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West Indian Twenty20 specialists Sunil Narine (left) and Kieron Pollard. The all-rounder becomes the first red-careded player, which has left Pollard unhappy. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Innovation has been one of the main reasons for cricket’s growing popularity over the years. From Tests, a form for the puritans, the game has moved on since the time it was played with white ball, coloured clothing and under floodlights in a limited-over format. It gave something to cheer about for the younger generation since the beginning of the 1980s.

From a humble beginning, the limited-over format caught on with the fans, bringing them back to the stadium in scores. The game did not stop there and brought in numerous changes in laws and field restrictions along the way. It didn’t end there as the biggest innovation came in the form of Twenty20 after the turn of the millennium.

The shortest format became an entertainer and the numerous franchise leagues ensured that the game moved on at a faster pace in tune with fast-paced lifestyle. Television replays were brought in to adjudicate the close decisions and then the game went a step further ahead to bring in the leg-before decision under the purview of the third umpire.

Introduction of impact-player rule

The advent of 2023 Indian Premier League saw the introduction of the impact-player rule, a form of substitution from a four-member bench, which means the teams changed the playing XI after the toss, a tectonic shift from the earlier rule of announcing the team before the toss.

The move was an instant hit with the impact players playing an impactful role in the outcome of the matches.

Still the game’s governing bodies were not able to find a solution to the perennial slow overrate. The issue of slow overrates has plagued the game, with matches often spilling over their stipulated time. The governing International Cricket Council (ICC) has introduced fines for international teams found behind schedule in all three formats and also docked World Test Championship points.

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Trinibago Knigh Riders skipper Pollard looking upset after Narine was sent out and six fielders inside the 30-yard circle. Image Credit: Screen grab

Deep pockets

The hefty fines didn’t have the desired results as the captains and teams have deep pockets. Then came the rule that one extra fielder should be present inside the 30-yard circle for the number of deliveries remaining, which gave the batting side the advantage while the fielding teams were made to rush though their overs. Still, the match couldn’t finish on time and many went beyond the stipulated time.

The Caribbean Premier League trialled with a red-card as a penalty for slow overrate and the reactions suggest that it could be the medicine to cure the ills in international cricket.

Trinbago Knight Riders became the first team to receive a red card on Sunday, with Sunil Narine paying the penalty for his team’s slow overrate.

Tackling the over-rate problem

CPL organisers introduced a slew of measures to tackle the problem of slow-over rates this season, including a red card for a fielding side found to be behind schedule at the start of the final over of an innings.

The sanction means a team loses a player selected by the captain and must have six fielders inside the circle.

The Knight Riders were left with 10 men for the final over of their match against the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots but still prevailed by six wickets, their first victory in three matches.

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Sunil Narine shown the red card during the Caribbean Premier League clash on Sunday. Image Credit: Screen grab

Narine had completed his quota of four overs, with figures of 24-3, before he was withdrawn for the final over of the Patriots’ innings, which yielded 18 runs.

We are like pawns

Nicholas Pooran’s 61 off 32 balls laid the foundation for the Knight Riders’ successful chase before captain Kieron Pollard (37) and Andre Russell (23) took them home with 17 balls remaining at Warner Park in Basseterre.

Pollard was unhappy with the overrate penalty.

“To be honest, it will take away the hard work everyone has done,” he said. “We are like the pawns and we are going to do what we are told.

“We are going to play as fast as we can. If you are penalised for 30-45 seconds in a tournament like this, it is absolutely ridiculous.”

With substitution, red card and may be a yellow card in the future, cricket seems to be headed the football way.

— With inputs from Reuters