From Matt Busby and Alex Ferguson, his worthiest successor at Manchester United to the all-conquering West Indians under Clive Lloyd or most recently, Leicester City of 2015-16, they have all shown that it takes time to build teams. Something Stephen Fleming doesn’t have.
“The most challenging aspect is bringing a group of players together…getting relationships that are strong. It is probably fair to acknowledge that our disadvantage is that we are getting together for the first time on a lot of fronts where other franchises have had seasons together to build relationships and become a bit more cohesive,” Fleming, coach of the new IPL franchise Rising Pune Supergiants, told HT over the phone from Pune.
Fleming spent all previous eight IPL seasons at Chennai Super Kings. From the coaching staff to the team, there was a settled look about everything in that franchise that won the competition twice and were runners-up thrice. The target remains the same, said Fleming, even though he’s had all of eight days, having reached Pune on his birthday on April 1, to forge relationships going into their first match, away to Mumbai Indians.
In a bid to circumvent the lack of time, the franchise decided to choose players who were together in the past. “What we tried to do is put together players who have played a bit in the past. Even the contribution of Melbourne Stars (Big Bash League franchise) is not by chance,” said Fleming.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Peter Handscomb and Kevin Pietersen, for instance, were teammates earlier this year in Australia just as they will again be now. Skipper MS Dhoni, Baba Aparajith, R Ashwin, Faf du Plessis and Albie Morkel were at Chennai Super Kings and will be again for this team. All have played under Fleming as coach.
“A lot of the positions we have tried to fill is with an eye to speed up some of those relationships and get up to speed as quickly as possible on team unity and bonding,” said Fleming.
Rising Pune don’t play at home till April 22, against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore. Both coach and owner, Sanjiv Goenka, think that’s a good thing. “It’ll give us more time to get organised,” said Goenka, speaking in his office in central Kolkata. For Fleming, the mantra is: the team that stays together preys together. “Often when you are away from home, there are less (sic) commitments and you can focus on the team aspect. We will take everybody with us as much as we can for those three games.”
A couple of early wins will help forge relationships that otherwise would have taken longer. “That will also take the pressure off us when we play in Pune,” said Fleming.