Why the impact player rule significantly boosts Joe Root’s hopes of Rajasthan Royals playing time in IPL 2023
The Impact Player rule will significantly increase Joe Root’s chances of playing for Rajasthan Royals at IPL 2023, explains Abhishek Mukherjee.
In IPL 2022, Rajasthan Royals reached the IPL final for the first time since the inaugural edition of the league, in 2008. However, as the tournament progressed, their lack of all-rounders became evident.
Of course, R Ashwin has any batting credentials. While a reasonable all-rounder in Test cricket, Ashwin’s sub-120 Twenty20 strike rate does not speak that highly of his batting abilities in the format.
To be fair, Ashwin batted better than he ever had in the format, striking at 141 for his 191 runs, sometimes at No.3, even scoring his first ever IPL fifty. But he remained the only bowler capable of batting.
It did not matter which of Yuzvendra Chahal, Prasidh Krishna, Trent Boult, Obed McCoy, Kuldeep Sen, and Navdeep Saini occupied the other four spots: none of them would not have looked out of position at No.11.
Rajasthan lost Nathan Coulter-Nile early in the season, and tried Jimmy Neesham twice. Unfortunately, the bowlers’ ineptitude with the bat was not the only problem Rajasthan had: their batters did not bowl either.
Riyan Parag, the closest approximation they had to a batting all-rounder, had tournament figures of 4-0-59-1, while Daryl Mitchell bowled two expensive overs in two matches.
In other words, Rajasthan had five bowlers, of whom four could not bat; and six batters, none of whom could be trusted to bowl. Their specialists did brilliantly to take them to the final, but a collective encore is unlikely.
This time, they have Jason Holder, who can address this problem to some extent but not entirely – for he strikes at 124 and goes for 8.57 an over in the IPL. The ability to do both jobs makes him valuable, but not as much as some other all-rounders in the tournament.
But more importantly, they have the Impact Player rule in their favour. While every team is likely to benefit from the option of replacing a cricketer, teams low on all-rounders are likely to thrive more.
If they bat first, they will play the extra batter, and simply replace the batter with the bowler once the former gets out. If they bowl, they will do it the other way round.
Who can be Rajasthan’s seven batters? Barring injuries, Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Shimron Hetmyer are certain starters, while Parag and Devdutt Padikkal are likely to play as well.
If the bowling attack consists of Ashwin, Chahal, Sen, Saini, and Boult, it will still allow them one overseas cricketer for that spot. Rajasthan have a few cricketers to choose from.
They can call upon Abdul Basith of Kerala, who has faced only 73 balls in his brief Twenty20 career; Donovan Ferreira of Titans and Joburg Super Kings, more experienced than Basith but with no professional cricket experience outside South Africa; and Root.
Basith and Ferreira both strike at 149 in the format, but a number significantly superior to Root’s 127 (or 129, his T20I strike rate on Indian soil). However, unlike Root, the other two have virtually no experience of batting against quality attacks on Indian pitches.
Root also struck at 135 at the recently concluded, relatively low-scoring ILT20. Of his Dubai Capitals teammates to have faced 25 balls, only Rovman Powell scored at a quicker rate.
Since the start of 2022, Root has struck at 66 in Test cricket and 92 in ODIs – quicker than the 55 and 87 he used to strike at. He was never that sought-after a Twenty20 batter – this is his first IPL contract – but he scores faster than he used to at any point in his career.
Moreover, as the league progresses and the wickets ‘age’, Root’s ability to dominate spin – of which there is little doubt – is likely to become important to Rajasthan’s cause.
And then, there are the handy off-breaks too: he does not bowl a lot in the format, but his economy matches Holder’s…