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Feature

Time for the IPL to start keeping time better

Late finishes are the norm this season and have always plagued the league - this is not ideal for the viewers, the broadcasters and, by extension, the IPL itself

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
05-Apr-2023
Umpire Akshay Totre signals a wide - or is he showing us how long an average innings takes this IPL?  •  BCCI

Umpire Akshay Totre signals a wide - or is he showing us how long an average innings takes this IPL?  •  BCCI

Even Jos Buttler has had it with the pace of play in IPL 2023.
"Let's speed up the pace of play," Buttler tweeted, along with a folded hands emoji and the IPL hashtag, 43 minutes into the match between Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants. That match started five minutes late because a resident dog strayed onto the Chepauk field, and the innings during which Buttler tweeted lasted an hour and 48 minutes. The match ended past 11.30pm.
Get this, though: that was not even close to the longest innings in the first seven matches of this IPL. Royal Challengers Bangalore took two hours and two minutes to finish their bowling against Mumbai Indians, and Gujarat Titans took an even two hours against Super Kings in the tournament opener after the match had already started two minutes late because the opening ceremony went into overtime.
Not a single completed innings of 20 overs so far has had the last over begin inside the stipulated 90 minutes, which includes five minutes of timeouts. The IPL aims for matches to finish in three hours and 20 minutes, but no match has been able to achieve this target. Only two matches in which both sides have faced 20 overs each have taken under four hours to complete, and barely so. This is despite cutting short the 20-minute innings break.
As a result the double-header days have been chaotic for those looking to follow both games, and night matches have gone well into after-hours, which can't be ideal for the viewers who have to wake up for work the next morning. And that can't be ideal for the IPL or the broadcasters.
Time-keeping has perhaps been the stickiest in-game issue the IPL has had to deal with. It has tried various penalties to no significant effect, it has moved start times from 8pm to 7.30pm, which, in the opinion of many, including MS Dhoni, skews the matches in favour of the chasing sides because the dew has not yet set in by 7.30pm. Eventually in-game penalties had to be introduced, which means any overs not bowled inside the stipulated time will have to bowled with one fielder fewer outside the 30-yard ring.
Only one of the 12 innings that have run into overtime so far this IPL has featured this penalty though - when Super Kings bowled to Super Giants - and that tells you a lot about the nature of delays during the games. With no evidence to point otherwise, it is safe to assume the match officials have seen mitigating circumstances to make allowances for such inordinately long delays. One culprit is the added DRS reviews for wides and no-balls, which the league might want to re-evaluate if it wants to provide a crisp product.
These are early days in the competition's proper homecoming. It probably can't be as streamlined as it was when played at a limited number of venues without full houses over the last three years. However, it is pertinent that teams get their acts together - or are forced to do so - and not play a slow brand of cricket that loses spectators towards the thrilling final moments just because the match went on till too late in the night.
In 2018, the Indian Express reported, quoting Star Sports' managing director, that IPL TV ratings began to dip after 10.45pm and took a nosedive post-11pm. These numbers essentially say that viewers just don't keep watching till that late.
Granted, a lot of slow over-rates occur because of the competition. Competitive teams want to recover enough before bowling the next ball so that they can be at their best. But when one of the said competitors, Buttler in this case, tweets out that even he is finding the pace of the game too slow, you know the IPL needs to do something about it.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo