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ICC Fantasy League – Don’t Miss The Starting Gun

The teams have hit preparation mode for the ICC World Twenty20 2016. It’s now time for the fans to gear up for their own battle. Not the battle of one-upmanship in the stands, where one set try to drown out the support for the other set. Not the battle fought in drawing rooms around the world, where you sit tight in one position and don’t move an inch if your team is doing well. Not even the battle against alarm clocks, for those whose time-zones mean catching the action equals sacrificing sleep.

This is rather more serious than all those battles. This is the #WT20 Fantasy League battle.

First the good news, The format for this year’s Fantasy League is slightly different from that at ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, specially modified for the Twenty20 format. The points system in particular, has specialised brackets for strike-rates and economy rates with a real focus on the impact of the player’s performance upon the match. 

Now the better news. Several of the best elements remain the same. It might be a good idea to familiarise yourself with the interface for a couple of days before the serious action begins. No edge is too small in the high-stakes arena of Fantasy League cricket.

Now, the even better news. The ICC launched the Fantasy League on February 29, and just like the tagline says, it was a darned good idea to make use of the extra day that the year had granted. Okay, so the Oscars took away some of the limelight. But when the World T20 is done and dusted, the drama, action, tears and jeers will be nothing compared to Leonardo di Caprio fighting a bear.

The overarching aim of the ICC Fantasy League is for participants to have a great deal of fun. And even if you’re not the kind who tracks players and teams (why aren’t you that kind???) for every match, you can still end up having a ball. It’s a given though, that if you enter fully into the spirit of things and channel analysis, stats and gut-feelings into shaping your team, you’re going to have more fun.

Which is all a rather long-winded way of getting down to explaining some of the nitty-gritties that are a must for every serious, not-so-serious, and occasional player. Because if you set up a team well at the start, there is a good chance you can compete even if you have to take a few days off to attend to less important tasks like a family wedding, work deadlines or doctor visits.

This tournament’s Fantasy League is split in four phases, with the first phase comprising all Group A and Group B matches – ie the first round of the World Twenty20. The next phase will have the first set of matches from the subsequent round, starting with India v New Zealand on March 15.

The third phase will begin with the New Zealand v Pakistan match on March 22 and run till the end of the league stages. The last phase will have the biggies – the two semifinals and the final.

There are 24 transfers available for Phase 1, with 20 each for Phases 2 and 3, and 10 for Phase 4. The last three aren’t of primary concern just yet, though you can file those away in the memory bank, alongwith the fact that between phases, you have an unlimited amount of transfers.

But the start is going to be all about Phase 1. One obvious starting point is to pack your team with players from only those countries in either Group A or Group B, since no other countries will be playing during Phase 1. So go forth and pick from the many exciting players among IrelandBangladeshAfghanistanScotlandZimbabweHong KongNetherlands and Oman. Each team will play exactly three matches during the first phase, so reading up on who the form players and the stars are might be of great help. 

The matches are spread pretty evenly too, so your team will need to be well balanced and your strategy should be nimble. 24 transfers across 12 matches automatically means you can make two transfers per game. You can vary that depending on what your analysis and gut-call tells you, but it is essential to make use of all the transfers.

Now for the secret tip (that is probably not-so-secret since it’s being published here) – Most players in Phase 1 aren’t as well known as Virat Kohlis, the AB de Villiers’s, the Trent Boults of the world. This is your chance to zoom ahead of the rest of the field. All you need is a little homework, and there are several pages on the ICC site that can point you in the right direction. Basic reading will tell you that Babar Hayat seems to be in good form, that Mohammad Nabi has always been a reliable performer, that Sean Williamscan contribute with both bat and ball, that Tom Cooper has talent to match with the best.

Dig a little deeper still and you could get off the starting blocks at Usain Bolt speed. The tournament is one week away. That’s one week for you to get the lowdown on each team and player. It’s not always true that all good things come to those who wait – some great Fantasy League points come to those who take the early steps.