Mumbai Indians’ players during a strategic break © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

A very characteristic feature of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the implementation of the “Strategic Time Out.” Oh! Sorry “The Maxx Mobile Strategic Time-out.” It is very clever of the cash-rich league to disguise a money-making scheme by naming it “strategic.” This has not only caused discontent among players when it was first used but has now started to bother even the spectators.

 

The time outs were first introduced in the IPL season two which was held in South Africa. It was longer and was compulsorily enforceable at the end of the tenth over of each innings. There was a break of seven and a half minutes between the two halves of an innings. What would the television audiences do during this long break? They would be ‘treated’ to commercials, what else!

 

There were several vocal critics of the time-out, the most prominent being Sachin Tendulkar. He criticized the time-outs as too long and said that it affected the momentum of a team. It was his team, the Mumbai Indians that bore the brunt of the time-outs very early in that season. Chasing 160 odd against Deccan Chargers, Mumbai scored almost half the runs before the time out. When play resumed, Mumbai lost their way as Tendulkar was dismissed a few balls after the start. Mumbai ended up losing the game from a position of comfort. This wasn’t the only occasion where Mumbai were bothered, against Kolkata they were 111 for no loss in 10 overs but ended up scoring just 187. Although they won that game, 187 after being 111 in 10 overs is not where a team wants to be at the end of 20 overs.

 

As we all know, the Indian Premier League does not leave out any opportunity to make money. We all are accustomed to hear the phrases “That is a DLF” “A Karbonn Kamaal Catch” …”That is a City moment of success” …and the list goes on. Thus, it was logical that they would not do away with the time-outs but give it a new form. They created two windows for two time-outs in each innings. The first window is available between over number six to nine, which will be taken by the bowling side. The second window lasts between over number 11 (now 13) to 16 and is available to the batting side. Each time-out will last for two and a half minutes and to add to all the drama, it was renamed as the “Maxx Mobile Strategic Time-Out.” This became applicable from the start of season three.

 

Fast forward to season four. I went for the game between Pune Warriors India and Kolkata Knight Riders which was dubbed the Sourav Ganguly vs Kolkata Knight Riders game. The match did not live up to its billing as the proceedings just crawled along to a very one-sided contest in favour of Kolkata. Pune just wandered to 118 and Kolkata chased it with ease. There was no enthusiasm or buzz in the crowds after the show by Pune and many of them started leaving as they were bored of the game which had so much hype around it. The spectators were further irritated when the strategic time-out was called for with just two runs required by Kolkata. The time-out was called for as it was the end of the 16th over, the last over of the window.

 

The way the time-out was enforced just proved to the cricketing world that there is nothing “strategic” about it. Watching the farce irritated, I wanted to ask the IPL authorities, “With just two runs required what strategy is going to be discussed?” That particular time-out was to be taken at the discretion of the batting side and do the batsmen require any help from inside to knock off the remaining two runs with four overs to spare? With just two runs required, what out- of-the-world strategy would the Kolkata coach Dav Whatmore come up with! Clearly, the enforcement of the time-out is compulsory and not at the complete discretion of the teams. Thus, if the team doesn’t want to take the time-out it is still enforced at the end of the last over of the particular window.

 

If the IPL really wanted to make the time-out “strategic” then the choice of whether or not to take it would have been left to the teams. Sometimes, the teams may want play to continue if the momentum is in their favor and it would be their strategy to continue the good work and not disrupt it with a break. On the other side of the coin, the team in trouble may want to take the time-out to review their strategy in their available window. Thus, making it compulsory gives it a very obvious commercial character. Teams today have to take the time-outs even if they do not want to simply because a few more advertisements can be fitted in; which the viewers are not interested in.

 

When people say that IPL is not just about cricket, they are right. Needless to say that it has become commercialized but at least some cricketing sense should be applied while making rules like the time-out. The IPL critics say that the viewership is falling because of the excess of cricket. But I beg to differ. I believe it is mainly due to the excessive advertisements and commercialization and has nothing to do with the sport. A simple catch is called a “Karbonn Kamaal Catch.” An inconsequential development is classified as “A City moment of success.” You do not hear commentators say “It’s a six”, they say “That is a DLF.” The time out is just one of many money making strategies. Oh! I am sorry again; it is the “Maxx Mobile Strategic Time-Out.”

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)