IPL: "Shouldn’t impact players leave an impact on the game?"

IPL chairman Arun Dhumal discusses a plan to ensure more equitable fees for players in future

IPL chairman Arun Dhumal (photo: Sportzpics/BCCI)
IPL chairman Arun Dhumal (photo: Sportzpics/BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The final week of the IPL 2024, the 17th edition of the tournament, is already upon us — and with it, the time has come to look at the long-term takeaways from the season.

While the introduction of the impact player has evoked mixed responses over two seasons of this experimental rule being in place, the other talking point has surely been the abnormal price tags enjoyed by Australian pace aces Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

It’s a no-brainer that the impact player rule has had a severe impact in making the games high-scoring ones — with the ongoing season witnessing the highest-ever total in a single innings (287) by the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Punjab Kings pulling off a highest-ever chase of a 262-run target at the Eden Gardens. A 250-run total, once considered a once-in-a-season wonder, has become commonplace.

This has opened up a debate, with India captain Rohit Sharma saying cricket is a team sport for 11 players per side and not 12. Other say it is also hindering the all-rounders from getting a chance to bowl — a complaint refuted in principle at least by Arun Dhumal, the IPL chairman. ‘

’Yes, there is some chatter about it; but then, when you introduce an impact player — do you want a little impact, significant impact or no impact from him?" the IPL head honcho asks.

"Isn’t it good that they have been creating an impact, often ensuring close finishes?’’

Speaking to the National Herald during an exclusive interview over the phone, Dhumal says: ‘’We will definitely take feedback from all the stakeholders on it; but at the end of the day, it still remains very much a battle between the bat and the ball."

How have the likes of a (Jasprit) Bumrah, (Sunil) Narine, Jaddu (Jadeja) or Axar (Patel) managed to thrive in all situations?
Arun Dhumal, IPL chairman

Dhumal, also the BCCI treasurer, feels that the smarter bowlers will always find a way.

‘’The franchises have to prepare good all-rounders for all situations. You need at least need two of them per team," he says.

"Let them play enough domestic cricket and come up, but don’t expect teams to deliver 170- or 180-plus matches all the time. The paying public also come to the ground to see some good hitting.’’  

The IPL, which like the 2019 season had to contend with the hype and hoopla of the Lok Sabha elections right alongside its course, has fared well enough. The recent figures released by the Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) say 510 million viewers have watched the first 51 matches on Star Sports, which shows a 5 per cent increase from the 2019 edition. Meanwhile, there has been a 19 per cent increase in TVR (television viewership rating) in the global audience, over 2021.

‘’The final numbers will come in later, but it has been a hugely successful IPL in terms of fan engagement in the election year. The attendance levels have improved on the ground, irrespective of the billing of the matches – not to speak of the quality of cricket on view,’’ Dhumal says.

An area where the concerned franchises had to cop a lot of flak was the startlingly high bids for Mitchell Starc (Kolkata Knight Riders) and Pat Cummins (Sunrisers Hyderabad).

In the aftermath of Australia gatecrashing India’s party in the 50-over World Cup final in November 2023, the mini-auction in Dubai saw franchises locked in a fierce bidding war — what economists might call 'conspicuous consumption'. Starc became the highest grosser in the history of the IPL, with Rs 24.75 crore, and Cummins followed at Rs 20.50 crore.

Asked whether the BCCI might ponder pay parity across the board in future, Dhumal agrees that the suggestion is very much on the anvil.

‘’[The bidding war] happened because of the limited pool of players available last December and some of the franchises had enough purse left," he says.

"However, we will put our heads together to work out a bracket for uncapped, international or overseas players so that there is a more equitable distribution of the purse.’’  

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