IPL 2017 May 19, 2017

Introduce 'wicket pressure' to even out rain-hit T20s - Fleming

ESPNcricinfo staff

Several IPL stakeholders - players, coaches, franchise owners and administrators - have expressed reservations on various aspects of the rain-affected eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders in Bengaluru on Wednesday, which finished at 1.27 am the following day.

While Stephen Fleming, coach of finalists Rising Pune Supergiant, has spoken strongly of the need to revamp the method of revising targets in T20 cricket, members of the Knight Riders management, including captain Gautam Gambhir and coach Jacques Kallis, have voiced concerns about the late finish. IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla, meanwhile, said the governing council will be looking into the the possibility of reserve days in future.

After restricting Sunrisers to 128, Knight Riders had to wait over three hours while the rain poured down before they were set a revised target of 48 to chase in six overs via the Duckworth-Lewis method. They eventually got there comfortably, despite being reduced to 12 for 3 seven balls into the chase.

Fleming said that while the D/L method was efficient in the 50-over format, it was heavily biased towards the chasing team in a T20 game. In a column in the Times of India, Fleming suggested "wicket pressure" - that is, reducing the wickets in hand along with the overs in shortened T20 - was the best way to even out the contest.

"The D/L method is satisfactory for 100 overs, but in a 40-over game, it simply favours the team batting second too much," Fleming said. "With low-scoring games on difficult pitches, whenever the overs are reduced, the team batting second will always have an edge because they stand a far lower chance of being bowled out, so they can stay a lot more relaxed.

"In a situation like Wednesday night, even though there has been a small increase in runs required and there's pressure on the team batting second owing to a reduction in the number of overs, they still have all wickets in hand which means they can play without risk. Even losing three wickets in approximately one over doesn't really hamper them; they know they can just keep going because they have plenty of batting resources to fall back on."

"The whole scenario just isn't ideal and definitely needs a bit of tweaking. One of the ideas floating around is to introduce 'wicket pressure', so if you have a small chase, then you also have fewer wickets to play with. In effect, that means you only have five wickets, for example, for a six-over chase."

The IPL 2017 regulations state that if a knockout game is washed out, the team that finished higher in the league stage will be declared the winner. They also allow for a later cut-off time for play to begin in the playoffs than in the league games. On Wednesday, the six-over chase began just after 12.50 am. The regulations allow for a five-over innings to begin as late as 12.58 am, and a Super Over decider to begin at 1.20 am. But there is no reserve day, except for the final.

Stephen Fleming: 'The D/L method is satisfactory for 100 overs, but in a 40-over game, it simply favours the team batting second too much' © Getty Images

This is different from the rules in 2014, which had a provision for a reserve day for all playoff matches. The first qualifier between Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab went into the reserve day that season.

Speaking of the possibility of a reserve day next season, Rajiv Shukla said, according to the Times of India: "The late-night finishes are a concern. Shah Rukh [Khan, the Knight Riders franchise co-owner] has tweeted about the option of a reserve day. We will weigh all options and the IPL governing council will look into it."

Gambhir, in his column in the New Indian Express, said: "I felt sorry for Sunrisers. I hope someone takes note of rain-affected matches and comes up with a plan B." Kallis in his column in the Times of India said, "It was truly crazy to see the winning runs hit at 1.30 in the morning." After the game on Wednesday, Knight Riders pace bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile had said, "You can't be playing cricket at 2 am."

However, Gambhir also applauded the new drainage facilities at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium which allowed play to begin after all that rain. "Any other venue in India, with that amount of rain, it would have been game, set and match Sunrisers," he said.

This drainage and the logic of the cut-off times and rain rule might be put to the test once again on Friday night, when the IPL's second qualifier - between Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians - will be played at the same venue, which has been hit by significant amounts of rainfall over the 48 hours leading up to the game.