It seems just yesterday when MS Dhoni hit that iconic six at the Wankhede to bring home the Cup that had eluded India for 28 long years. It was a monumental effort by the ‘Men In Blue’ to land an achievement every other cricket playing nation had failed to – winning a World Cup at home.
Time flies, things change; that is the norm of the world. But the Indian fan defies worldly norms. His expectations stand the test of time. It never wavers, never goes away and no matter how much the average Indian cricket fan curses the selection process of the team(inclusion of Daddy’s boy Binny and exclusion of the World Cup messiah-Yuvraj), he stands by the team.
Yes, there are the occasional rant that a fan goes on about the bleak performances of the team; but then that is only an exhibition of the amount of emotional attachment that he has for the sport and the team.
Oh! and the opinions, how can we forget them. Every person sitting in every nook and corner of the country is a selector, a captain, a bowler, a batsman, a fielder, an umpire and even a commentator in his head. He has the perfect notion of what our best eleven must look like, what field setting should be in place and which batsman should play at which position.
Every one of us would love to wield that power of announcing the team before every match , of seeing the ‘perfect’ side completely battering its opponents. And how can we forget the love for banter and competition that every Indian fan lusts for.
The ICC Fantasy League comes very close to satiating all our cricketing lusts. It provides the perfect platform for all the tactical geniuses of the country to display their cricketing acumen. With a smooth interface and the option of creating your own private league, fans can compete with their friends and relatives to see who has the finest managerial skills.
The ‘Tournament mode’ demands proper planning, and with a cap on the amount of transfers for the entire tournament, one has to have an eye on the future in order to save transfers. The Fantasy League has all the ingredients to keep you fully engaged during the entire length of the tournament no matter how boring a few games between the minnows could turn out to be.
First stage- 21 games, 42 transfers
So the equation is – an average of two transfers per game. But that can be improved by choosing a well spread first eleven. Do not make the mistake of going all out on the first two matches. Have a few players from matches on the second day in order to save a few transfers. The ideal situation would be having a maximum of six and a minimum of four players playing in every game.
Patience is the key in a long tournament. You can always make up on lost ground, provided you have adequate number of transfers left for the business end of the tournament. Also, one week after the World Cup kicks in you will have a fair idea of the players who are finding the conditions to their liking. Bank on such players, bring them in and reap rich awards. But for all that, keep your transfers in check for the first week.
Coming to the conditions, the Australian and New Zealand pitches have been known to assist bowlers. While the Australian pitches have a bit of zip about them, the New Zealand conditions offer more swing to the fast bowlers.
For matches in New Zealand pick bowlers who rely on swing – like Vernon Philander, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Jimmy Anderson and Trent Boult. In Australia, go for bowlers who have the pace to trouble the batsman. Go with Mitch, Steyn, Umesh, Mohammed Irfan.
Spinners wouldn’t be able to contribute much and so sacrificing a full time spinner for a batsman who bowls a bit of part time spin would be your best bet. Go with people like Raina, Maxwell, Duminy and Moeen Ali in order to sneak in some extra points from these batsmen.
Opening the batting in seaming conditions has always been a test. Once the sun comes out and the pitch loses its initial freshness, the batsmen can dominate. And so it would be better to go in with batsman who come in at 3, 4 or 5. An Ajinkya Rahane would be a safer bet compared to a Rohit Sharma.
Initial team set up
New Zealand take on Sri Lanka and Australia take on England to kick off the ICC World Cup 2015 on Feb 14. These teams have competed against each other in the past month in the same conditions. Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Glen Maxwell and Kumar Sangakkara have been in terrific form and they would easily walk into my first eleven for the first day(the added advantage of them not facing the new ball). Now that these four have cemented their places let us take it game by game.
New Zealand vs Sri Lanka
The New Zealand team play the 1st match of the tournament, the 6th and the 9th. Three games in quick succession is a good enough reason to have at least 3 New Zealand players in your team. And do not transfer them out until they have played their 3rd game.
Apart from Williamson, Trent Boult and Grant Elliot make the cut. Boult’s recent 5-fer against a strong South African line up and brilliant bowling performances against Sri Lanka are the cause for his selection. As for Elliott, he is a pretty handy customer, chipping in with both bat and ball.
Apart from Sangakkara no other Sri Lanka player finds a spot in my team. Dilshan can’t be trusted in swinging conditions and Sangakkara at the moment seems a better pick than Jayawardene. Kulasekra wouldn’t be a bad bet but I would prefer Hazelwood and Jimmy Anderson to him.
Australia vs England
Australia have got to be the favourites. Everything seems to be clicking for them and thus it should be no surprise that I have three Aussies in my first day team. Smith and Maxi are no brainers.
Smith has been in terrific form for the past two months – he has re discovered himself as a batsman, and with Clarke not playing, he would be the main stay of the Australian middle order. Maxwell will fetch points from everywhere – batting, bowling and fielding.
Josh Hazelewood would be my third choice, firstly because he makes for a frugal investment and two because he is a no nonsense wicket-to-wicket bowler who will get you a guarantee of two wickets per match(with a good economy rate).
Jimmy Anderson and Moeen Ali make it to my team for their first match against Australia. With his swing and pace, Anderson can cause Finch, Warner and Watson a lot of problems. Also, with his supreme death bowling, you need to have him in your team.
Moeen Ali is another player who would contribute with bat and ball. England play 4 seamers and use Moeen as their fifth bowler, which means he is going to bowl his quota of ten. That is the sole reason I am going with Moeen instead of Bell or Root.
Trump Card for the day
Trump Card is a player who wouldn’t be selected by a high percentage of Fantasy players but is guaranteed to perform well. Moeen Ali is my trump card for the day.
Power Player pick
This could well be the pick that makes the difference. For the first match I would go with Williamson just because of the form he is in. In home conditions, against a familiar Sri Lankan bowling attack, I expect him to flourish.
For the second game, you could go with either Smith or Maxi, depending on how much risk you are ready to take. Smith would be a risk because he does not give you the cushion of bowling. Maxwell on the other hand would be the safe bet because even if he fails with the bat, he will have a say with the ball. I would go with Maxwell as my captain.
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Be patient, get your thinking cap on and do not forget to check out this space for the Day 2 picks.