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Why the player loan system is unlikely to work in the IPL

The player loan system became active from October 7, and yet no franchise has sought this path

Nagraj Gollapudi
Ajinkya Rahane was bought as back-up for the Delhi Capitals' Indian top order and has now served as replacement for Rishabh Pant

Ajinkya Rahane was bought as back-up for the Delhi Capitals' Indian top order and has now served as replacement for Rishabh Pant  •  BCCI

Chennai Super Kings have been searching for a good Indian batsman, preferably left-handed, in the absence of Suresh Raina. Delhi Capitals can do with an Indian wristspinner after a freak injury ruled out Amit Mishra as well as an Indian keeper as back-up for Rishabh Pant. Kings XI Punjab desperately need an overseas fast bowler who can reduce their death bowling woes. Rajasthan Royals will benefit from another allrounder to support Ben Stokes.
There are players sitting idle in IPL with other franchises who can actually help teams plug these holes. Parthiv Patel can fill the void at Super Kings. Mayank Markande and Aditya Tare could be an option for the Capitals. Billy Stanlake or Lockie Ferguson or Keemo Paul could help Kings XI. As can Fabian Allen or Mitchell Santner at Royals.
Franchises can seek to borrow some of these players via the player loan system which became active from October 7, after match 20 as per the IPL rules. And yet no franchise has sought this path which could fix their issues.
According to the IPL rules:
  • A franchise can borrow at least two players (capped or uncapped) for a short-term loan.
  • The player should not have featured in more than two matches before he is loaned
  • During the loan period the player cannot play against the parent franchise that released him
  • He also cannot return to the parent franchise for the remainder of the season.
Where did the idea come from?
The IPL's player loan system is based on the football model, especially the one in Europe. The loan system there serves several purposes. It's a good way for teams to hang on to players who don't fit in their immediate plans but have high resale value; in some cases the player is on very high wages, so the two clubs reach an understanding about sharing the wage cost while on loan.
When Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 8-2 in the Champions League quarter-final two months ago, their scorers included Philippe Coutinho (ironically, on loan from Barcelona) and Ivan Perisic, on loan from Inter Milan.
It's also a good way for big clubs to send young players to smaller clubs to pick up experience - a way of both toughening them up and also ensuring they get match time from an early age. So Manchester United loaned out their promising goalkeeper Dean Henderson to Sheffield United in 2018; Sheffield were then in the second tier of English football, and Henderson's heroics in goal were a big factor in their promotion to the Premier League that season.
He remained with Sheffield through 2019-20, though Premier League rules barred him from playing against his parent club. He is now back at Manchester United after two standout seasons and, though 23, is seen as a challenger to the club's main keeper, David de Gea. From the player's and club's perspective, mission accomplished.
Why the resistance, then?
The IPL works differently, though; most importantly, the season is shorter so a half-season loan with a bar on playing against your parent club means you would play only six matches at the most. Even if for a full season, with each team playing between 14-17 matches, the scope to loan youngsters to help them gain match time, as is done in Premier League, is not appealing for franchises.
But the most important reason IPL franchises remain insecure about the player loan system is because they believe by releasing a player to a rival franchise they risk disclosing their plans and strategies. Kasi Viswanathan, the Chennai Super Kings chief executive, told this week as much.
According to Viswanathan the Super Kings, who have won the IPL thrice and made the play-offs more than any other team, picks players at the auction with different plans in mind. If one plan does not work out, then players who are identified for Plan B come into play.
It does not matter that MS Dhoni's team, usually accustomed to being in the top-four in IPL during the league phase, right now is in the bottom half of the points table with just three wins in eight matches.
Along with Raina, the Super Kings also lost Harbhajan Singh even before the tournament started. Kedar Jadhav, one of the key batsman in the middle order, has struggled. A player like Patel, who has not played a single match at Royal Challengers Bangalore could then be good player to borrow.
One other reason is a team buys extra players as back-ups. Take Rahane, whom the Capitals bought from Royals after 2019 IPL as part of a trade. Rahane was bought with the sole purpose of serving back-up for the Capitals' start-studded Indian top order. Rahane has now served as a replacement for Pant who has a hamstring injury. Similar examples can be seen with Chris Lynn at Mumbai Indians, who is a back-up for Quinton de Kock.
What is the solution?
The only way the player loan system could work in IPL is if a team is out of contention for play-offs. The parent team can then exploit the loan system to make extra money through the loan fee which needs to be paid by the franchise borrowing the player. However the IPL usually is a closely fought race especially for the top six slots, so teams are highly unlikely to let go any resource easily.
Franchises are highly unlikely change their rigid mindsets. Consequently, the player loan system is a non-starter.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo