Armchair Critics are probably the most passionate yet most ridiculed species in sports. A not so wise man once said, “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one”. A fat obnoxious Pom’s response to anyone questioning his cricketing logic is to ask how many test wickets have they taken.
So how do you prove your understanding of the game isn’t any less sound than the guys who are paid to parrot the same old clichés and suck up to the sponsors? Simple. Fantasy Cricket.
I bet a lot of you think it’s pure luck. Well I’m here to tell you it’s not. You’re never going to win if you pick a random team and make ad-hoc changes. It’s important to know the conditions, the players, and also understand the points system for these games. So here’s an idiot’s guide to topping your fantasy league.
1. Understand the Points System: It is one thing to know the point scoring system for fantasy cricket, but it is another to understand how to use it. The scoring system can seem complicated for someone who is new to this, so I’m going to break it down for you in terms of what you need to know
a. Batting Points: There are points for every run you score. There are also bonus points for hitting sixes, reaching milestones like 50, 100, 150, and for scoring quickly. Since the World Cup is a limited overs tournament it’s always best to pick opening batsmen. It’s difficult for someone who bats at 6 or 7 to come and score a 100 in the best of times, but on flat pitches there’s a possibility that these batsmen may not get to bat more than 5-6 overs. So unless these players are good allrounders it doesn’t make much sense to pick them. Just to put this into context, a 50 off 66 balls will get you more points than 25 off 15 balls with 1 six. If you’re going to pick someone who is more likely to do the latter, he better be someone who will also get you bowling points.
b. Bowling Points: Bowlers get points mainly for taking wickets. There is a bonus attached to their economy rate and for bowling a maiden over, but these bonuses are unlikely to be major points earners if the pitches will be as flat as people expect them to be. So pick bowlers who are likely to take a lot of wickets even if they go for a lot of runs. Again, to give you an idea of the points, figures of 10-0-70-2 will get you anywhere between 45, 60 or 75 points while figures of 10-2-41-1 will get you either 42 or 57 points. Ask yourself which of the two bowling figures you’re more likely to see in this World Cup.
c. Fielding Points: There isn’t much on offer when it comes to fielding as points are awarded for catches, run outs and stumpings. There aren’t any runs for diving stops or saving runs on the field so there is no point picking someone who is a good fielder but won’t get a chance to shine with either bat or ball.
d. Team Captain: Fantasy owners get to choose a captain for every match. Points scored by the captain are doubled. This option allows you to have virtually two players active for a match even if only one of your 11 players is part of it.
e. Man of the Match Bonus: There is a huge bonus of 100 points for the man of the match. This bonus would be 200 if your team captain is man of the match. Again, this makes it important to have at least one player active for every match.
2. Don’t be Prejudiced: This is the most important rule for picking players. It’s pretty obvious but newbies regularly ignore this and pick or ignore players just because of their personal opinion about them. So the next time you think of not picking Shane Watson, remember he averages 44 with the bat and 22 with the ball since the 2007 World Cup.
3. Understand the Conditions: While it’s good to pick reputed players, it’s important to see how they fare in the conditions that they will be playing in. Dale Steyn is the undisputed best bowler in the world right now, but he’s not that great in ODIs. Especially in ODIs away from the relatively bowler-friendly pitches in South Africa. The consensus in the cricketing circles is that this World Cup is going to have flat pitches and short boundaries. I’m not sure about that but it sure as hell won’t have the kind of pitches there are in South Africa, and in 25 ODIs outside South Africa Steyn averages 35.43 at an economy rate of 5.66
4. Look for Value Buys: With a budget of 1,000,000 it’s impossible to pick the best 11 players you have in mind. Therefore, it is important to look for players who cost 85,000 or less but are likely to score as many points as some of the expensive players.
The associate nations have some decent players who could get you a lot of points. Ireland has Ed Joyce, William Porterfield, Niall O’ Brien. The Netherlands have ICC Associate Player of the Year Ryan ten Doeschate. Kenyan captain Steve Tikolo is also a good pick, especially since he also bowls a bit. You don’t have to worry about burning a transfer after the group stage as managers will be allowed to make an unlimited number of transfers after the group stage till the quarterfinals.
Among the bigger teams, Jonathan Trott is a steal at just 85,000. He is in terrific form and will bat at number 3 for England. Jesse Ryder is another good pick at 85,000. Graeme Smith at 90,000 could also be a smart buy considering he opens the innings and has a career average of over 40. I’ll let you scout the rest of the players for smart picks. Rest assured there are quite a few names I have not mentioned.
5. Plan Your Transfers: This can give you a major edge over others. Managers will have 40 transfers at their disposal for the group stage. That’s a pretty small number for a span of 42 matches so you can’t keep making frequent changes. It makes sense to plan your transfers to maximize the number of games your players are active for. Look for periods in which teams are either playing a high or low number of matches. For example, Ireland play 3 matches between Sri Lanka’s last 2 games. So if you have Kumar Sangakkara in your side, you can bring in Niall O’ Brien for this period.
You will have an unlimited number of transfers after the group stage to get your team right for the quarters, after which you will have 10 transfers for the knockout stage. Make sure you pick players from teams you think will win because you won’t have to waste transfers on players whose teams have been knocked out. Whatever you do, try to have at least ONE player active for each game as his points total will be doubled if you make him your team captain for that game.
So that’s it folks. Join/create private leagues and have a contest for bragging rights and/or money with your friends. Make sure you follow these rules and hope the players you pick perform as well as you expect them to. Last but not least, hope to hell the guys you pick don’t get injured. It’s going to be a long World Cup.
Article by Mahek Vyas