All-round development: The Impact Player rule is holding back several multifaceted players in IPL

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All-round development: The Impact Player rule is holding back several multifaceted players in IPL

By Samreen Razzaqui

India captain Rohit Sharma was sure that he wanted four spinners in the squad for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. When it came down to shortlisting them, a promising spin-bowling all-rounder Washington Sundar had to be overlooked for a simple reason.

“Unfortunately, Washi [Washington Sundar] has not been getting opportunities lately,” said Sharma in the press conference after the squad was announced.

Earlier, Sharma had specifically pointed out how the introduction of the impact player rule in the Indian Premier League was affecting all-rounders. The rule, which was introduced in the IPL last season, allows teams to substitute a player at any time during the match, effectively giving them 12 players to play a match with.

“I genuinely feel the impact player rule is going to hold back the development of all-rounders because eventually cricket is played by 11 players, not 12,” Sharma said in the Club Prairie Fire podcast. “Guys like Washington and Shivam Dube are not getting to bowl, which is not a good thing for us [India]. I am not sure what you can do about it, but I am not a fan of it.”

By allowing substitutions based on the dynamics of the match, teams can prioritise specific skills over others, essentially diminishing the significance of all-rounders in team composition.

While the impact player rule has emboldened batters and teams to adopt aggressive tactics, knowing they have the safety net of an additional batter, it has curtailed players’ opportunities to contribute with the ball, as teams can now afford an extra specialist bowler.

Sundar had to bear the brunt of this rule as he has played only two out of 11 matches for the Sunrisers Hyderabad so far this season. The notable reduction in his playing opportunities eventually hurt his prospects of being selected for the World Cup.

Similarly, Dube – a second seam-bowling all-rounder option in the World Cup squad – has been explosive with the bat for Chennai Super Kings but has been sidelined from bowling duties altogether. Getting into his bowling rhythm at the IPL could have been helpful if India choose to seek his services on the sticky wickets of the West Indies.

Last week, however, established all-rounders like Kolkata Knight Riders’ spin-bowling all-rounder Sunil Narine and Chennai Super King’s spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja broke away from the pattern and led their teams to victory with their all-round performances.

Like Narine and Jadeja, seam-bowling all-rounders Andre Russell and Hardik Pandya have also been providing the all-round contributions for the team.

It is important to note that the four are outliers as they were established all-rounders before the impact player rule came into effect. Because of the reputation they built way before this rule came into effect, they have been able to survive and uphold their tags as all-rounders.

Axar Patel, an established all-rounder himself, believes the rule must be reconsidered. In 11 matches, he has bowled 37 overs and taken nine wickets and scored 149 runs in nine innings. He believes that specialist batters or bowlers are being given preference ahead of all-rounders.

The pattern in the last two IPL seasons exemplifies a larger trend by which players are compartmentalised into specialised roles, often at the expense of their overall skill sets. The IPL was seen as a platform for the development for upcoming all-rounders. But if the rule persists, it might not be the case.

For instance, Riyan Parag is having a great season with the bat but Rajasthan Royals have barely used him for his leg-spin. Abhishek Sharma has won acclaim for his explosive batting at the top of the order for the Sunrisers Hyderabad but his left-arm spin has been sparingly deployed. He has bowled a mere two in 11 matches.

Krunal Pandya, meanwhile, has had very few batting opportunities for Lucknow Super Giants as he has been pushed down the order. As a result, he has scored just 79 runs in 11 matches. Rahul Tewatia, a leg-spinning all-rounder, is known for his finishing skills but has not had the opportunity to bowl for Gujarat Titans this season.

The underutilisation of these multifaceted players is rendering them either redundant or straitjacketing them into singular roles based on their perceived strengths. The continuous search of match-specific advantages is pushing the likes of Sundar, Parag and Abhishek to the margins, leaving India with very few potential all-rounders to develop for the future.

Fun Fact of the week: Last week, the International Olympic Committee announced a 36-member Refugee team for the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics which will compete under its banner in Paris. This will be the largest refugee team contingent in the Games history since the International Olympic Committee started the initiative during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. While a total of 10 refugee athletes competed in Rio, the number rose to 29 in Tokyo five years later.

Here's a recap of the top stories from this past week

Squash, Saurav Ghosal interview: ‘People enjoyed watching me, this was the legacy I wanted to leave’

ICC T20 World Cup 2024: As India chase an elusive title, here’s an analysis of the chosen 15

ICC T20 World Cup 2024: Rohit Sharma, Ajit Agarkar on team selection, KL Rahul’s omission and more

Women’s T20 World Cup: India to face Pakistan on October 6 as ICC announce tournament schedule

ISL 2024 final: Mumbai City FC beat Mohun Bagan Super Giant in final to clinch second title

Table Tennis, Saudi Smash: Manika Batra stuns world No 2 Wang Manyu; Desai-Ghorpade beat fifth seeds

Olympics, Athletics: India’s men’s and women’s 4x400m relay teams make the cut for Paris Games 2024

Shifting goalposts: AIFF chief Kalyan Chaubey needs to come clean on the ISL not having relegation

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