IPL 2017: Why teams should be allowed to field five foreign players this season

The list of injured or rested players in this season’s Indian Premier League (IPL) reads like a who’s who of Indian cricket: Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Ravichandran Ashwin, Umesh Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja. But that’s not all.

Rising Pune Supergiant's Ravichandran Ashwin. AFP

Rising Pune Supergiant's Ravichandran Ashwin. AFP

The fitness level of injury-sidelined cricketers, Rohit Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Amit Mishra has not been determined at match level. Additionally there is fear that injury-prone players, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Wriddhman Saha and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, among others, could break down at any time, thus further worsening the crisis that dogs this season’s IPL.

The situation is alarming for there are no domestic replacements of acceptable quality readily available. On the other hand, there is a huge competence gap between first and second rung of India players. Over the years some of the batting or bowling ability that second and third rung players have brought to IPL matches have been painfully embarrassing to watch.

These cricketers, who made their name in first class and junior cricket were literally found wanting in the heat of the battle. They could not put bat to ball at crucial times and left a more accomplished player stranded at the non-striker’s end. The same could be said of their run-of-the-mill bowling and sloppy fielding.

Unfortunately if top Indian cricketers are unavailable, teams would be forced to fill up the eleven with these lesser players. The makeshift playing eleven would inevitably affect the quality of play and thereby bring down the standard of IPL.

This, in turn, would harm the brand, something the IPL Governing Council and BCCI should be vexed with.

IPL rules mandate that no side can have more than four overseas players in the playing eleven. However, the IPL GC could make an exception for this year and allow each franchise to field five foreigners. It is not an outlandish idea for the same was done before.

In 2011 Mumbai Indians lost six players to injury, Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Munaf Patel, Ali Murtaza, Dhawal Kulkarni and Suryakumar Yadav in the run up to the Champions League T20.

The erstwhile tournament organisers in a press release stated thus: “In the current circumstances, if the Mumbai Indians suffer one more injury to an Indian player, they will be unable to field a team due to CLT20 rules restricting teams to a maximum of four overseas players in any one match.

“As a result, the CLT20 governing council has approved a recommendation by the technical committee that to ensure the integrity of the tournament the Mumbai Indians will be permitted to select up to five overseas players in any one team, provided those players were contracted to play in the 2011 IPL.”

MI that year played all their matches with five overseas players.

It is no secret that spectators, viewers and advertisers get hooked on to IPL because of the absorbing drama and high quality of play. Last minute twists and turns are part of the charm. A late surge where 50 to 70 runs are scored at a terrific pace in the last five overs is not uncommon.

Of course this mind-boggling run rate is owing to the tremendous power hitting in the closing stages. But frankly can the second and third rung India cricketers be expected to come up with such savage power hitting? Probably not. In which case there would be no last minute drama if they were at the crease during a close, hot chase. The eyeballs that drive telecast ratings would probably plummet. And that cannot be good news for any of the stakeholders.

Under the circumstances the inclusion of five overseas players in the playing eleven would probably be the best solution to the current crisis.

Alternately the IPL GC can work out a system where a franchise can field five overseas players for a maximum of seven league matches. That could take care of resting key Indian players for some games and at the same time protect the quality of professional play.

Would the current GC, given COA’s penchant to get into the thick of things, be nimble enough to take quick decisions? Time will tell.

Updated Date: Apr 01, 2017 13:21 PM

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