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IPL 2023

‘The biggest rule change since DRS’ – IPL set to introduce tactical substitutions in 2023

'The Biggest Rule Change Since DRS' - IPL Set To Introduce Tactical Substitutions In 2023
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Ahead of its 16th season, the Indian Premier League is set to unveil a novel player substitution system: here’s all we know so far about the concept, which will be introduced in IPL 2023.

On Friday, December 2, IPL’s social media handles announced that the upcoming season will have a “tactical concept” of player substitutions. The wording of the announcement was kept vague, with no exact mention of ‘‘Impact Player’, a term widely used  to refer to the player substitution system (although the word “impact” was used in the Tweet). The announcement read: “From the TATA IPL 2023 season 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 a more active part in the match”.

How does it work?

The regulations for the rule are yet to be made public, but initial indications suggest that the concept will closely follow that of ‘Impact Player’ substitution system employed by the BCCI for India’s 2022/23 home domestic season. It was first announced in September 2022, and was used by teams during the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. Here’s how the tactical substitution worked for the T20 trophy:

# Each team names four substitutes for the match ahead of the toss. One of them is allowed to be used as a player substitute during the game.

# The selected player can be used to replace any of the first-XI players at any juncture before the 14th over of either innings. Consequently, the player could replace an already dismissed batter, but the number of batters allowed cannot be more than 11.

# As a bowler, the player could replace any of the bowlers already used partially, and go on to bowl, and can even send down his quota of four overs.

The first player to be used under such a system was Delhi’s Hrithik Shokeen during their SMAT fixture against Manipur. According to ESPNcricinfo, the system was introduced in the IPL after being trialled at the domestic level to check the feedback of players and coaches, earning a positive response.

Apart from being a purely tactical concept, the player substitution system could also be useful for player injury replacements. In recent times, the Covid-19 and concussion substitution protocols have been employed by teams to make vital changes to their lineup. The ‘Impact Player’ (or whatever sponsored name it gets) could provide teams with the chance to quickly replace those afflicted with injuries or illness.

What are the possibilities?

There are wide-ranging opportunities for teams to play with their combination and maximise their squad depth. Teams in need of a power-hitter can always draft in a new batter at the expense of an already dismissed one to elongate their batting. A bowling team in need of an extra seamer or spinner could switch out a bowler going through an off day. The advantage (or disadvantage) of the toss factor could also be neutralised to a certain extent, with teams able to make tweaks to their balance based on the conditions on offer once a game is in play. Further, a team could also make swaps for favourable match-ups, bringing in a player to gain player-versus-player advantage over the opposition.

A couple of complications that could arise from the rule would be the existing cap on foreign players. Currently, each team is permitted to have four overseas players in their XI. It could be the case that the cap remains, with an overseas player only being allowed to be replaced by another.

Player substitution systems have been tried in the past, most recently with Big Bash League’s X-Factor rule, a concept whereby any of the two listed substitute players can be employed at the ten-over mark. There is a difference between the two though: in the BBL, the player to be replaced should not have batted or bowled more than one over. Based on feedback by the teams, the system has been scrapped ahead of the 2022/23 BBL season.

Further back, the Supersub player substitution system was implemented by the ICC in 2005, but was discontinued within a year.

Given cricket’s rocky history with tactical substitutions, it remains to be seen how far the IPL goes with their novel idea. Like the other two, it might be forgotten soon enough. Or, given the wider range of options available with this one, it could end up being a revolutionary move for the game.

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