. International cricket doesn't provide the impact player luxury and the sixth bowler will have to bowl irrespective of the match situation or the opposition and hence, the teams need to bowl their all-rounders more to at least keep them in contention for the highest level.

3. Letting teams get away with holes in their squads, almost using it as an excuse for their auction mistakes

At 14/4, Punjab Kings had no right to still be in the running to chase down 191 against the Mumbai Indians but the impact player meant they had batting till No 8 and had Kagiso Rabada, a decent No 8/9 batting at 11. The impact player has almost given the teams and the players use it as an excuse to taper over the leaks in the squad. The players might not be in the form, or structurally, the team may not be strong enough to compete but an extra player somehow ensures that they stay in the game despite all the mistakes they incurred at the auction table and in the match.

The impact player has been a decent innovation that keeps not just the teams interested in the game given their batting line-ups just don't seem to end and the opposition can't relax at any point, the fans too remain invested for the entire duration given how close the two teams have become to each other. But like it happened in the Punjab Kings vs Mumbai Indians game, it gives a team far too leeway than they deserved and has tilted the game in the batters' favour even more, which might not be the greatest thing to come out of it. The BBL scrapped the rule after a few seasons and it might have the same consequence in the IPL as well.

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