While the Asia Cup might well be a series of mostly one-sided run-fests, the fantasy edition of it is turning out to be quite a nail-biter. Only 25 points separate the top 3 teams at this stage of the game. Let's take a quick look at their chosen ones before the India vs Pakistan tie later this afternoon.
As I write this, all the three have Indian players as their 'Trumps'. Is that likely to change for this match? Going by the comic state of affairs in the Pakistani camp, unlikely. The beleaguered hosts have spun a surprise of sorts by announcing their XI well in advance of the game. As the great old men of cricket lore love to say: Pakistan are at their most dangerous when down. If conventional wisdom is anything to go by India better, if not beware, at least, be careful. Spotted but not ribbed:
1. Suresh Raina. At 80k, the boy has been the most valuable player of the tournament so far. It has been a hard road back into the Indian team for the brilliant batsman and fielder from North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. This time, the young man looks determined to make it count. He has been my Shane Watson of the Asia Cup.
2. The Random Team Picker needs to get its head re-examined. Or find a very good reason to tell me why I shouldn't have more than 1 star player in my fantasy team despite having the funds to buy 3. I mean, it's all very fine to want to be like the Shane Warne and the 'Rajasthan Royals' and put together a winning team at an unacceptably low cost, bu ... hold on. That's it! I get it! That's pretty much what the Random Team Picker has been trying to outdo for us all this while!
The subtly brilliant thing is bent upon engineering a 'Rajasthan Royals-style' selection heist for the Asia Cup. Check out how an adventure with it pans out. Always. A la Shane Warne and his team in the IPL, the Random Team Picker spits back teams full of unknowns plus one 'big name, leaderlike' player. So, you can either have MS Dhoni and nondescript company. Or Sangakkara, etc. Or Tom, Dick and Yuvi. Always only one or - in a moment of Random Team Picker weakness - two big names. Never, ever more than two. Someone, please bung in a piece of code that penalises the Random Team Picker every time it 'permutates and combinates' teams for way less than the aggregate team price. It might work in real life, in the IPL, but it just doesn't work in the world of Fantasy.
3. Ajantha Mendis is here. And the first time you see him do his thang, you can't help but want to talk about it. He's mesmerizing. He's organic. He's primal. He's tribal. He's poetic. He's adjectival. He's a spinner's fantasy. And a leaden-footed batsman's worst nightmare. It'll be interesting to see how the Indian batsmen tackle him. Especially, a certain Mr. Yuvraj Singh.
Almost every time Yuvraj has batted against Murali, the great Sri Lankan 'freak spinner' has made the Indian middle order batsman look very foolish. I shudder to think what Ajantha Mendis has in store for him. Much in the manner I fear for the Indians' safety when they comes up against Shahid Afridi. Like Pakistan, Afridi is unpredictable, brilliant, infuriating and, of course, most dangerous when down.