The Impact Player rule can lead to situations where certain bowlers are underutilised, Gujarat Titans Hardik Pandya has said. Hardik was speaking after the IPL season-opener in Ahmedabad, where Titans beat Chennai Super Kings by five wickets. This was the first-ever IPL match to involve the Impact Player rule.
Along with ability to bring on the Impact Player, teams this season are allowed to name their XIs after the toss. This means they can stack their starting XI with extra batting or bowling options depending on whether they bat or bowl first.
On Saturday, Titans won the toss and bowled, and picked a starting XI that included six seam options - four specialist quicks plus allrounders Hardik and Vijay Shankar - as well as the legspin of Rashid Khan.
Vijay did not get a bowl, while the left-arm quick Yash Dayal, who took 11 wickets in Titans' victorious IPL 2022 campaign, only bowled one over - the 12th of the Super Kings innings. Alzarri Joseph only bowled one of the first 13 overs, before bowling three of the last seven. Joseph played a key role in restricting Super Kings to 178 for 7, picking up two wickets and conceding just 15 runs in his last three overs.
Asked about the seamers' deployment - particularly Joseph's - during the post-match presentation, Hardik confessed that he had found it challenging to juggle so many bowling options. He said he used Joseph at that stage because he felt his hard lengths were suited to the surface.
"To be very honest, having this impact rule makes my job quite difficult because when you have too many options, you have to pick the right option, and I think because of this reason, someone will bowl less," he said. "I had to just pick and kind of back [my instinct], where I felt that going hard lengths was the plan for me, and it kind of worked, so yeah, some of the bowlers came late but they did the job for us."
Titans would have likely substituted one of their bowlers for a batter during the second innings, but as things turned out, Kane Williamson suffered a knee injury while attempting a leaping boundary catch during the 13th over of Super Kings' innings. Williamson, therefore, made way for B Sai Sudharsan, who batted at No. 3 during Titans' chase.
Titans eventually reached their target with four balls to spare, and the manner of their victory had echoes of the 2022 season, when their lower order pulled off a number of rescue acts. The equation came down to 23 off the last two overs, and they got over the line thanks to vital hits from Rashid and Rahul Tewatia.
Hardik felt Titans had made the job harder than it needed to be, and felt the top order should have finished the match themselves. He was particularly harsh on himself - he was bowled missing a sweep - and Shubman Gill - who made 63 before miscuing a pull to deep midwicket - for the manner of their dismissals.
"When you have Rashid Khan in your team, it gives you a sigh of relief," Hardik said, when asked about the Afghanistan allrounder's Player-of-the-Match-winning performance. "He can come and bowl and get you wickets and at the end of the day if you need some runs he'll come and smack it and make our job easy.
"But I think my shot and Shubman's shot did put us in a difficult situation, because within the team we have some standards which we have set very high, so from that we have to learn and make sure that these guys don't have to all the time finish the game, and we'd rather be there and finish the game."