There was a time when fantasy cricket meant playing in the streets or the fields near your home and pretending that you were one of your cricket heroes. You may have tried to play a cover drive like Sachin Tendulkar, swing the ball like Irfan Pathan or catch it as safely as Rahul Dravid. That was essentially as close as you got to the stars. But now with the advent of fantasy cricket apps like Howzat, following the game is a very different experience.
Fantasy cricket games like Howzat keep you constantly engaged with what goes on out on the field of play. Because of the nature of fantasy games, every run scored, every wicket taken and every catch grabbed counts. In that sense, fantasy mirrors life and those that win are usually those who have picked the best performers. Here we take a look at both the similarities and the differences between Howzat cricket and the real sport.
- Balance is key
Cricket team selections usually follow a pattern, depending on the format being played. Test cricket is generally for specialists, and your XI will usually have 5 or 6 specialist batters, a wicketkeeper and 4 or 5 specialist bowlers. If your team is lucky enough to have exceptional all-rounders – say a Ben Stokes or a Ravindra Jadeja – then you can usually pick an extra bowler. The bowling composition itself is dependent on the playing conditions. When the pitches are slow and dry, spinners come into play more. When the weather is overcast and the pitch greenish, fast bowlers will dominate.
Broadly speaking, your Howzat XI needs to be balanced. You can’t simply pick XI batters for the sake of points. But the app does give you more flexibility. You can pick 2 wicketkeepers if you want. And you can also load the team with all-rounders if you feel the conditions favor multi-skilled cricketers.
- Pick on form rather than reputation
This has been a matter of endless debate among Indian cricket fans in recent times. The performance levels of both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have dipped alarmingly in the last two seasons. But the team management – even after the change in the coach’s role from Ravi Shastri to Rahul Dravid – has reposed considerable faith in these experienced players. It could be argued, especially after the setback in South Africa, that the faith has not been repaid. The debate has become all the more intense now because Shreyas Iyer made a superb hundred on debut at home against New Zealand – the current World Test champions – and then wasn’t part of the South Africa Tests.
Those playing Howzat cricket are not compelled to show any such loyalty to established names. If anything, picking the young player in great form is invariably a better option because they cost less, allowing you to spend more on other areas of the team. The last season of the Indian T20 League offered a good example. Chennai had a team full of T20 legends, but the smartest pick was Rituraj Gaikwad, who hadn’t been capped by India when the season began. He went on to finish the tournament as the highest run scorer.
- Be smart in choosing your captain and vice captain
The leadership of cricket teams tends to follow a seniority-based process. It’s extremely rare that a fresh face, like the 22-year-old Graeme Smith with South Africa a generation ago, is named captain. Usually, selectors go for those with plenty of experience, especially those who’ve already served an apprenticeship as vice-captain. Virat Kohli spent years as MS Dhoni’s deputy, while Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane served as his vice-captains for a long time. Occasionally though, selectors do think out of the box. When Dhoni was made India captain before the T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007, it was ahead of several more experienced players. And what an inspired pick that turned out to be.
When playing Howzat cricket, there is another factor to consider while choosing your team leader. Your captain’s score gets doubled, while that of your vice-captain is multiplied by 1.5. This makes the selection all the more important. Seniority and reputation go out of the window on the app. Your choice should only be dictated by current form and the likelihood of scoring the most points. In T20 cricket, that’s likely to be a top-order batter or a bowler who takes the new ball and also picks up wickets at the death. It’s the one area where fantasy sports diverges most from the real thing. If you’re giving anybody fantasy cricket tips, the first one would probably be to choose their captain wisely.
With the free games it offers, Howzat gives you plenty of opportunities to fine-tune your selection strategies. Once you’ve downloaded the app and made yourself familiar with the rules, you can pick up to 40 different teams in a game. If you feel you’ve had enough practice, it’s time to test your skills against some of the most skilled players from across the country. Howzat even has a feature called Beat the Legend, where your fantasy XI goes up against those selected by Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Suresh Raina. So what are you waiting for? Along with watching your favorite sport, get started with your fantasy cricket adventure! Watching cricket will be a totally different experience once you start.