Former South Africa captain and Royal Challengers Bangalore's senior player AB de Villiers has lent his voice to the growing chorus calling for quicker over rates in IPL 2019, saying the tournament "needs to get into the gym" to keep up with the dynamism of the format and ensure that matches finish within the stipulated three and a half hours.
Although captains have been penalised right through the IPL's history for slow over rates, the problem has aggravated this season with several matches, mostly evening games, crossing the stipulated time limit, stretching past midnight and spanning more than four hours.
The IPL playing conditions say that each innings of the match should be wrapped up in 90 minutes, including the two strategic time-outs that last two-and-a-half minutes each. That means a match needs to be over in 200 minutes. The conditions do permit some leeway for player injury or delay due to any unforeseen reason.
If those kinds of delays happen in the first innings, the match officials have the liberty to adjust the interval to about 15 minutes, something that has happened in some instances this season.
However, de Villiers feels a clampdown is necessary. "There's no shame involved, and it happens to everybody in middle age, but it's important to stay in shape," he wrote in his column for The Times of India. "Maybe the IPL needs to get into the gym. Matches are supposed to be completed within three-and-a-half hours, enough time for both innings, strategic time-outs and a break. However, in 2019, IPL games have been running for longer than four hours, with matches starting at 8 pm and finishing well past midnight."
Having a 10-minute innings interval will force teams to expedite things and avoid situations like the Super Over between Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders, which de Villiers said finished at a "breakfast" time. "One easy fix could be to reduce the break between innings from the current 20 minutes to a manageable 10 minutes…When a super over had been completed to decide the match between Delhi Capitals and Kolkata Knight Riders, it felt as if it was time for breakfast."
Currently, the IPL levies only monetary fines for over-rate offences. Three captains have been handed fines of INR 12 lakh (approx. $17,300) so far this season: Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli for Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore's slow over rate against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali, and Ajinkya Rahane for Rajasthan Royals' tardiness in their away game against Chennai Super Kings.
De Villiers said he believed that the monetary penalty or suspension handed out to the erring captain is hardly ever a deterrent. "There is a system in place whereby the captain is penalised if his team fails to maintain the required over rate while bowling," de Villiers wrote. "This involves a fine for the first offence followed by suspension, but the impact of these measures appears minimal, roughly equivalent to the weight loss of an obese gentleman who orders two giant hamburgers and a diet Coke!"
"Simple solution, forget monetary fines, deduct from teams net run rate," he had tweeted, in response to a complaint from the former England captain Michael Vaughan that IPL games were taking too long to finish.
Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings head coach, had also urged captains and broadcasters to show urgency, "so, collectively, the whole thing could be sped up," otherwise, "reaching up close to four hours", Fleming had said, is "defeating the purpose of the short game."
However, Kings XI Punjab head coach Mike Hesson had a different take on the issue. "When the game comes down to the wire, I don't think there are many viewers that are switching off," Hesson said. "I think generally the games that go the distance are the games that are very close at the back end and if you have already invested three-and-a-half hours, then extra 15 minutes is not going to make a massive difference in your life.
"To be fair, I haven't spent a huge time studying it. And I know there are a lot of different views out there. If spectators started leaving the ground or viewers turning the game off, then absolutely it becomes an issue. I am not sure that is the case."