Making predictions is a tricky business. Those of us who have go often find ourselves wrong, but tend to remember only those predictions we get right. Make enough and you are bound to gather a couple of correct forays into prescience, despite the majority turning out to be utter tosh. for me, however, my first attempt at fantasy cricket blogging
not only remains up on the blog for all to see my failure, but also permanently contains my frankly phenomenal level of wrongness in how to go about the selection process.
Hence this update begins with much embarrassment and an apology. A key part of my first blog deemed that the modifications to one's fantasy team are "precious" - thus making the retention of key players the aim, and picking those who will get to the latter stages of the tournament. This is, as it turns out, not the case. Those of you who played along will have found a massive 200 modifications available, changing the ongoing play into one of careful maintenance, swapping failing players for those hitting form and almost no penalty for having a performing player knocked out.
This means that a definitive XI is rather distant from the point, as team maintenance, not retention, is key to this game. I can, however, look back on the merit of my selections - or lack thereof. Following the frankly humongous 42-match group stage of the World Cup, we have plenty of lovely numbers to work with. Seeing as most of said data utterly refutes my previous speculation, it's time to bite the bullet and delve into the cacophony of wrongness that were my selections.
Jonathan Trott (D) & Umar Gul (C)
Now, this is where I got it right, as Trott and Gul both sound themselves among the best batsman and fast bowlers of the groups stages respectively. Interestingly, while I picked them for making the big scores and destructive wicket-taking hauls, these are players who have been the most consistent. Trott has four fifties but no century while Gul has 13 wickets without a single 4 or 5-for. Further proof, of course, that even when I'm correct I am simultaneously completely wrong.
Hashim Amla (A), Zaheer Khan (B) & Muttiah Muralitharan (B)
I group these together in the sense that they've all achieved a very solid turn out in the competition, but can all be summarised as "okay". Amla's hundred, Zaheer's match winning spell against England and Murali's destruction of New Zealand were all excellent to watch cricketing feats - but they don't singularly justify the tag I gave them as the best of the best.
Upul Tharanga (C)
Another wallowing in the tepid bathwater of acceptableness, Tharanga is still yet to prove his critics wrong. He has struggled to make proper consistent starts and work good bowling for singles, but has partially redeemed himself with a clinical hundred against Zimbabwe - admittedly while being thoroughly outshone by his opening partner. A "C" through and through.
Angelo Matthews (C) & Ahmed Shehzad (E)
This is where it starts to go badly wrong. No fifties in 9 innings for these young batsmen has rendered them less than deserving of the spots I had considered "precious", erroneous as that was. While Matthews has partially made up for this with a gusty 41* in his last match and a handful of wickets, Shehzad hasn't performed at all and has been dropped.
Mahedra Singh Dhoni (A) (capt) (wk) & Yusuf Pathan (D)
If my predictions could fairly be considered a disaster, words cannot describe the cacophony of failure that has been India's lower middle order. Collapses against England, West Indies and especially South Africa has characterised the efforts of this pair. A top score between them of 34 in 11 innings does not bode well for the points either - so much for my star man and best bargain.
Lonwabo Tsotsobe (C)
The worst I have saved until last. I still maintain that Tsotsobe is underrated - I clearly didn't realise how underrated, as it seems even the South African selectors don't consider him worthy of a starting place in their spin-heavy lineup. Only one match from the tournament is less than ideal to say the least.
I thus bring you the "Curse you, Hindsight" XI: A team of players I could, and should, have picked. These players could have formed a single fantasy XI, but have all been among the star performers of the Cup.
Shane Watson (450, B)
Virender Sehwag (417, B)
Tillakaratne Dilshan (561, B)
Jonathan Trott (411, D)
Kumar Sangakkara (566, B)
Yuvraj Singh (604, B)
Ryan ten Doeschate (507, C)
Shahid Afridi (605, C)
Robin Peterson (473, D)
Tim Southee (374, D)
Umar Gul (391, C)
I did of course have two correct - Umar Gul and Jonathan Trott. I also make no apology for missing out on leading scorer Afridi. Few would have predicted Afridi's ascent to the top of the rankings, given his role as a charismatic game-changer typically not translating into numbers. Even fewer would have predicted his sudden change from lower-order batsman who bowls some middle-overs legspin into a lethal fast-medium-something-or-other bowler who occasionally holes out to long on. Predicting what Afridi does next is generally a job I will happily pass on to someone else. Then there's Robin Peterson, who replaced my man Tsotsobe in the SA team. Words fail me. He's actually... good?
I admit to relying far too much on prior form. Kumar Sangakkara had not scored an ODI century for two years prior to the NZ-SL match, while Yuvraj Singh had been in and out of the India side and spent 2010 barely scraping a batting average over 30. Nonetheless they have been the second and third best point scorers in the cup. Their poor form had dropped them from an A to a B rating, and with me looking at star power and bargain ratings I foolishly overlooked these classy left-handers. Played, Yuvi. Have an extra dinner, you've earned it.
Virender Sehwag I seriously considered. Capable of batting like a god among men, he presumably found the bowling of Shafiul Islam's opening spell blasphemous, and smote the Bangladeshis halfway out of the competition. Then there's Watson and Dilshan, who I should have seen coming. The format of points scoring is perfectly suited to them - bat at the top of the order for regular, big scores, and bowl when necessary to pick up a few wickets. Unfortunately, I remain English, so even when faced with overwhelming statistical proof of Shane Watson's credentials I refuse to praise him. You can't make me.
The remaining performers of the XI have been indulging in the not too well respected but heavy scoring practise of "minnow-bashing". Ryan ten Doeschate is a fine batsman who rather enjoys being a large fish in the small pond that is associate cricket, while Tim Southee simply plays for New Zealand. Factor in the remarkably convincing minnow-impression put on by England and Pakistan on their "off" days and it's not hard to see where the points come from.
This (besides the knocked out Ryan ten Doeschate - I have stuck with the ever-promising Matthews for now) is the XI I will be taking with me into the quarter finals, in the hope that they continue as they have started - and I hope you'll be progressing with me, furtively chopping and changing as we go and seeking comfort in the delightfully numerical world of fantasy cricket.