How India is in thrall to two leagues – the IPL, and fantasy cricket

IPL and fantasy cricket

Two parallel leagues are on at the moment in the country. One is the Indian Premier League (IPL), being played on the 22 yards and which is now nearing the end of its first week. The second is also titled the Indian Premier League, but that one is being played in the Fantasy sporting realm by approximately 130 million Indian cricket fans every single day. In just over half a decade, the number of fans playing fantasy cricket has increased from 5 million to approximately 130 million, and if data available is to be believed, the number is expected to go up to 200 million a month from now. Close to 30 of India leading cricketers, past and present, are now endorsing fantasy cricket and almost every second advertisement on sports television is promoting fantasy sport to consumers.

Delve deep, and the growth of fantasy cricket can be ascribed to three main reasons. The first is that it tends to make the sport more interactive than it ever was, and makes the fan an active consumer rather than a passive participant. It is well known that every Indian cricket fan has an opinion on the choice of eleven that should play, and who should be captain. The choice of India’s No. 4 for the World Cup in 2023, for example, had become a nationwide debate for well over a year. In fantasy sport, for the first time, fans are able to choose their own eleven players and appoint their own captain and vice-captain. It is their team in the true sense, and each fan playing and consuming the game can take ownership for his or her actions.


The second thing that fantasy sport does is that it helps separate the loyal cricket fan from the more occasional follower. If someone has to win in fantasy cricket, it is imperative that he or she has a proper understanding of the match being played. To randomly choose a team is not enough. A team needs to be chosen based on conditions on offer for that particular contest. For example, a game in Chennai means a team has to have an overwhelming presence of spinners while the faster bowlers will have primacy for a game in Kolkata. Also, the choice of a player is determined by his or her batting position. If a player bats at the top of the order in a T20 game, he will always have the chance to score more points than someone who bats in the middle overs. Hence, many prefer Rahmanullah Gurbaz to Rinku Singh in their fantasy team, because Gurbaz bats at the top while Rinku comes in at No. 6 for KKR.

Finally, what fantasy sport also does is that it adds to existing corpus of knowledge and helps in a better understanding of the sport. While many have now started to follow women’s cricket in India, not many follow international women’s cricket as closely as they do the men’s game. This is where it starts to get interesting. In a match between India and Australia, for example, you need to know the Australian women’s team as well to make the right calls in fantasy cricket.

Given that fantasy sports promoters are fast venturing into other sports like football, it is only natural that fan consumption of fantasy sport will grow exponentially in the months to come, adding to the overall size and scope of the industry in India. At the same time, it will be important for these promoters to add the element of subjectivity to gaming, making it a more interesting pursuit based on skill and knowledge.


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