The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been around for over 15 years now. Arguably, the second biggest cricketing event (after the World Cup), IPL is home to a few of cricket’s most exciting and enthralling matches – not to forget, also a stage for the young and the unnoticed to leave a mark. Over the years, the stature of the league has grown leaps and bounds, bringing in more attention and of course, revenue. From some high-scoring battles to some nerve-wracking finishes, some high-octane last-ball thrillers to some outright dominations, IPL has got it all. However, one thing that the league has had massive struggles with of late, is the duration and the length of the game.
4 hour IPL games are really going to hurt ratings and irritate fans. Third umpires just have to make faster decisions. And match referees have to call the game delays tighter. All the legitimate delays like the Williamson injury still did not add up to an hour.
— Joy Bhattacharjya (@joybhattacharj) April 1, 2023
A couple of years ago, in an attempt to prevent games from going on till very late in the night, BCCI adopted a 30 mins early start, but that hasn’t seemed to have worked. The number of delays, extensions, and increasingly diminishing over-rates have largely affected the run of play more often than not. Most times, the games are also seen going till midnight – a failure, well reasoned by the drop in viewership and unrest among the spectators.
An average inning this year has neared almost 2 hours – well over the permitted 85 minutes. BCCI in another bid to keep a tap on the speed of the game this year, let go of the monetary fines for even more strict (and seemingly impactful) punishment. The imposed penalty – ‘one less fielder will be allowed in the outfield for the overs that run beyond the time limit,’ however, hasn’t quite forced the teams to take action either. Teams and captains are often seen planning executions around the penalty. Makes one wonder, is the over-rate fine, fine enough?
Have to speed up these games…..
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) March 31, 2023
But has this been a problem forever? I think not. The additions to the game – strategic timeouts, umpire referrals, team reviews, frequent injuries, and other unnecessary components of the game have only sought more ground in recent times causing hindrance. And the effect has been ubiquitous – right from the franchise and domestic cricket to international games across all formats. ICC’s decision to deduct points as an over-rate penalty at this World Test Championship cycle has been the biggest testament. IPL’s format might not allow the point penalty though. One rather wise fine perhaps could be a harsher time-keeping and imposition of warnings for the captain. As it stands, a captain with three over-rate offenses is suspended for one game, but the rules need a stricter implementation- that might well prove to be the difference.
To conclude, the role of umpires and the match referee remains to be crucial. The margin between necessary vs unnecessary stoppages needs to be monitored and at the same time, the referral decision-making times must be capped well. For how much ever interesting might it become, cricket will somewhere have to draw a line – even if in form of a sterner fine.