I had been contemplating putting down my thoughts on how IPL should change, how it should not be just another T20 tournament, how it should develop its own USP. And that is when I came across the article Power-hitting, the stand-out aspect of T20 cricket, by S. Dinakar in The Hindu of May 2, 2014. The article starts out “The sixes have been bludgeoned rather than timed in the on-going Indian Premier League”.
I noticed the difference immediately – in the title it is T20 but in the first sentence it is IPL. Save Erapalli Prasanna, a favorite cricketer of mine when I was growing up, none of the people quoted in this piece made the distinction between T20 and IPL. Then, I thought I should join Prasanna and cement this distinction, going far beyond what I suspect my hero would have liked to. Sorry Prasanna!
To start mild, I would say that as IPL has to discard this toss ritual. The designated home team must bat first, no matter the conditions. As each team plays every other team on a home-and-away basis through the season, each team will be forced to exhibit its wherewithal in setting a target as well as in chasing one. With some tweaks this can be taken into the play-off games also.
The field restrictions must go. This would bring in dynamism to the match. It is up to the captain to marshal his strengths strategically and tactically too. Where he placed his fielders for a particular bowler at a particular stage in the contest must be his prerogative and his alone.
The faster IPL sheds power plays, the better it would be. These look such a patchwork of rules and regulations. The bowling captain should give the nod to the fact that any ball bowled is a potential wicket or the clichéd “maximum”. He has to do a risk assessment – after all he has a battery of laptops working for him. On the other hand, I do not see any harm in keeping the no ball, short pitched ball and wide rules.
In American baseball, one of the funniest and most entertaining things to watch is the signal from the dugouts to the players in the middle. I miss these in IPL. IPL should bring in these, one signal, as decided by the captain taking feedback from the coaches, to all in the field. There should be detailed playbook with each combination of bowlers, batsmen and field positions given a specific code. It will be a choreographed dance’ like touching the nose, pulling the right ear, slapping oneself on the right cheek etc. and we could be spared the pom-pom shaking of the cheer leaders!
The umpire’s status must be lowered. As it is, even for the most obvious decisions, the third umpire is consulted. It is the decision board that conveys the decision. The umpire is becoming increasingly redundant. Then, I do not see the need for the exalted position given to umpires. They must become more like the ball boys and girls in tennis!
And, here comes the big one. Each team must comprise two sub-teams, one batting and the other fielding. The batting sub-team must have no more than six players. The bowling team may have either eight or nine players; that is, six or seven players to cover the field. No restrictions on how many players can be shared between the two sides (the maximum, of course, is six!)
I will hint at the logic behind these suggestions. With only six wickets to lose, and even with only six or seven fielders roaming the field, the batting side will be wary of “bludgeoning”. The effect of “field restrictions” is brought out through another mechanism. The batsmen can go in for his shots but has to bear the risk of things not going well. There has to be heightened level of confidence behind a shot as the number of wickets to be sacrificed is fewer. The batting side will not carry the deadwood of bowlers trying to swat any and every ball out of the park. There will be some cricket left in IPL, unlike today.
If all these changes are brought in IPL would cease to be T20. A new name can be thought for this format of the game. Prasanna’s distinction will be valid and I will be satisfied. Why worry about the others?