World Cup Fantasy Guru: Substitution time
Pakistan v South Africa
Transfers made – 0; Transfers remaining – 34
Captain – AB de Villiers (if SA bat first) /Morne Morkel (if SA bowl first)
Kyle Abbott’s inclusion has sort of messed up my plan for this phase. I didn’t see it coming. Given Dale Steyn’s and Vernon Philander’s no-shows in the first two matches, I had decided to settle with Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir for these two matches, but ever since Abbott came in, he has been striking consistently up front and doing plenty of damage: it has not only taken out the MoM potential for these two bowlers but also led to batsmen going into defence mode by the time Morne and Tahir come into the attack.
I don’t think it makes sense to bring Abbott in now. I am hoping against the hope that he doesn’t pick up more than two wickets tomorrow. It also helps that he isn’t a potent force when it comes to bowling at the death and that rain is forecast for the game. If you think you can afford a substitution, do bring him in and probably captain him too.
I would captain AB de Villiers if South Africa bat first. The Pakistan pacers will make a few inroads, and with Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis in the top 4, you would expect De Villiers to have plenty of batting time. Yes, I do know that Du Plessis scored a hundred against Ireland, but then that’s Ireland. I would, however, be happy if he can score big.
If South Africa bowl first, they are likely to chase something around 200. In that case, I will captain Morne; Pakistan batsmen just can’t play bounce. Steyn isn’t back to his best yet. I hope he continues to stay that way for one more match.
Pakistan are expected to bring in Sarfraz Ahmed in place of Nasir Jamshed. He is a good player on supportive conditions, but he is getting a game after a long time and will be a little rusty, so you can wait on him. As usual, Misbah will help himself to a half-century. Mohammad Irfan is their best bet when it comes to bowling. Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz, all look steady at best.
Ireland v Zimbabwe
Transfers made – 4; Transfers remaining – 30
Misbah-ul-Haq out – Sean Williams in
AB de Villiers out – Brendan Taylor in
Morne Morkel out – Paul Stirling in
Imran Tahir out – Ed Joyce in
Captain – Sean Williams/Brendan Taylor
There would be plenty of runs in this game, as Hobart is one of the best batting decks in the world. The issue, however, is that Ireland have probably the worst bowling attack in the tournament and that could mean any of the Zimbabwean batsmen could score runs. I would settle with the safest bets: Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams.
Even if they flop, they have scope for points through wicket-keeping and bowling respectively. It can be argued that if it is really worth bringing in two players for a single game, but then as I said, Ireland’s bowling presents a great possibility of a Taylor century.
Ireland have risks attached with every single one of their players, but they have two quick matches: 2 in a span of 5, with the next one coming against India. With Paul Stirling, you would never know what you get; he is one of ‘Virender Sehwag’s children’. Ed Joyce and Niall O’Brien could easily be eaten up by Ravichandran Ashwin in the next game and are one-dimensional. Kevin O’ Brien may not even get to bat against Zimbabwe and get smashed for 10 RPO against India.
Considering all these, Stirling would be my first pick, as his off-spin can come in handy. The second one is a toss-up between Joyce and Kevin O’Brien. I would go with Joyce, as he is in some glorious touch and I like players who get a sure-shot scoring opportunity as compared to hit-and-miss options.
K O’Brien’s bowling isn’t something that would get you wickets always. He has to be extremely lucky to grab one. And both these games are played on smaller grounds, which could limit his opportunity. At No.7, he will have to battle more demons: run-rate, performance of other batsmen and how opponents fair. I don’t play that game. I would better have a batsman who has a chance to play 100 balls every time.
New Zealand v Afghanistan
Transfers made – 2(4); Transfers remaining – 28 (26)
Sean Williams out – Tim Southee in
Mohammad Irfan out – Trent Boult in
Hashim Amla out – Kane Williamson in (if Nz bat first)
Faf du Plessis out – Brendon McCullum/Ross Taylor in (if Nz bat first)
Captain – Trent Boult (Nz bowl first)/Kane Williamson (Nz bat first)
Tim Southee and Trent Boult – two players who will make their way in irrespective of whether New Zealand bat first or bowl first. Whether any of the New Zealand batsmen get drafted in depends on the toss. I don’t expect Afghanistan to score more than 120, and so there would be no use in getting a batsman in. Yes, Brendon McCullum could score a 50 at 300 SR, but then he could also get a jaffa from Dawlat Zadran or Hamid Hassan too. Kane Williamson doesn’t hurt you much anyway.
If the Kiwis bat first, though, I will have both of them in. McCullum can easily get out early, giving a chance for Ross Taylor to score a hundred. But there is only so much you can do. And McCullum scoring could cost you big time, as he will be in a number of teams; Taylor would hardly be in any of the teams given the way he has done in the tournament so far and the number of better options available.
However, I could jump back to Taylor. This could be a huge differential and a risk totally worth it. So, see what is best for you. Do remember that the Afghans do have a decent new ball attack. Let’s just hope New Zealand bowl first to avoid this issue.
Australia v Sri Lanka
Transfers made – 6; Transfers remaining – 22 (20)
Brendon McCullum out – David Warner in
Brendan Taylor out – Aaron Finch (Aus chase)/Glenn Maxwell (Aus bat) in
Tim Southee out – Mitchell Starc in
Trent Boult out – Lasith Malinga in
Shakib Al Hasan out – Kumar Sangakkara in
Kane Williamson out – Tillakaratne Dilshan in
Captain - David Warner/Kumar Sangakkara
Sydney is one of those decks that doesn’t provide much assistance for fast bowlers. Spin comes into play, too. While Tillakaratne Dilshan may not be a factor in this game given the fast bowling attack that Australia have, he next plays Scotland in a 4-game period. Same applies to Lasith Malinga. So, both of them find their way in. Kumar Sangakkara could boss both the games, and he makes it too. Heck, he would make it to a World Fantasy XI at this point.
Sri Lanka, with their bizarre strategy of playing only two frontline pacers, are one of the weakest bowling units in the tournament. Australia could go hammer and tongs against the Lankan side. You can take David Warner and Glenn Maxwell given their form, but you cannot rule out the chances of Aaron Finch and Steven Smith scoring hundreds. It is very difficult to pick two of the four. Rest assured, it is between these four batsmen that the damage will be done.
If Australia bat first, I would go in with Warner and Maxwell. If they chase, I would opt for Warner and Finch. I don’t see Sri Lanka scoring too many for Maxwell to have bigger role in the chase. So, that’s the theory behind it. Who will get Finch out if Australia bat first? Who knows. You can only hope he doesn’t bat well. But Maxwell’s off-spin could yield a few wickets, which is why he could still sneak out with more points.
Shakib Al Hasan will have to go out despite Bangladesh having a match the very next day. He will come back in, though.