How different are fantasy sports from the real thing? First let’s take a look at the reality. With a few exceptions, attendances in both cricket and football have stagnated over the last decade. This is especially true of cricket in India, with stadiums no longer packed for international matches. This was the case even before the global pandemic led to matches being played behind closed doors or with a limited audience.
There is another reality too, though. The interest in a fantasy game like Howzat has grown exponentially over the past 5 years. Over 13 crore Indians now play some fantasy game or the other, making it the largest market in the world. Across the world, fantasy sports have been recognized as skill games. But just how realistic are they? Where does fantasy meet reality? And where do the two diverge? Here we take a look at both similarities and differences between the sports played on the field or on court and the entertainment you get when you play the game online after a fantasy app download.
- The players and the numbers are real
Whichever fantasy sport you decide to play, it is based on actual matches and the players who take part in them. The team you select is based on players already in the squad, and once the playing XI is announced, you can make changes to ensure that all those you select are actually playing. The points you then score are also based on actual performances. Different weightages may be given to runs, wickets and catches in cricket, and goals, assists and saves in football, but even those figures are based on actual numbers. Your eventual points tally is therefore a very accurate reflection of how the playing XI you chose performed.
- You need to find a balance
Whether it’s a cricket team or a football one, there is a balance involved in the team selection. In Test cricket, for example, most teams go in with 5 or 6 specialist batters, a wicketkeeper (who may be good enough to bat in the top 6, like Rishabh Pant for India), 1 or 2 all-rounders and 3 or 4 specialist bowlers. For limited-overs cricket, teams tend to try and fit in more all-rounders since the bulk of your runs tend to be scored by the top 4 batters. In football, the top teams now play variations of the 4-3-3 formation. Selection in fantasy sports allows you a little more flexibility, but you still have constraints. You can’t just pack your team with batters or forwards and ignore the defenders or all-rounders. Those who win are usually those who deploy their resources most smartly while keeping that balance.
- The best of both worlds
In real sport, winning is often about maximizing your strengths as a team while minimizing your weaknesses. The great West Indies teams that dominated cricket in the 1970s and 80s didn’t have a great spinner in the XI. Manchester City, who have led the way in English football over the past decade, now play without a recognized centre-forward. But when you play fantasy sports, you don’t have to work with such limitations. Since you’re free to choose players from both teams, you can pick the best possible options and an XI with barely a weakness. For example, if India are playing Australia on a seam-friendly pitch, you could have Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood all in the same XI. And if it was a pitch that aided spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja could be assisted by Nathan Lyon. There are budgetary constraints that fantasy sports players have to select teams within, but by and large, you can eliminate weaknesses from your XI.
- Captaincy is purely based on form
In both real-world cricket and football, it’s usually the most experienced professional or the best performing one who is made captain. Once they get that position, they tend to keep it for a while. In fantasy sports, your captain and vice captain change from game to game. Fantasy apps like Howzat give additional weightage to the points scored by the captain (2x times) and vice captain (1.5x times), a luxury that real sports teams certainly don’t have. And depending on the form guide, even the most inexperienced player can be made captain. The many different factors that go into choosing an on-field captain don’t apply in the fantasy world.
- The multipliers are arbitrary
In real cricket, you finish with the runs you’ve scored and the wickets you’ve taken. There is no bonus for scoring above a certain rate or for hitting 4s and 6s, just as there’s no additional penalty for conceding more than a certain number of runs per over. Such weightages are given by fantasy apps, and while they apply across the board, a points chart of your fantasy XI is quite different from what appears on a scorecard displaying the real-world game.
What we can say is that fantasy sports are based on the real thing, but with crucial differences that makes the gaming experience more entertaining and fun. To discover just how interesting it can be, download the Howzat fantasy app and start playing. It will transform the way you watch your favorite sport.