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In the just concluded, long, long IPL season, one cricketing aspect that interested me was the over-dependence of some teams on certain players. Royal Challengers Bangalore have Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli, Mumbai Indians have Kieron Pollard and Kolkata Knight Riders have Sunil Narine. MS Dhoni for Chennai Super Kings and Dale Steyn for Sunrisers Hyderabad, to a lesser extent, also seem to have such an impact. If the opposition can manage to get over these impact players, they feel the job is half done.
Here is where I think the IPL can make a novel change. There should be a cap on the number of matches one player can play in the group stages of a particular season. Only the nominated captain at the beginning of the season can play the full quota of matches. The others can play a maximum of 10 or 12 matches out of the 16. It would apply to all players, Indian or foreign.
This can help in many ways. Firstly, it would test the bench strength of the teams; it will prevent any team from carrying around passengers to warm the benches. This move will give a better chance to youngsters who are often overshadowed by international players in the high-profile teams, as one Aakash Chopra article recently pointed out.
It would also introduce a tactical aspect into the game - that of deciding which player would play which match, taking into consideration the opposition and playing conditions. Lastly, it would also give players some respite from the long group stages, and the unrelenting heat.
All in all, it would be a good addition to the tournament, and a good way to bring the weak teams closer to those that have a bunch of superstars in their ranks. And it would be a new topic for discussion among IPL followers. Imagine this situation: a particular team needs to win its last two games in the league stage. You have someone like AB de Villiers with one match left, and a rank newcomer in the form of his life with one match left. Whom do you play, and in which match?
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