World Cup Fantasy Guru: Setting the stage up - New Zealand is where your base is
We don’t need any introductions, do we? Let’s get down to the business straight away.
Both Schedule Mantra and Toss Trick find their applications right from the very first week of the game. Talking about Schedule Mantra, the first thing that comes to your mind is what constitutes a round in the tournament? Almost all the teams play their second match in about the same time, so it doesn’t lead us anywhere.
The fastest a team is to playing 3 matches is Pakistan: in a span of 7 matches. While India, South Africa and Sri Lanka play 3 matches in a space of 12, 13 and 14 matches respectively, you cannot really hold onto your players for that long a duration without making substitutions. The second-fastest to 3 matches is New Zealand – in a period of 9 matches, and that’s right at the very beginning of the tournament – which is why you have to set your team up around the Kiwis.
Pick 3 players from New Zealand and never transfer any of them till their third match, which is against England on February 20, ends: the value per transfer is something that you will have to keep your eye on throughout the tournament.
Let’s come to the Toss Trick a little later. What makes this World Cup different from the other tournaments we have covered so far is that it has been split into two stages and so are the substitutions – 42 each. Not that it makes any difference, just make sure you don’t accumulate your transfers; use them at a steady rate, else Transfer Folly and Off-pattern Games could hurt you big time. Also, don’t forget that the transfers cannot be carried over to the next stage.
New Zealand v Sri Lanka
New Zealand and Sri Lanka have played far too many times in the last 45 days (7 ODIs and 2 Tests) that it is almost obvious a couple of things would happen: New Zealand will win the match and Kumar Sangakkara and Kane Williamson will be amongst the runs.
So, there is not much argument about getting both those batsmen in. The challenge, however, is in picking one of the three Kiwi pacers – Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan and Trent Boult. Skill-sets wise, there is nothing that sets apart any of them in ODIs. However, when it comes to fantasy cricket, their prices play an important role in deciding who slots in.
Southee costs 10,000 more than the other two, and that’s a huge difference. The choice, therefore, has to be between Boult and McClenaghan. Boult has had a difficult start to his limited overs cricket career, having managed only 18 wickets in his 16 matches so far, which is in straight contrast to how he has fared in Tests. It raised a lot of eyebrows when he was picked ahead of the in-form Matt Henry in the World Cup squad.
McClenaghan, on the other hand, is the second-fastest to 50 wickets, and it doesn’t seem like the run will end anytime soon; therefore, the 28-year-old gets the nod.
Although Grant Elliott bats at 5 and sends down a few overs of medium pace, he is by no means an accomplished player to deliver consistently on a stage as big as the World Cup. The Kiwi think-tank has taken a huge gamble; I can’t. The likes of Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi bat too low, aren’t world class, and you can hardly predict what they have in store.
If you take away Ronchi’s 170 in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka, him batting at No.7 meant he could score only 109 runs in the remaining 5 innings. So for every outrageous knock, there are five no-shows. I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson doesn’t get to bat against Scotland and Sri Lanka; with Daniel Vettori back, the chances of him bowling too many overs are limited too.
Brendon McCullum hasn’t been in the greatest of form in ODIs – has only one century in the last 3 years and averages close to 30 – and Martin Guptill is a huge suspect against swing bowling.
So, the third Kiwi spot was really a two-way clash between Boult and Ross Taylor. After a terrible start to this year, Taylor has found his way back, scoring a 90, 100 and a 50 in his last 6 innings. While the right-hander has an underwhelming record against the Lankans (averages 25 in 21 innings and strikes at a rate of 72.15) – his worst against any country, that he plays Scotland and England next, is in good form and has an impressive record in home conditions are reason enough to get him in.
As long as he doesn’t turn out to be a dud against the Islanders and the next match against Scotland isn’t washed out, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. There are a couple more reasons why I opted for Taylor over Boult: the wickets could be split between the Kiwi bowlers with so much quality in the bowling unit and it could yield pretty much nothing and a not-so-solid opening duo could lead to Taylor getting plenty of time at the crease.
As much as I would like to leave out Dilshan, a suspect player of swing bowling, against a pace attack as good as this, he is in some serious form of late: besides ending up as the leading run-getter in the SL-NZ bilateral series, he scored an 83-ball century against South Africa on the very same ground only 4 days ago. The 38-year-old looks like a man on a mission, and you better not risk by leaving him out. Even if he doesn’t do well with the bat, his off-spin could get a wicket or two.
Captaincy pick – Kane Williamson or Mitchell McClenaghan
Australia v England
There is plenty of criticism that has been directed towards the England ODI team of late, but their new ball attack has been the best since 2013 and that’s quite a stat considering the bowling attacks that South Africa, New Zealand and Australia possess. It rules out the Australian top 3 from contention for a spot, including David Warner. Not to forget the off-spin threat Warner will face from Moeen Ali. With Steven Finn back in the set-up and firing big time, they are only going to get better.
With that being the case, the No.4 spot in the Australian batting line-up looks the safe bet. And that Steven Smith is in great form only makes the decision easy. Glenn Maxwell is hardly dependable. Mitchell Marsh is a debatable exclusion, but when I can have only one Australian batsman, I will pick Smith any day.
When it comes to the bowling unit, that Starc is 10k lesser than Mitchell Johnson, a better option at death, and is one of the best ODI bowlers going around swings it in his favour. Josh Hazlewood also finds a place, but I see him more as someone who helps me in setting up my team base. At just 65K, he adds a lot of value to the team in not just earning points but also in helping me accommodate big money players.
The 24-year-old New South Wales fast bowler bowls impeccable line and length and is a safe bet to return 80-odd points game in game out. Just to put things in perspective, even Umesh Yadav costs 75K.