The Fantasy Fever


Finally, cricket has gone beyond the game. A huge business, it always had a betting business around. Now the virtual world has squeezed it into an application that millions of users avail as per their knowledge of the game. While the focus remains on winning huge money and bumper prizes, the addictive nature of the game creates more paupers, reports Raashid Andrabi

Youngsters while playing PUBG game. KL Image by Malik Kaisar

“Shubman Gill or Yashasvi Jaiswal? Raashid Khan or Mohammad Shami? Use the ‘perfect captain’ or lose it all.”

Every day until the end of May, Malik and a thousand others in Kashmir found themselves immersed in the world of fantasy sports, making decisions in the hopes of achieving fantasy glory. The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023 concluded with Chennai Super Kings, led by MS Dhoni, emerging as the champions, bringing an end to Malik’s successful run on Dream11, a fantasy sports app where nearly 15 crore users create their own fantasy team based on real-life matches and eventually win or lose

Starting with a modest investment of Rs 100, Malik ended the season with Rs 29,000 in his Dream11 wallet. His friends also experienced financial gains from this year’s IPL, joining him in the pursuit of overnight riches.

However, there was an exception among Malik’s circle, his best friend Yasir (name changed), who encountered losses this summer. “I invested around Rs 20,000 but lost it all. It’s all a matter of luck, and unfortunately, luck didn’t favour me this year,” Yasir said while laughing about his wallet balance of Rs 20. “I had the biggest win last year in a T10 match,” Yasir said

OverNight Riches

Aijaz Malik, 27, hailing from Handwara, was first introduced to the world of fantasy during the IPL 2016. It was a momentous occasion for Malik as his favourite team, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), emerged victorious. Although he may have lost some money during the finals, the triumph of his beloved team made it all worthwhile. However, little did he know that this initial encounter with fantasy cricket would ignite an obsession shared by many others in the region, driving him on a relentless pursuit of fantasy glory.

As the days went by, Malik’s luck started to change, and he began winning enough money through fantasy cricket to treat himself and his friends to meals at restaurants every evening. What was once merely a pastime soon transformed into a necessity in Malik’s life. Reflecting on his early successes, Malik reminisces, “I earned around Rs 1600 during the 2016 IPL, but that didn’t satisfy my appetite for the game. I joined all kinds of leagues, including basketball, which I hardly knew anything about.”

The constant bombardment of advertisements on social media, showcasing stories of people winning huge amounts of money after investing a mere Rs 21, only fuelled Malik’s desire for overnight success. As time went by, Malik found himself playing one or two contests daily, driven by the hope of clinching that grand prize. “Initially, I thought Rs 20 was not a big deal, but as time passed, even that amount started to accumulate. There were times when I would join ten contests in a day, only to lose them all. However, on some lucky days, I would manage to recoup everything in a single contest,” Malik said, his voice filled with a sense of amusement.

Now, after six long years, Malik has exhausted every conceivable combination of players in his quest for that coveted first rank. Despite his relentless efforts, luck has never truly favoured him in this virtual realm of cricket. The highest amount he ever won in a contest amounted to a mere Rs 12,000. When questioned about his approximate total investment in the game to date, Malik struggles to recall the exact figure but hazily guesses it to be around Rs 50,000. “But I’ve won more than that,” he quickly adds, a trace of pride evident in his voice. “I even managed to buy a good phone with the money I earned. I know it may not be permissible in our religion, but Chalaan haz chu [It is alright],” Malik concludes, acknowledging the potential conflict between his actions and his beliefs.

Perfect Choice

The advent Dream11 app has revolutionised the way fans interact and engage with their favourite sports. Gone are the days of passive viewing; now, enthusiasts can actively participate and become an integral part of the action. Fantasy sports, such as fantasy cricket, have emerged as a popular avenue for fans to immerse themselves in the game, create virtual teams comprising real players, and earn points based on their performances in actual matches. This interactive and immersive experience has taken the sporting world by storm, allowing fans to test their knowledge, strategise, and compete against fellow enthusiasts.

A crucial aspect of achieving success in fantasy cricket is the art of selecting the “perfect captain.” The captain’s role is of paramount importance, as they can earn double the points compared to other players in the team.

For Malik and many others like him, this task presented a significant challenge. It required careful consideration and analysis, weighing the potential of emerging stars against the reliability of established performers. Their decision-making process revolved around the players’ track records, their recent form, and their ability to deliver exceptional performances that would accumulate valuable points for their fantasy teams.

Malik’s success story is not an isolated incident among his circle of his friends. As the IPL unfolded and the popularity of fantasy sports soared, his companions, including his friend Yasir, also harboured aspirations of accumulating wealth through these virtual platforms. However, luck did not favour Yasir, and he experienced a significant loss of Rs 8000, which served as a stark contrast to Malik’s triumphs. This divergence in outcomes illustrates the unpredictable and addictive nature of fantasy sports. It serves as a reminder that success in this realm is not solely based on skill and strategy but is also influenced by the whims of fortune.

= Beyond the critical task of selecting the “perfect captain,” achieving success in fantasy cricket demands a comprehensive understanding of player statistics, team dynamics, pitch conditions, and match scenarios. Participants like Malik invest a significant amount of time and effort into researching and analysing these factors. They delve into player histories, assess their performance records, scrutinise match conditions, and gauge the impact of various variables to gain a competitive edge. This meticulous preparation and analysis form the backbone of their strategies, allowing them to make informed decisions that maximize their chances of triumph.

However, despite the strategic acumen and deep knowledge participants bring to the table, luck remains an uncontrollable variable in fantasy cricket. The outcomes of real matches and the performances of individual players often determine the fate of participants’ virtual teams. Even well-crafted strategies can be derailed by unforeseen circumstances, such as an unexpected injury to a key player or an astonishing upset in a match.

Malik understands the role luck has played in his own success, acknowledging that fortune has favoured him on several occasions. He remains cognisant that in this unpredictable realm, no amount of planning can fully mitigate the influence of chance.

“I have witnessed incidents when the whole game is in your favour and you are about to win the grand prize, but suddenly in the last six balls the whole game changes,” Malik said.

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Engaging in fantasy cricket is an emotional rollercoaster, filled with moments of triumph and disappointment. Enthusiasts experience the euphoria of seeing their chosen players excel and earn valuable points for their teams. Conversely, they also feel frustration and dismay when their selected players underperform or fail to meet expectations. Each match becomes a nerve-wracking experience, with fans anxiously monitoring the performances of their virtual team, experiencing the highs and lows of the game in real time. These fluctuations of emotions further fuel the passion and dedication of fantasy cricket enthusiasts, as they eagerly await the next match and the opportunity to turn the tides in their favour.

More Than A Game

In the cricket-loving region of Kashmir, fantasy cricket has become more than just a game; it has become a topic of lively discussion, friendly rivalry, and bonding among friends, colleagues, and even families. As individuals create and manage their virtual teams, they engage in spirited debates about player selections, strategies, and the intricacies of the game. The shared experience of participating in fantasy cricket strengthens relationships, enhances social connections, and creates a shared sense of belonging within the community of enthusiasts.

Waseem Raja, a young man from Bijbehara in South Kashmir experienced an incredible transformation on May 22, 2022, propelling him into a world of abundance and prosperity. Through his remarkable victory on the popular online fantasy cricket platform Dream11, Waseem Raja became an overnight millionaire.

Reflecting on the momentous turn of events, Waseem Raja shared his recollection of that fateful night, stating, “I was fast asleep on a late Saturday evening, completely unaware of the impending revelation. Suddenly, my phone started buzzing, with my friends calling me in excitement.” Through these elated conversations, he discovered the astonishing news that he had clinched the coveted first position on Dream11, winning an astounding sum of approximately Rs 2 crores.

As word of Waseem Raja’s extraordinary achievement spread throughout the region, an outpouring of well-wishes and congratulations engulfed him and his family. In an interview to a local media platform, Waseem couldn’t contain his elation, expressing, “For the past two years, I have been testing my luck by creating fantasy teams during the IPL.” Overwhelmed by the sudden turn of events, he added, “Becoming a millionaire overnight feels like stepping into a dream. This newfound prosperity will allow us to break free from the chains of poverty, considering our financially disadvantaged background.” Waseem Raja’s immediate thoughts turned to his ailing mother, as he shared, “Now, I will finally have the means to provide her with the best possible medical care she deserves.”

“Winning a substantial amount on platforms like Dream11 is an incredible feeling,” Malik said. “But what sets Dream11 apart is the unique way they distribute the prizes. Instead of receiving it all at once, you get to enjoy small, delightful packets of joy every day through their withdrawal style.”

Winning a big amount of money on platforms like Dream11 is definitely a reason to be extremely happy. But what makes it even more interesting is the way these winnings are given to you. Instead of getting the whole sum at once, they are divided into smaller, delightful portions, thanks to Dream11’s withdrawal method.

While the daily withdrawal style of Dream11 might seem like an unconventional approach, it adds an element of charm and anticipation to the winning experience. It transforms the joy of winning into a journey, with each daily instalment serving as a reminder of your triumphs and a constant source of motivation for future endeavours.

According to a 2022 report by Deloitte, the Indian fantasy sports industry is valued at Rs 34,000 crore (approximately $4.5 billion) and has been experiencing a compound annual growth rate of 32 per cent over the past three years. The industry is expected to attract Rs 10,000 crore (approximately $1.3 billion) in foreign direct investment in the coming years.

The report highlights that the industry has grown rapidly in recent years, with a compound annual growth rate of 212 per cent between 2016 and 2019. The report concludes that the industry has significant growth potential, with an estimated user base of 100 million by 2020 and a market size of Rs118.8 billion.

The Flip Side

While fantasy sports can be enjoyable and engaging, they also come with potential risks. The addictive nature of these games leads to financial losses and strains familial relationships, as some individuals become involved in gambling. Due to these concerns, several states in India, such as Telangana, Assam, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Nagaland, have imposed a complete ban on online fantasy games.

One of the main concerns is the potential for addiction. In an interview with The Economic Times, Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma, a professor of clinical psychology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, stated that “fantasy sports can be addictive, especially for those who are highly competitive.” He added that “people can become obsessed with winning, and that can lead to negative emotions and even mental health issues.”

Another concern is the potential for financial problems. In the same interview, Dr Sharma stated that “people can lose a lot of money very quickly, and that can lead to financial problems and even bankruptcy.” This is particularly concerning in a country like India, where gambling is illegal in most states.

As per rumours, Dream11 has currently more than 50,000 active users (in Jammu and Kashmir) and draws in a staggering 3 lakh individuals who are intrigued by its virtual world of possibilities. These users are investing a significant amount of money, estimated at Rs 15 crore per month.

A young boy from Lassipora Pulwama, lured by the promises of Dream11, lost an amount of Rs 79 lakh and even had to sell his ancestral land. Another boy from a village near Shopian invested Rs 1 lakh in the hopes of winning but ended up empty-handed. Similarly, two boys from Srinagar gambled a million rupees on Dream11 but had to face defeat instead of success.

Many other young individuals from the picturesque valleys of Kashmir have spent hundreds of thousands of rupees on Dream11 without winning anything, and some have even resorted to begging for money to survive.

There have been concerns regarding the legality of fantasy games in India. In 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court declared that fantasy games require skill and are not considered gambling. However, this decision was challenged by the Supreme Court, which has yet to make a final ruling on the matter.

While fantasy games have become increasingly popular in India, there are concerns regarding the potential negative effects of these games on individuals. Critics argue that these games can lead to addiction, financial problems, and even legal issues. As such, it is important for individuals to be aware of the potential risks associated with fantasy games and to engage in these games responsibly.


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