IPL 2023 Qualifier 1 – GT vs CSK – Did MS Dhoni deliberately waste time to let Matheesha Pathirana bowl?

IPL 2023 Qualifier 1 – GT vs CSK – Did MS Dhoni deliberately waste time to let Matheesha Pathirana bowl?

How was Matheesha Pathirana allowed to bowl his second over – in the death overs no less – in Chennai Super Kings’ qualifier against Gujarat Titans despite being off the field for more than eight minutes? Even as Chennai Super Kings went on to win the match by 15 runs, this question caused a lot of intrigue.

According to the IPL playing conditions, a player who leaves the field to treat an internal injury – or for any other reason – for more than eight minutes needs to be on the field for a similar duration on his return before he is allowed to bowl. It could not be confirmed what niggle, if any, Pathirana had when he left the field. A query with CSK to check on the reason Pathirana left the field has so far gone unanswered.

He had delivered his first over – the 12th – which went for ten runs, including four wides. At some point after that, he left the field. On his return, he was tasked with bowling the 16th over. Titans, at the stage, were 102 for 6, needing a further 71 runs for victory.

As MS Dhoni, the CSK captain, was finalising the field, he noticed Pathirana being spoken to by Anil Chaudhary, the on-field umpire at the striker’s end. Dhoni walked to Chris Gaffaney, who was at square leg, to enquire. The TV commentators explained that Pathirana had been out for nine minutes, so the chat was clearly about whether he was eligible to bowl at that point.

ESPNcricinfo has learned that the match officials informed Dhoni at that point that Pathirana had to wait a few more minutes before he could bowl again. Dhoni, it is understood, acknowledged the playing conditions, but argued that he had no option but to bowl Pathirana.

His three other frontline bowling options – Ravindra Jadeja, Maheesh Theekshana and Deepak Chahar – had completed their four overs. Only Tushar Deshpande had two overs left apart from Pathirana’s three. Moeen Ali, the only other bowling option, had not bowled at all, and it is learned that Dhoni told the umpires that he couldn’t afford to bowl an offspinner against the two right-hand batters – Vijay Shankar and Rashid Khan – in the middle.

The minutes ticked by. Dhoni was reminded that he and CSK stood to incur both the financial penalty for a slow over-rate and the in-match penalty of having only four fielders outside the 30-yard circle if the 20th over did not begin by the designated cut-off time. It is understood that the Titans’ batters, too, checked with the match officials about the delay.

Eventually, Pathirana was allowed to bowl, after four minutes of discussions between Dhoni and the umpires, which took care of the time he was out for. He gave away 13 runs in his second over, then picked Vijay Shankar’s wicket in his next over, which went for four runs and also saw Darshan Nalkande run out.

The delay ended up not hurting CSK financially, though they suffered the in-match penalty having started the 20tth over after the cut-off time.

The question remains as to whether the umpires considered penalising CSK under the unfair-play law, Law 41.9, which concerns time-wasting by the fielding side. As per this rule, the umpires have to issue a first and final warning to the fielding captain if they feel there is deliberate time-wasting during the course of an over. A repeat of the same offence will result in the batting side being awarded five penalty runs and the bowler being suspended. Enforcing the time-wasting rule, though, is left entirely to the discretion of the umpires.

There remains the possibility that other teams will look at this incident and it could become something of a trend in the future.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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