The ‘Impact Player’ substitute, the new innovation that is coming into the IPL this season, is set to effectively make T20s a 12-player game. However, only an Indian player can come in as a substitute, since five foreigners are not allowed in a match.
A foreign player an only come in as the sub if the team has chosen to go with less than four in their initial XI. In another development, the captains can also give two team sheets at the toss and go with the preferred lineup on the basis of the result of the toss. Both sheets can have four names as ‘Impact Player’ substitutes and only one can be used during the course of the game.
Golden rule for oldies?
For starters, it’s a golden rule or specialists. “Take somebody like Amit Mishra (Delhi Capitals) or Piyush Chawla (Mumbai Indians). They may not be the best movers on the field and may struggle with the bat at this stage of their careers. But they know their main craft — leg-spin — and can come in late and bowl their four overs and go out of the game,” former India stumper Deep Dasgupta, who analyses the game closely as a commentator, told TOI.
Even somebody like South African pacer Anrich Nortje (DC), who has struggled with his fitness, can come and bowl in a short burst and take no further part in the game.
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No allrounder, no issues
Similarly, teams that do not have the best allrounders may not struggle as much as they used to. The option of having a hard-hitting batsman like Capitals’ Prithvi Shaw, who can be replaced with a bowler (or vice versa), makes life way easier for teams who don’t have the likes of Ravindra Jadeja or Hardik Pandya in their ranks.
“This is like having five substitutes in football, and how it changed the dynamic of the sport! IPL, too, is bound to become more interesting. It will lead to more close finishes just because there will be more quality at the backend,” L Balaji, who was the bowling coach of CSK till last season, said.
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Toss no longer the boss
The toss, till now, has often played a very significant role in T20 cricket. With the format being shorter, teams batting second have invariably had the advantage, especially with the dew coming into play.
“But now, the team fielding second can have the extra bowler as a cover, which can negate the massive impact that the toss has had in T20 cricket till now,” Dasgupta said.
A similar rule change — Super Sub — was tried in the first decade of the 2000s in the lead-up to the 2007 ODI World Cup. But that rule proved to be a non-starter because the substitute had to be named before the toss and invariably the team winning the toss had the advantage.
“The fact that the player can be chosen after the toss now should make this rule more balanced than the earlier one,” Balaji, who was playing his cricket in that phase, said.
While it can’t be denied that the unpredictability so central to the spirit of cricket takes a beating, with this tweak teams which have lost crucial players closer to the IPL will get a boost.
Mumbai Indians, who have lost out on Jasprit Bumrah, can possibly name three foreigners in their first lineup and then use a left-arm pacer like Jason Behrendorff instead of an Indian batter in the second half of the innings.
“It is difficult to cover for Bumrah, but at least there could be some sort of a relief,” Dasgupta said.
But everyone agrees that till the tournament doesn’t start, it is difficult to pinpoint which teams will benefit most. The think-tanks will pore over it, will analyse conditions and take decisions on a game-to-game basis.
“The ball has to roll to know who uses it best. But I just hope the big team think-tanks understand the rule properly. In that chaos of the T20, especially at the back-end, what we don’t need is longer delays due to misinterpretation of the rule,” Dasgupta said.