So what if you’re not near the top of your respective leagues? You’re probably thinking it’s far too late. There are only three matches left. I’m in the middle of the table, can I realistically reach the top?
Turns out, there is a short answer. Namely, ‘Yes’. Want a longer answer? Then it’s ‘Martin Guptill’.
What Guptill did in New Zealand’s quarterfinal romp against West Indies didn’t just send record-keepers scurrying for updates. To the alert ICC Fantasy League player, he also showed what was possible with one single performance. Guptill alone got 757 points in that match. On most days, if your Power Player gets 400 points, you think you’ve done reasonably well. For those with the labyrinthine forecasting tool that made Guptill their Power Player for this match, they would have netted a cool 1514 points from one player. Only 3% of the people had Guptill in their teams. Fewer still had him as their Power Player. If you were the one with that gut call, congratulations. You’ve earned yourself dirty looks from competitors, but what do dirty looks matter when you’re vaulting over them in the table?
Another call like that, and positions on the points tables could change very rapidly. Now imagine three successive calls like that.
There are three matches lined up now, and each of the four teams involved have the personnel to produce a thousand-pointer from at least one man. There are infinite substitutions to make, and once the first ball is bowled in the South Africa-New Zealand semifinal, there are 10 further substitutions, for two matches. Plenty and more to bring in the big guns.
Of course, if you’re entering the home stretch still some way off the top of the table, you’ll have to get your calls right, down to the last millimetre. And millimetres also matter – witness Chris Gayle’s 215, where an lbw call went in favour of the batsman on review. Had the ball been pitched a mite fuller, a mite straighter – the decision may well have gone in favour of Zimbabwe, and Gayle would have been out for zero. Besides giving joy to those who thought they had made the wise call in not picking Gayle, it would have altered the Fantasy League landscape dramatically.
Just like on the field, on the fantasy field too – you tend to play differently depending on your position in the points table. If you’re on top of the league, you’ll make more safe calls. Pick Trent Boult, pick AB de Villiers, don’t miss out on David Warner or Mitchell Starc. If you’re further down below, you will be in a ‘nothing to lose’ position and might go for a Josh Hazlewood, a Shikhar Dhawan or a Suresh Raina. And if picked at the right time, those outside-the-box picks will act as a catapult.
But – and this is the nub – the safe picks are considered ‘safe’ for a reason. More often than not, they will get you good dividends. And if you are on top, good dividends are all you need to maintain your position. You rarely need the spectacular.
That’s all in the past though. Every past strategy needs to be done away with. The slog overs of the Fantasy League demand you follow different rules.
Even in the slog overs though, batsmen need to line the ball up. Lining up here will be sticking to some broad basics. Use the infinite substitutions to pick a team made up of predominantly South African and New Zealand players. No fewer than eight players in your team should be from these two teams. The other two or three will have to be Indian and Australian. Before the second semifinal, you can straightaway eliminate the players of the losing team and bring in more Aussies and more Indians. The key is, keep your team balanced. No extreme swings towards one side. Because right now, there are four sides genuinely worthy of the title of world champions contesting in the biggest matches of their careers. And as clichéd as it might be, anything can actually happen.
No one who has watched any of the action so far will begrudge any of the four semifinalists when one of them lifts the crown on March 29. Each has played like a champion and will deserve to be one. What this means for the Fantasy League player is to keep a balance in selection and cover your bases. Who loses, goes out, who wins, stays.
If you are protecting a lead in your leagues, sit tight and continue to follow your gut calls.
If you’re aiming for a final hop, step and jump to glory, pick at least one or two out-of-the-ordinary players in each match. In pure cricketing terms, it’s the final over, and you need 20 runs to win. It’s not easy. But it has been done. And whoever said anything worth fighting for was easy?
If you haven't played yet, it isn't too late to start afresh. You can still sign up for the final phase and make your pick.
It’s your last chance. Go for gold.