IPL’s two-bouncer rule: Making an impact, in a new way | Crickit
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IPL’s two-bouncer rule: Making an impact, in a new way

Apr 21, 2024 05:58 AM IST

Mixing slower bouncers has allowed fast bowlers to keep the ultra-aggressive batters guessing this season

Swing out or get out has been the usual recourse for batters in this IPL, encouraged by thicker bats and disproportionate boundary lengths. Throwing a spanner into this aggressive ploy this season is the short ball, or more precisely the second bouncer. It’s still a wide spectrum considering how deft changes in lengths and speeds add layers to this delivery. And not everyone has succeeded in exploiting the second bouncer rule too.

Punjab Kings' Jitesh Sharma avoids a bouncer during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match(AFP)
Punjab Kings' Jitesh Sharma avoids a bouncer during the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match(AFP)

Mitchell Starc, IPL’s most expensive recruit, has admittedly not tried it too much. Neither has Anrich Nortje or Kagiso Rabada. More at ease with it seem to be Indian pacers who have a better understanding of the conditions and ground dimensions and are more comfortable with bowling the slower variety of the bouncer. “I think we have seen it being used differently by different attacks, different teams in different conditions,” said Starc after Kolkata Knight Riders’ win against Lucknow Supergiant last Sunday. “Conditions like pace and bounce of the wicket sometimes dictate it, as well as the situation of the game.”

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With the introduction of the Impact Player rule last year, teams were allowed to add more depth to the already deep batting orders. To counter it with a second bouncer per over, giving them the licence to hit the hard lengths, was a necessary deterrent.

“Earlier, batsmen were able to predict where the bowler would bowl if he had used his one bouncer. It would be easier for the batsmen,” Rajasthan Royals pacer Sandeep Sharma had said towards the beginning of the tournament. “But with two bouncers, the batsmen are also in two minds that there's still one bouncer left for the bowler to use.”

With T20 lighting a fire under attacking batting, the focus of the second bouncer understandably is to first stem the runs and only then go for a wicket. To that effect, LSG have been the most economical, conceding less than a run (0.89) till Friday’s match, even though Chennai Super Kings have used it most often — averaging 2.3 second bouncers per match, taking their overall count to 12.1 bouncers per game. That only Mumbai Indians have been able to rival this count with 12 bouncers per match — including 1.9 second bouncers — tells you how circumspect teams have been in general when it comes to trying the second bouncer, but it still doesn’t quite cover the anticipation factor or the harder lengths that batters have often struggled to connect to.

Nowhere else was that discomfort more apparent than when Virat Kohli was repeatedly failing to get hold of Andre Russell’s slower bouncers outside the off-stump at Bengaluru last month when RCB were looking to accelerate. The length challenged Kohli but more testing was the line and the lack of pace on it, making it impossible to get under the ball and ramp it. The timing of it was important too. A harder, shinier ball isn’t a great ingredient for the second bouncer during the Powerplay overs when field restrictions are in place. The older, scuffed up ball however gives the second bouncer a much-needed slower twist, explaining why the balls per second bouncer drops from 164.8 in the Powerplay to 87.1 in the middle overs and 45 at the death.

Despite the unprecedented jump in six-hitting, batters still generally follow a simple ploy rooted in the convention of making the most of the ball bowled on an ideal length and at a desirable pace. The numbers may not entirely reflect that, but the second bouncer rule is playing games with the batter’s mind. “The moment it was decided that there were going to be two bouncers in an over, all the bowlers decided that ‘we got to use it at a certain point’,” Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Jaydev Unadkat, who has been a glowing example of how to take the pace off bouncers, had said earlier this month.

“Someone who has pace can use those bouncers, but slower bouncers are working nowadays because the batsmen are trying to muscle the ball out of the ground, especially with the Impact Player rule. You have to use those variations in T20 and keep the batsmen guessing,” said Unadkat. The margin of error becomes key here though, as some bowlers have been either inaccurate or bowled too quick, allowing batters to go hard and big on those pulls. Which is why the second bouncer may not suit every fast bowler’s game.

“So far in the IPL we have seen some guys do it better than others and I’m sure it will be like that through the rest of the tournament,” said Starc. “(But) I think it has been a good addition to the T20 format.”

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