Amid Covid-19 and bio-bubbles, concussion became a talking point in cricket recently. The Indian team’s decision to replace Ravindra Jadeja with Yuzvendra Chahal in the first T20I against Australia sparked the debate. Jadeja had carried on batting for four balls after being struck on the helmet in the last over of the innings.
He was troubled by a hamstring problem too, which suggested it would be difficult for him to bowl. However, medical opinion of him suffering a mild concussion due to the impact of that hit meant the ‘concussion substitute’ rule came into play.
Chahal played a match-winning role with the ball. Jadeja was subsequently ruled out of the T20 series following medical advice that he be under observation. Opinion is divided, with one side convinced that the impact of that knock was not as severe as it was made out to be and that Jadeja was replaced because India would have been a bowler short due to his hamstring problem.
They say this is opportunistic use of the ‘concussion substitute’ rule introduced last year. Had Jadeja indeed been concussed, how did he hit nine runs off the last three balls? While some of these are valid questions, it is also abundantly clear that everything happened in accordance with the rule book. The Indian team was perfectly within its rights to make this move. It is a different matter altogether that they benefited from the substitution on the given day.
Leaving the arguments aside, what this does is it opens the door for newer interpretations of this rule. This was legalised keeping in mind the seriousness of head injuries and to allow teams to field 11 players in the eventuality of someone getting hurt.
No one can accuse India of foul play, but everybody realises now that this rule has a loophole that can be exploited strategically, if certain incidents coincide. Theoretically, it is possible to misuse it. And this is a possibility one has to live with. Always a game with room for debates, cricket has added another to the list. It will not be a surprise if this happens again.