World Cup Fantasy Guru: Phase 2 calls for Pakistan players
Pakistan v Zimbabwe/Ireland
Captain – Yasir Shah/Sohail Khan
That I start Phase 2 with four Pakistan players may raise a few eyebrows. But they play thrice in a span of 7 matches, two of which against minnows Zimbabwe and United Arab Emirates, and the ploy could yield a lot of points if it works. I don’t see much scope for transfer activity in the period, either. So, those 4 will form the base of my team.
Three of them were automatic picks: Misbah-ul-Haq, the only dependable batsman in the team; Sohail Khan, the team’s best bowler at the death; and Yasir Shah, a highly-rated leg-spinner who could have won them the West Indies match had he played. After pondering for a while, I decided against having Shehzad in the team, given his inconsistency. But in the end, it turned out to be a shoot-out between Ian Bell and Shehzad, as I needed a batsman to sort out the combination issues.
Bell hasn’t exactly set the stage on fire, is prone to giving it away at any point of the game and plays only one match, while Shehzad plays three: more value per transfer. He could easily score a century in the first two matches; I would be very happy if he doesn’t give me negative points in the match against the Proteas. That’s about it.
South Africa v Ireland
Captain – Hashim Amla
I have also stacked up my team with four South Africans: Hashim Amla, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel and Faf du Plessis. South Africa are the second-fastest to 3 matches in the phase: in a span of 13 matches. However, it would be next to impossible to carry all these players till that point. But they play the first two in a span of 6 matches, against Ireland and Pakistan, which necessitates the inclusion of Amla, Tahir and Morkel.
Thanks to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Ireland don’t have a bowling attack that can trouble top cricketing nations; their impressive performances so far in the tournament have been largely due to their batting line-up. That they conceded 278 against the UAE and 304 against the West Indies, after reducing them to 87-5, explains it better.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Amla and Du Plessis score a century each. As predicted, they were very close to doing so against the Caribbeans, but a freak over from Chris Gayle changed the dynamics of the game.
Quinton de Kock, on the other hand, has been struggling big time and has the off-spin threat of Paul Stirling. Oh, yes, I meant it. He was dismissed thrice by Glenn Maxwell in the bilateral series against Australia in Australia last year. How far could Stirling be away from doing it?
One notable exclusion is AB de Villiers. If Ireland bat first, do not have him. I don’t see him coming into play, but if South Africa bat first, get him in. Not that De Villiers will have that big a role to play, more so with the Rilee Rossouw experiment at No.4, but all he needs is 30 balls to make us regret the decision to drop him. So, it isn’t worth the risk. Just have him.
Sri Lanka v England
Captain – Angelo Mathews/Lasith Malinga
Coming to the Sri Lanka-England match, it would be surprising to note that I don’t have a single England player in my team. Moeen Ali isn’t playing Scotland again to draft him in. The rest of the England batsmen haven’t done much to push for an inclusion.
James Anderson, a player who I usually go for in fixtures against subcontinental teams in these conditions, entered the tournament in some serious form, but has been surprisingly off-colour. I don’t really want to take a risk on him again given the fact that he is likelgive away runs at the death anyway.
Steven Finn has been amongst the wickets, but one feels that he has used up all his luck already. Besides, the problem with all these England bowlers is that they bleed runs heavily at the death. So, it is either strike up front or return nothing. This is not to say that England won’t make inroads into the Sri Lankan line-up. They will, but the wickets will be split up.
And that is precisely why I have brought in Angelo Mathews. Lanka would lose the likes of Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, and Tillakaratne Dilshan to the new ball, and it will result in Mathews spending plenty of time at the crease. Given the inability of the England bowlers at the death, he is likely to cart them around the park. If Lanka continue to play 3 frontline bowlers, Mathews would be required to bowl at the death as well, which guarantees wickets.
Picking Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga doesn’t really need an explanation. This is not the stage to gamble on players from Ireland, Zimbabwe and United Arab Emirates; neither do I see any player from these teams returning points.
As some of you may know, I had to bring in Mohammad Irfan as a result of the Yasir Shah goof-up. I went on to captain him as well, which yielded great returns. And then Hashim Amla happened.
Australia v Afghanistan
Transfers made – 2 (3); Transfers remaining – 38 (37)
Lasith Malinga out – Mitchell Starc in
Angelo Mathews/Sohail Khan out - Mitchell Johnson/Josh Hazlewood in
David Warner in – Ahmed Shehzad out (if Aus bat first)
With the match taking place at Perth, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson become obvious picks. Afghanistan batsmen would be struggling to put bat to ball against the Australian pace bowling duo and one of them could easily end up with a five-wicket haul.
Pat Cummins is likely to sit out. If it happens, Josh Hazlewood isn’t a bad pick if you are looking for a differential. It could all come down to which two bowlers open the attack. One of them should grab the MoM award. If Hazlewood plays, he will open the attack. In that case, I would go for Hazlewood over Johnson.
When it comes to the batting unit, if Australia bowl first, it makes the decision very simple: don’t pick any Australian batsman. Chances are highly likely that Michael Clarke and Co. will be chasing 100-odd runs and you wouldn’t want to waste your substitutions on a batsman in that case.
If they bat first, though, it becomes very tricky. Australia will be facing a potent bowling attack in Afghanistan, and they have shown a number of times in the past that they are a force to reckon with when the decks offer some assistance. With that being the case, I wouldn't pick any Australian top 4 batsman except David Warner.
One of Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh will be amongst runs, but to pick more than 3 players from a team when you can't carry them till the next match isn’t something that I would advise. There are much better scoring options in the future and so I would wait.
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