World Cup Fantasy Guru: Setting the stage up - New Zealand is where your base is
I really don’t see any of the England top 3 going great guns against this bowling attack. Joe Root isn’t going to set the stage on fire, and Eoin Morgan isn’t in form. Anyone below No.5 is never a safe option when it comes to fantasy cricket. As far as the bowling attack is concerned, it was a choice between James Anderson and Steven Finn. I had initially opted for Anderson, but he cost 100k; if he doesn’t strike with the new ball, he isn’t going to do much and is not a reliable death bowler as well.
Finn, on the other hand, comes at only 75k and can give more or less the same points as Anderson can manage.
Moeen Ali, as an opener, hasn’t scored a single 50 against an international side after reaching Australia, and that says something. His off-spin hasn’t yielded him more than a couple of wickets in an innings, too. It isn't wise to expect more from him, too, in these conditions.
Captaincy pick: Mitchell Starc or Steven Smith
South Africa v Zimbabwe
If South Africa bat first:
Transfers remaining – 41*; Transfers made – 1*
K Sangakkara out - AB de Villiers in
Else, leave it as it is.
That I have Hashim Amla and no Zimbabwean player is self-explanatory. True, Zimbabwe have performed well in the warm-ups, but they are warm-ups for a reason. Contrary to what a few of you may think, Dale Steyn over Morne Morkel was not an obvious choice and will never be as the tournament progresses.
Even in the last year’s ODI series against Australia in Australia, which the Proteas lost, it was Morkel who ended up as the leading wicket-taker of the series. Steyn was third behind Hazlewood. These numbers indicate that Morkel will be as valuable as Steyn for the South Africans in the World Cup, especially in Australia where he could extract bounce. However, against Zimbabwe, I would opt for Steyn, as by the time Morkel comes in, half the damage would be done and Zimbabwe are likely to shut shop, thereby not giving the Transvaal-born many wickets.
That Morkel has only 5 wickets against Zimbabwe as against Steyn’s 9 in the same number of matches also played a role in my decision. I am not making up these stats. They are for real.
Against better batting sides, though, Morkel appears to be the go-to option. Also, it helps that he costs 5k less. All that for later.
The toss will decide AB de Villiers making it to the side. If South Africa bowl first, chances of Zimbabwe being bowled out for nothing and the team’s openers chasing it down without giving a chance for De Villiers to bat is quite high. Even if he gets in, the team would most likely be in a situation from where they will need a maximum of 50 runs to close down the game. In such a scenario, the South African captain wouldn’t have much of an impact.
On the other hand, if South Africa bat first, all De Villiers would need is 40-odd balls to create mayhem. This is what I refer to as the Toss Trick – picking your team based on the outcome of the toss.
Here is hoping South Africa bowl first, as I can save a transfer.
Captaincy pick: Hashim Amla or Dale Steyn
India v Pakistan
Transfers remaining – 39 (40); Transfers made – 2
Hashim Amla out – Rohit Sharma in
Dale Steyn out – Misbah-ul-Haq in
They may be missing the services of Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal – three of their frontline bowlers, but don’t underestimate the quality that they have in their bowling arsenal. In the warm-up match against England, Sohail Khan showed that he is quite adept at the death, while Wahab Riaz was at his incisive best in the middle overs.
Yasir Shah is one of the highly rated spinners in the international circuit at the moment. With Mohammad Irfan set to join them, Indian players need to be at their best to give a total that their bowlers can defend.
I never thought I wouldn’t consider Virat Kohli for my fantasy team, but given his performances in ODIs of late, I would have to leave him out. During one of his such passages (read: IPL 2014), I stuck with him forever, only to be let down time and again. I am not ready to make the mistake again. Let him score a century and find his way back.
With MS Dhoni not at his destructive best, Shikhar Dhawan out of sorts and Raina not dependable, the remaining two options are Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma. I have discussed enough on why I don’t believe in playing Rahane down the order, so he isn’t finding a spot in my fantasy team too.
Rohit is the only player left and is in form too. Pakistan don’t have a pacer who can pitch it up and trouble him; if they try and test him with short balls, which they are most likely to do, it will only play into his hands. And that is the same mistake that Afghanistan made to let India off the hook after having them two down for nothing in the warm-up match.
From having his place questioned not so long ago, Misbah-ul-Haq has reversed his fortunes in a remarkable fashion to score 47, 107, 88*, 58, 45, 10 and 91* in his last 7 matches. Yes, the 107 and 88* came against New Zealand Board President's XI, but then they should at least be on par with the Indian bowling line-up we have been seeing of late.
Jokes apart, he did look at ease in the last game against England and in the ODI series against New Zealand, so I would expect him to lead the run-scoring charts against a much easier Indian bowling attack.
Captaincy pick - Misbah-ul-Haq
Note: The next article will be out on Sunday.