Indian Premier League March 29, 2010

The IPL's ridiculous over-rate fines

While a fine is perhaps the only way to book the guilty, the flip side of it baffles me

Kumar Sangakkara might not have a problem in paying $110k, but the Indian recruits are likely to feel the pinch © Indian Premier League

This was perhaps in the offing. Kumar Sangakkara’s ban for a match didn’t really take me by surprise. After being penalized twice in five games for the same offence, the third faux pas just had to be dealt with severely. Yet, it would be too naive for us to take this slip-up as just that. Had it been the case, the mammoth fine of $140,000 would’ve undoubtedly served as a good enough deterrent. Perhaps, there is more to the story than what meets the eye.

Since it takes only four minutes to finish an over, 80 minutes should be enough to finish 20. Two strategic time outs of 2.5 minutes each should then settle the innings at around 85 minutes in total. This time span becomes lesser, if you happen to have spinners in the side, bowling at less than three minutes an over.

But what’s transpiring on the field is quite the opposite. As many as four captains have already been fined once for slow over-rate. This tells us that the estimations aren’t as clear-cut as they sound, at least not in this format. While T20 runs at its own rapid pace, there’s always the danger of a captain going with the flow. But if the captain allows that to happen, the team is doomed. He needs to break the momentum at regular intervals to ensure that the opposition doesn’t run away with the game. And that’s where the problem starts.

Most bowlers take a few extra minutes at the start of a spell, to warm-up, get the run-up and think right, which they make up for in the following overs. Unlike 50-over cricket, where bowlers get to bowl longer spells, in T20, bowling changes are introduced after every couple of overs, which in turn is not always easy on them. While most bowlers mark their run-ups in advance, it’s only natural to be 100% sure every time they start a new spell. Because one no-ball followed by a free-hit can change the complexion of the game. Also, most teams have at least three-four quick bowlers who take a lot more time than the spinners. In ODIs, longer spells from spinners make up for the extra time consumed by the quick bowlers, but four-over spells in T20 are not enough.

To add to a captain’s woes, the noise in the stadium makes it almost impossible for him to convey messages to his out-fielders. But you can also not have the fielders in the right place. Hence, the field change too consumes another couple of crucial minutes. I won’t be surprised if Sangakkara has had a quiet word with the DJ in Mohali to avoid further penalties. Slow over-rate might have an explanation or two; unfortunately it doesn’t have any real solution, except of course running between the overs and even the deliveries.

While a fine is perhaps the only way to book the guilty, the flip side of it baffles me. The third offence not only led to Sangakkara's ban but also another whopping fine of $250,000. Sangakkara might not have a problem in paying $110k ($20k for the first offence and $40k & $50k for the other two), others in the team, especially the local Indian recruits are sure to feel the pinch shelling out $30,000 each. Some of them are earning no more than a few lakhs for the entire tournament and if they happened to be fined twice, they may take home nothing. One more offence and these players will have to pay from their pockets to play in the IPL. Most franchisees would happily pay the fine, but it’s only a gesture. Since they are not forced to pay, one cannot really hold it against them if they decide otherwise.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here