IPL 2014: Fantasy Guru – The kick-off strategy

Indian Premier League, the biggest and most popular T20 league on the planet is set to start on April 16 in UAE. Over the years, IPL’s growing popularity along with the social media boom has increased fantasy cricket participation many folds, bringing out a frenzy which was hitherto reserved for EPL enthusiasts.

Now Sportskeeda brings you advice from seasoned fantasy managers, who have experienced the highs and lows of fantasy cricket over the years, and have the knack of knowing when to make a move for those players who can help you take the unbeatable lead over your opponents in fantasy leagues! If you’re playing fantasy cricket on the official site, IPLT20.com, this is the space for you to watch out for!

Let us start with the fun aspect: IPL All Stars 11.

Fantasy Guru’s IPL All-Stars 11

One important point that you need to keep in mind while selecting a set of 11 players – who can’t be replaced – for the entire tournament:

Don’t gamble on the players who can be dropped. For example, selecting Brendon McCullum may come off very well and shower you with points, but you also entertain the risk of one of your players getting dropped. McCullum can get sidelined in favour of Faf du Plessis or Dwayne Smith midway through the tournament, as these pitches don’t really support his style of play. Not that it does for Dwayne, anyway.

That is my All Stars 11. You may notice a couple of notable exclusions: Lasith Malinga and Dale Steyn. I have gone for Michael Hussey and Darren Sammy ahead of them. While I am pretty sure about the latter, I am still contemplating over the former.

Fantasy Championship:

56 matches, 75 transfers

It’s not even 1.5 transfers per match, so you have to be frugal in the way you use them.

One aspect that will dictate this IPL fantasy season, unlike the previous ones, is the nature of the pitches. Therefore, transfers can’t be made at the usual rate. Also, generally, it isn’t a wise idea to waste transfers in the early part of the season when you don’t have an exact idea of who is going to bat where and bowl when. Imagine you picking up David Miller, and his captain George Bailey sends the South African big hitter at number 6.

It can happen, given Bailey’s captaincy skills. You must have seen Xavier Doherty being fed to Chris Gayle in the last over of the 2012 T20 World Cup semi-finals? Why go so far when something of similar note happened just days ago? Mitchell Starc, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Coulter-Nile were kept away from having a go at the Akmal brothers, when the pair was going berserk at the slower bowlers in the just concluded 2014 T20 World Cup.

As Bailey was busy executing the game-plan A in a group fixture, the match was being taken away right in front of his eyes. When a pace bowler was brought back eventually, he accounted for Kamran Akmal.

Coming back to Miller at 6, what would you do if you pick him and the KXIP top 6 is as follows?

1. Virender Sehwag
2. Mandeep Singh
3. Manan Vohra
4. George Bailey
5. Glenn Maxwell
6. David Miller

You may counter me saying that only one of Mandeep and Vohra will play, but what about Wriddhiman Saha, the only wicket-keeper of any stature in that squad, then? Or how about Maxwell coming in at number 6 when you have him in your team?

How would it be if you pick Faf du Plessis only to see him ignored in favour of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum? Given Chennai Super Kings’ bizarre selection policies, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see Ben Hilfenhaus being preferred ahead of Samuel Badree. All these atrocities can happen.

Let’s not even start about chances of AB de Villiers batting at 5.

With men like Ravi Shastri most likely to do pitch reports, there isn’t much scope with expert analysis, either. The last time he said there were plenty of runs on offer on a track, India ended up restricting the oppositions to scores of 140 and below for a record 4 consecutive times (T20 World Cup 2014). So the only thing you can trust is your eyes: notice how the tracks behave. However, if Simon Doull does the pitch reports, you better watch out.

When you look at the scoring patterns at Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, it doesn’t reveal much either, may be because Pakistan have played in almost all of them. Who knows how they turn up on a particular day? One thing is for sure: not all the 3 will be slow and low.

There are too many factors that could simply put your team off track if you make the moves in haste. So this is the fantasy guru’s advice to you for the upcoming season: hold back, examine the way teams play, watch how pitches behave and then make your moves.

Confused? You have got no reasons to worry, for you have got me to assist throughout the tournament. I would tell you what I do and why I do. I will also alert you so that you stay away from committing grave mistakes that could turn these two months of top class entertainment, if you do it right and be in the race to top 100, into nothing.

If you are still not convinced, you need to understand that at some point of time, you need to hold back in your usage of transfers. Why shouldn’t it be at a stage when there are lot more risks involved? Even if Chris Gayle scores a 50-ball 100, there is no reason to panic, as you have got plenty of matches to compensate. However, if you gamble with your transfers now, you will not get them back.

With these aspects in mind, I have assembled my team for the first two matches. Why just the first two, you may ask? The 3rd and 4th matches are scheduled to be held at Abu Dhabi, a pitch which you would have got a reasonable account of after the first encounter between Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians. So I will be back with a new article then based on my observations; you keep watching the space.

My finalised squad for the first match:

Fantasy Guru’s team

Changes to be made ahead of the second match:

1. Sunil Narine (KKR) out – Kevin Pietersen (DD) in (if he plays). If Pietersen doesn’t play, leave it as it is.
2. Manvinder Bisla (KKR) out – Mayank Agarwal (DD) (if he plays as an opener)/ Kedar Jadhav (DD) (if he plays in top 4)/ Siddarth Kaul (DD) in

Vijay Zol isn’t made for T20: None of the RCB uncapped players really impress me. Vijay Zol has never been a T20 player; it only highlights the naivete of those who think so. A hard-working youngster who could go places in the other two formats, he has serious limitations when it comes to big hitting.

Shahbaz Nadeem conundrum: When it’s DD, usually, Nadeem can be relied upon as the uncapped player eyes closed. On this occasion though, he will be bowling to Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh, two lefties. With the other two being Kohli and ABD, Nadeem could leak runs. This is why I have kept him out.

Big shots who miss out:

Will the Fantasy Guru’s ploy to keep out Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers come back to haunt him?

Chris Gayle (RCB): If it turns out to be a deck that aids spinners, even the part-time spin of JP Duminy will have the better of him. Rahul Sharma, despite holding the infamous record of getting hit for 5 sixes in an over by Gayle, has shown that he can trouble Gayle on helpful surfaces in his playing days with Pune Warriors. The support cast of Coulter-Nile, Mohammed Shami and Kaul are no pushovers either. Kaul’s ability to swing the new ball will be an issue, too.

AB de Villiers (RCB): I have not ruled out the possibility of ABD batting at 5, with RCB preferring Yuvraj at number 4. I don’t want my 1000K player to face 15 deliveries or bat taking undue risks, even when it is De Villiers.

Mitchell Starc (RCB): Starc isn’t going to run through batting tracks on the UAE decks, although he would be helpful back home.

JP Duminy (DD): If Pietersen plays, Duminy will bat at No. 5, a position from which making a telling impact isn’t all that easy.

Gautam Gambhir (KKR): Can get sorted out by Lasith Malinga or Jasprit Bumrah. If he survives them, at best, he could chip in with a 50 at 110-120 SR, which would not be missed anyway.

Robin Uthappa (KKR): Most likely to be used at number 4 and below, which is not his strong suit.

Shakib-Al-Hasan (KKR): Could bat at 5 and bowl against accomplished players of spin bowling, thereby failing to produce anything of note. Kolkata have really specialised in the area of player mismanagement in the last couple of years.

Uncapped players:

Let us get the uncapped players out of the way. Of all the available players, only Jalaj Saxena, Aditya Tare, Bumrah, Debabrata Das, Manish Pandey, Manvinder Singh Bisla and Kuldeep Yadav stand a realistic chance of playing in the first match.

Having played the fantasy game twice before, I believe it is easy to manoeuvre with two uncapped players in the team, as it helps in budget aspect. So, here is how I picked my two uncapped players, Bumrah and Bisla: by eliminating those who would not give much returns.

Jalaj Saxena (MI) – Bowls against batsmen who play spin quite well and bats lower down the order to contribute anything meaningful; doesn’t fit in.

Aditya Tare (MI) - A talented youngster who is too flashy to survive what KKR will have on offer.

Debabrata Das (KKR) and Manish Pandey (KKR) – They are most likely to bat as finishers, and they haven’t done anything to convince us to give them a spot in the fantasy team. Pandey, if bats at the top, is worth the gamble, though.

Kuldeep Yadav (KKR) - Prodigious talent, yes, but I don’t see him getting through a top three of Michael Hussey, Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu.

The Chosen Two:

Jasprit Bumrah (MI) – If he plays, he should be handful, as he will be bowling to a batting line-up that is too shaky to place any trust upon. His weird action and natural inward movement can catch batsmen short at the crease. Up against the likes of Jacques Kallis, he can give points for economy, as well.

Manvinder Bisla (KKR) - If he manages to see off Malinga, who is his worst nemesis in the fixture, he can chip in with 30-40 valuable runs against an attack that lacks mystery or potency to trouble him too much.

If either of these two don’t play, then Kuldeep and Tare appear to be the next best options.

Point accumulator:

Michael Hussey (MI): If ever someone had any doubts over how he will play after having been out of the international circuit for a while, he put them to rest with his BBL performances earlier this year: 258 runs in 8 matches at an average of 36.85 and a strike-rate of 130.96, with 3 fifties. I don’t really see any threat for him; he knows Sunil Narine more than Narine knows about himself. The only way he can get out against KKR is by throwing his wicket away.

Differential:

Ambati Rayudu (MI): I feel sorry for this guy, actually. Misused terribly in his last 2 years with the side, courtesy Bhajji’s out-of-the-box thinking, the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar would have come as a welcome relief for him.

Quoting one of my earlier articles – a tactical analysis on Mumbai Indians – which was written ahead of the Champions League 2013,

His strengths lie in taking on the spinners and making the opposition captain think twice before bringing a slow bowler into the attack, besides anchoring the innings. I have no idea how these qualities would be of any use coming in at number 5 in T20s. And when he gets to face more deliveries, he will most probably be resurrecting an innings that has lost its direction.

Needless to say, a big misfit he will be at number six, where, as a batsman, the probability of facing even 10 deliveries is reduced, leave alone the probability of facing spinners and anchoring an innings. It is not a surprise that his returns were so poor last season – 265 runs in 17 innings at an average of 18.92 and a strike-rate of 114.71.

While Pollard reaped huge benefits as a result of his promotion, scoring 420 runs in 18 innings as against his returns of 273, 146 and 220 in his previous three seasons with MI, Rayudu’s 265 at an appalling strike-rate was a downward trend as against 356, 395 and 333 in his previous three outings in IPL.

Now that Sachin Tendulkar is gone, he will be back in the MI top 4, which should serve him well. KKR should have one too many tricks for Tare, and that should pave way for Rayudu spending time in the middle. Also, with the Kolkata based outfit most likely to field a spin-heavy attack, I would not expect MI to shoot the moon by promoting Kieron Pollard and Corey Anderson.

Reserves for the 3rd fixture: CSK v KXIP

Glenn Maxwell (KXIP): This is the only real gamble I have taken, or rather I was forced to take due to budget constraints. At 900,000, he is likely to bat in the top 5. There are chances of Bailey demoting himself than ending up having underutilised his trump card in Maxwell, after seeing what the pocket-rocket did in the T20 World Cup 2014. If he stays for a little more than 15 minutes, the job would be done for us fantasy team managers. Given his penchant to take on Ravichandran Ashwin, as has been demonstrated on quite a few occasions now, MS Dhoni will have a tough task at hand.

Murali Karthik (KXIP): With CSK most likely to open with one of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith, both of whom are vulnerable against spinners, Murali Karthik at 850,000 comes in as a safe bet. I would love to see them opening with both, as Karthik will have a field day. Dhoni is most likely to experiment with Baba Aparajith and Dwayne Bravo ahead of him, and Karthik could chip in with two cheap wickets at a good economy considering he will be bowling majority of his deliveries to McCullum, Smith, Aparajith and Bravo. Someone should take care of Suresh Raina, though.

Ravichandran Ashwin (CSK): Ashwin is more of a pick that is done now to save a transfer later. Instead of testing your luck with someone and transferring him out by the time the 3rd match comes by, it would be useful to have a certainty in the team straightaway. The off-spinner has been in stellar form, of late, and the probable inclusion of Samuel Badree will only help MS Dhoni utilise him better and in situations where he needs wickets.

I haven’t bothered to explain why you need the likes of Virat Kohli, Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine and Rohit Sharma in the team. Their records speak for themselves. Neither have I cared to explain why you do not need Jacques Kallis and Yusuf Pathan, two of the mainstays of Knight Riders. God save that team!

Options for fantasy team captain: Michael Hussey and Virat Kohli. Lasith Malinga is an equally good and dependable pick for the first match, while Sunil Narine is not worth the gamble, as Mumbai Indians look good to steamroll Kolkata Knight Riders.

Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here

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