Even as record broadcast deals were signed for the Indian T20 League, the growth of the fantasy sports industry continued at an even faster rate. Well over 13 crore Indians play at least one fantasy sport now, with fantasy cricket games like Howzat easily among the most popular. With high-quality cricket, whether that’s international matches of T20 world cup or leagues, being played all year round, there’s no shortage of lucrative contests to enter and win. But before you do that, here are 5 interesting facts that will help you make more informed choices with your fantasy XIs.
Captains hold the key
In the real world, naming a cricket captain is a big task, something that selectors can obsess over for weeks and months. A whole host of factors are considered before the decision is made. A player’s experience, career record, ability to inspire teammates and being able to deal with external factors like negative media coverage are all assessed before he or she is made captain. And in most cases, the appointments are medium to long-term ones. But when you play on a fantasy league app like Howzat, all these factors are irrelevant when it comes to captaincy. All that matters is that your designated captain scores 2x points, and your vice captain 1.5x. The only pertinent factor in your selection is the form that player is in. It doesn’t matter whether you pick a veteran star or a new face. As long as they score you points, they’ve done the job as your team captain.
Balance is everything
You don’t need to be a walking encyclopaedia of the sport to win games of fantasy cricket. But it does help if you have at least a cursory knowledge of the sport, and the players taking part. Compared to many other mainstream sports, cricket results are very much influenced by playing conditions – both the pitch and the weather. Matches played on green-tinged pitches in cloudy weather tend to be low-scoring affairs dominated by seam and swing bowlers. Spin bowlers barely get a look in on such surfaces. And when batting is such a challenge, it’s usual for teams to strengthen that department by picking all-rounders in place of specialist bowlers. When it’s a dry, bare batting-friendly pitch and the temperature is well over 30C, bowlers tend to struggle. In such conditions, it’s mostly specialist bowlers that are chosen. There tends to be less scope for all-rounders.
Fantasy cricket has its own quirks
In some ways, fantasy cricket is a reflection of what happens on the field. The points the players score, for example, are largely based on the scorecard. That said, there are huge differences between your XI and the ones that 2 teams go with. To begin with, you have the luxury of selecting players from both teams. You can pick based on each team’s strengths, so that your XI barely has a weakness. Also, the rules of fantasy cricket compel you to pick just a minimum of 1 player of each type – a wicketkeeper, batter, bowler and all-rounder. A traditional cricket team usually has 4-5 specialist batters, about the same number of bowlers, and a wicketkeeper. Your fantasy team has no such constraints. Including those who do the job part-time, your XI could have as many as 4 wicketkeepers. Depending on the conditions, you may opt to pick hardly any specialist batters or bowlers, packing your team instead with 4 or 5 all-rounders.
Wild card players make the difference
Depending on your knowledge of the teams and players, and your intuition, you may pick a really solid XI. The thing is at least 5-6 of the players on your team will be in most others’ too. How then does your team nudge ahead in a contest? Often it’s the fringe players chosen who make all the difference. When you pick an XI on Howzat, you can see what percentage of your fellow contestants have chosen a certain player. The key is to choose those who are in excellent form, but who haven’t caught the attention of most fantasy players yet. R. Gaikwad was top run scorer in the Indian T20 League in 2021. Before the season began, no one could have imagined such a scenario. But those that saw he was in sublime form early on and got him into their XIs sooner racked up the points. Those that waited too long to select him missed out.
Don’t forget the last-minute checks
You may have fine-tuned your selection strategy to the highest degree. Without last-minute checks, though, it can all unravel quickly. In a long series or tournament, players routinely pick up niggles or get tired. Injuries can happen even during the warm-up before a match. When the playing XIs are announced at the toss – half an hour before play starts – run a check to make sure that everyone you selected for your fantasy team is playing. It’s next to impossible to win a contest with just 9 or 10 players, even more so if your designated captain is one of those to miss out.
If you’re familiar with these facts, the next step is to download Howzat fantasy app and start playing. Practice as much as you want with the unlimited free games, and once confident enough, you can even play with former World Cup winners like Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. There’s a big contest pretty much every day, and there’s no shortage of prizes to be won. So get playing!