Starting from October 11, there will be a new element of surprise for the domestic teams to handle in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) – the Impact Player rule. For the regular followers of T20 cricket, this rule will seem fairly familiar. Yes, it is almost on the same line as the ‘X-factor’ rule in the Big Bash League (BBL).
But it offers more flexibility to the teams and for some, it provides a real threat and challenge that now they have to counter. We will explain everything that the rule includes and what are some of the situations that it will prove to be a X-factor.
What’s the rule, again?
In simple words, each team is now allowed one tactical substitute in every match, provided there is a match over 10 overs each side. That rule is coined as the “Impact Player”, which would be introduced in the upcoming domestic T20s before it may get introduced in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
According to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), this introduction will allow for new dimensions and will bring about an added incentive for tactics-oriented approach in the shortest format. What is important to note in BCCI’s release is the line “context of the game”.
There should be some ifs and buts, for sure, right?
Oh, there is but not as much as the BBL has in its store. At any point before the end of the 14th over, either innings, the teams are allowed to replace one of their players with the ‘Impact Player,’ who will be named from the four substitutes that the team have on their bench.
Unlike BBL though, this rule offers more flexibility for the teams. Please explain! Impact Player could replace any batter or bowler from the team that are batting first. For e.g., an opener has been dismissed pretty early in the innings and he doesn’t offer anything with the ball, the team could certainly change him with an all-rounder or even, a bowler.
As long as the team only has eleven batters and fielders.
What does the BBL rule say?
Well, the BBL introduced the X-factor rule earlier in last year’s edition of the tournament. But there, it had a few terms, the player had to be substituted at the half-way point in the game (10 overs) and the replaced player shouldn’t have batted or bowled more than one over. The super-sub system that was in place earlier in ODI (between 2005-06), had a similar rule as the BBL.
But in this latest rule by BCCI, even if the player had batted or bowled out earlier on, they can still be replaced by a player, who can bat and ball.
Why the rule though?
Ummm, that is kind of tough to explain but there are several factors from the look of things. It will definitely make T20s more exciting and tactical. The teams would now have to keep that as well in mind before taking any decision now. But more than that while not in any certain measures, it can also minimize the threats of losing the toss.
Say, a team loses the toss in a venue like Dubai, where they are forced to bat first. In that case, they can certainly either improve their batting depth by roping in a finisher, who can also bowl. Or they can also bring in a specialist bowler after a batter has batted to lengthen their bowling resources. Again, how much of an impact it will make, is really tough to say.
Also, the teams can now even replace an injured player, which essentially makes it a lot closer like football, where the teams will no longer be handicapped by the injury. The teams should inform the fourth umpire on the same, and the substitute player could walk in at the fall of a wicket or during the second innings, depending on the situation.
How about the five-over T20s?
Oh, in that condition, this rule really has no value. I mean, for any T20 encounter less than ten overs, this rule isn’t applicable. For the rule to be applicable, at least ten overs have to be bowled in the first innings. If that is true, then even in a rain-curtailed game, the teams batting second could make use of the rule, before the seventh over if it is a nine-over encounter or third over if it is a five-over one.
Can teams make the fullest use of the rule?
Again, tough to say. But one thing is certain, as BCCI have mentioned it as well. It offers tactical flexibility for the teams in a format that has ever-growing demands. It is up to the domestic teams first, to make use of the rule and provide the BCCI with enough reasons for them to take it further up.
In a situation where they are using their new-ball bowler upfront, they could bowl him out and then replace him with a death-over specialist as well. While definitely, the scope of the rule offers flexibility, it also offers a lot of grey area, for the headache of the teams.
So, will the IPL be next in line?
As things stand, it looks like the BCCI certainly wants to experiment with this rule prior to the start of the 2023 IPL, where there are high chances of the rule being implemented. However, for that, all the confusion that surrounds it, in terms of its use, has to be solved. And, in addition, the rule also has to be successful for the BCCI to then take it to the IPL.