Impact player rule in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023: How does it work and how is it different from Big Bash League's X-Factor player rule?
For a game that has been played for over 100 years, we have seen several changes in players, formats and rules that have made the game what it is today. In the recent past, the rules have evolved more than as would suffice according to Darwin’s evolution theory, and it has become the norm to keep them updated with the trend and what the fans want to see as spectators.
In the last five years, T20 cricket, specifically the Indian Premier League (IPL), has been one of the most popular and widely followed cricket event. From IPL 2023 on, we will see a new rule being introduced, which has been in the pipeline for a considerable length of time and was introduced as a trial measure in the recently concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) 2022 which is the domestic T20 competition for first-class sides in India.
Delhi all-rounder Hrithik Shokeen became the first impact player in SMAT 2022, helping his team win over Manipur. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) officials are finally ready to implement the rule in the most watched franchise league in the world - the IPL.
What is the Impact Player Rule? The finer points of the rule
Each team will name four substitutes in the team sheets when the captains walk out for the toss, and only one of them can be used as an impact player during the match. The two teams can each use only one impact player. The move isn’t mandatory, which means someone like Mahendra Singh Dhoni can go on to name four substitutes but might end up not using them, which is completely fine.
Among the four substitutes, one cricketer can be brought in as a substitute before the end of the 14th over. The swapped player can then just act as a regular player, who can bowl his quota of overs, bat and field (without a substitute tag whenever he takes a catch).
Before the end of the game, the captain, head coach or manager must notify the on-field official or fourth umpire. A batting team can introduce an impact player at the fall of a wicket or during the innings break. If a player is injured and has to leave the game, an impact player can only be introduced at the end of the over and is eligible to bat. In any situation, only 11 players can bat, only five bowlers can bowl a total of four overs, and only four overseas players will be allowed, irrespective of the swaps. BCCI will release further details soon.
Important points concerning IPL Impact Player Rule
Unlike the concussion substitutes or ‘Super Sub’ concepts used in ODIs between 2005 and 2006, an impact player doesn’t necessarily have to be an identical or ‘apple-to-apple’ replacement for the player he is replacing. In other words, an impact player's role will have nothing to do with the player he is replacing.
Let us take the example of the Mumbai Indians (MI). If the skipper fails to read the pitch condition and doesn’t name Jasprit Bumrah in the starting eleven (but adds him to the list of four substitute players), thinking it would be a spinning paradise Then, before the completion of the 14th over, if they realise it has some help for the fast bowlers, MI skipper Rohit Sharma has the leeway to swap in Jasprit Bumrah for someone like Suryakumar Yadav, who is an out-and-out batter (regardless of the fact that Surya might have been bowled for a duck or scored a hundred during his batting time).
However, once swapped, the player sent back cannot be brought back into the game, even as a substitute fielder.
Similarly, suppose the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) decide to bowl first at M Chinnaswamy Stadium and are on the verge of conceding over 200 runs by the looks of how the game is progressing until the 14th over. If in this scenario, say Siraj has gone for 40 runs in his two overs already then they would have the luxury of adding an additional batter. For example, put Rajat Patidar (if he was named as one of the four substitutes) in place of Siraj, who had a terrible day with the ball.
There will be no restriction on the number of balls or bats the impact player takes (until only 5 players bowl their quota of 4 overs). For example, it won't matter if the impact player has replaced a bowler who has already completed his full quota. He will still be eligible to bowl four overs, provided there are only five bowlers who are bowling the full quota.
An impact player can come into play in place of an already dismissed batter and still get to bat like another normal batter, provided only 11 cricketers are batting. An impact player cannot be introduced in the middle of an over, unless he is coming in to bat at the fall of a wicket or he is replacing a fielder who is injured. In the second case, the injured player who was replaced cannot play again, even as a substitute.
What happens if it’s a rain-affected, shortened game?
In case of shortened matches due to bad weather conditions or stadium atmosphere, the rule gets a bit complicated. An impact player rule won't come into play if the match is reduced to 10 overs per side. If the game is more than 10 overs, then the impact player can come in according to the match rules.
For example, if the game is reduced to an 18 overs a side match, an impact player will have to be introduced before the end of the 13th over. In another instance, if the game gets shortened after one side has already used the impact player, the other team will be allowed for the same regardless of the number of overs the game has been reduced to.
What happens to the substituted player? Can he take part further in the game?
No, the substituted player can take no further part in the game - not even as a substitute fielder. But if a player suffers an injury while fielding in the middle of an over, the current playing conditions, as described under MCC Law 24.1 (substitute fielders), will be in effect. However, if the injured player is replaced by an impact player, he can no longer take part in the match proceedings.
Suppose the impact player gets injured, then MCC Law 24 (Fielder’s absence; substitutes) will come into play. If umpires are satisfied that a fielder has been injured or has become ill during the match, a substitute fielder is allowed to field in place of the injured player. The substitute shall not bowl or act as captain.
Impact Player Rule vis a vis BBL’s X-Factor rule
The X-Factor rule which is in force in the Big Bash League (BBL) in Australia, allows teams to substitute a member of their starting XI only after the 10th over of the first innings. The catch is that the player who is being sent off should not have batted or bowled more than one over. A replacement player can bowl a maximum allotment of four overs, even if the player they’ve replaced has bowled.
But the "impact player" rule of the IPL defies the fact that whether the player has already bowled, batted or even been dismissed, the substituted player can still come and do his job as a regular player.
The BCCI said the rule which will allow each team to introduce a substitute player in the middle of a match, will add ‘a new dimension’ to the popular tournament. "From the IPL 2023 season onwards, a tactical concept will be introduced to add a new dimension to the IPL, wherein one substitute player per team will be able to take on a more active role in an IPL match," the BCCI said on Friday.
“The regulations pertaining to the same will be issued shortly," the BCCI further added.
How will this rule benefit the players and the team will only be understood when the rule takes centre stage in IPL 2023. It goes without saying that teams will looks to exploit the additional player basis playing conditions and it will take some time for the captains and management to get used to such tactical substitutions. But one thing is for sure, this rule is certain to bring in excitement, out of the box thinking and some controversies along the way. For all of that, the fans will have to wait and watch for the most anticipated league in the world.