A mega tournament like the IPL involves several stakeholders, major and minor.
Matches extending way beyond scheduled completion time is becoming a bugbear in the Indian Premier League this season. Hardly a couple of fixtures have gotten over in the period stipulated, some even going over by 40-45 minutes.
A mega tournament like the IPL involves several stakeholders, major and minor. From franchisees, official broadcasters, state associations etc to vendors — of food, merchandise, security and sundry other services — each one gets affected by delays.
Apart from the hardship of longer working hours, there is also the increase in costs that have to be absorbed. These could end up becoming prohibitive over a period of time.
Take for example floodlights. If these have to be utilized for an extra hour, it could scale up power costs by almost 20 per cent, which is unsustainable even in the medium term
The only way this is manageable is to pass on the extra costs incurred to other stakeholders, which would not only unfair, but also have its own repercussions. For instance, IPL tickets don’t come cheap and fans would be loath to pay more.
Matches which finish beyond time without very good reason are also in gross violation of fan delight, which in fact is the defining philosophy of limited overs cricket.
One part of this philosophy is, of course, to ensure results. A preponderance of drawn Tests — in the 1950s and 1960s particularly — had seen cricket lovers starting to move away from the sport. This forced administrators to introduce a format, one-day cricket, where a result became mandatory. Then T20 cricket arrived in the first decade of this millennium because ODIs were thought to be getting boring.
This was especially pronounced during the ‘middle overs’ where free-flowing action was giving way to battles of attrition and failing to engage young viewers.
But another significant, aspect that administrators have been seized off, especially in the T20 age, is to crunch time — in short supply for everyone in this day and age — spent for a match experience.
The formula decided for T20 matches was based in research which showed how much time people would happily spare for a match the at the stadium, or watch on TV. Undue excess in this can only have long-term ramifications.
I was at a night match last week that went beyond scheduled time and saw a young couple with their two children —who had been having a gala time till then — leaving the stadium prematurely.
When asked, the couple said the children were sleepy. Moreover, next day’s school attendance was under threat because of the late hour. Would they come for another match? “We’ll have to consider,’’ said the father.
While the IPL is usually played during the vacation season in India, there is nevertheless serious problem looming on the horizon that the BCCI, franchises, players etc would ignore at their own peril.
But what is causing these extraordinary delays? Some of it is beyond anybody’s control: for example when the floodlights go off suddenly, there is Super Over situation (though it can’t take half hour!) or if a player suffers an injury which demands more time.
For the most though, the problem is how players themselves manage the flow of play. Slow over rates is the bane of the game. Captains and bowlers tend to get into minutiae in discussing tactics, field placings etc, which eat up time.
While the T20 format is demanding and exhaustive, physically and mentally, adhering to the established time limits is also important. But captains and players treat this with disdain because penalties are shallow. What can be done to arrest this problem?
A monetary fine does not daunt erring players as this is usually insignificant considering the scale at which the IPL operates. It is easily fitted into ‘operating’ costs. Some former players have come up with solutions. Tom Moody, former Australia player, says the IPL should follow the practice of the Caribbean Premier League where teams guilty of delay have their Net Run Rate adversely affected.
This is a fine suggestion because it directly affects the prospects of a team, not just its finances. I’d go further and say that this proviso should be in addition to a hefty fine.
Hitting where it hurts most, in multiple ways, seems the best antidote to the problem.