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Desire to get back and do well was high: Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming

Chennai Super Kings’ coach Stephen Fleming says that the two-year absence from IPL was tough for the franchise and motivation to come back and do well was high.

cricket Updated: May 28, 2018 08:49 IST
Bihan Sengupta
Bihan Sengupta
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Rashid Khan,Kane Williamson,Stephen Fleming
Chennai Super Kings Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (R) and Coach Stephen Fleming during practice session.(HT Photo)

They didn’t like to touch upon the subject whenever the talk veered towards their forced two-year absence from the tournament. The Chennai Super Kings’ players were well aware of the extra scrutiny surrounding them in the 2018 Indian Premier League. Their team had been found guilty of bringing disrepute to the tournament in the 2013 corruption scandal, but M S Dhoni & Co had a point to prove that on the field they were among the best. (HIGHLIGHTS)

CSK have been past-masters of the T20 format, having already contested half-a- dozen finals and winning two titles, but the 2018 IPL triumph will rank as their most satisfying.

After guiding his team to their third tournament win, CSK head coach Stephen Fleming admitted that there was a strong desire in the squad to do well on their return. (SCORECARD)

“If you weigh up every team, the expectation of winning would be high. There was emotion involved just around wanting to do well and get back into the competition. It was difficult two years for the franchise, no doubt about it. The desire to get back and do well in the competition was high,” Fleming said.

“But the players were always motivated, it was just a case of harnessing that emotion and making sure our performances and the team itself was sustainable to keep winning throughout.”

It was Chennai Super Kings’ first title after seven years, having won back to back in 2010 and 2011. Fleming said the field was toughest this year. “It’s the toughest year it’s been. The teams are getting smarter with who they pick. The auctions are getting competitive and there’s much more grasp of who franchises want as a player. So this was a tough one. And again, we valued experience for consistency. Guys who could repetitively do it, not just one-offs because we found that the guys who get on a roll – the Rayudus, the Watsons, the Dhonis, the Rainas – they take you deep in the tournament. Good enough to win? Who knows, it’s on the day. Today, thankfully it was ours.”

READ | MS Dhoni makes history during Chennai Super Kings vs Sunrisers Hyderabad IPL 2018 final

Among other things, CSK also proved how they were spot-on with their picks in the auction where they went for experience at the expense of being termed as Dad’s Army. Then, they had to defy the odds when they were forced to move base from Chennai to Pune after just one round.

Fleming said he was really proud of how his players adapted to the shift.

“I think we dealt with a lot of adversity really calmly and that comes with leadership. I will admit moving from Chennai had quite an impact given when we sat at the auction table picking a team to play in Chennai conditions. We had to scramble through the year to try and find a combination. We made more changes to the team that we usually would. We suddenly became a seaming based side with a little bit of spin. It is quite a bit of turnaround when you place your strategy to be a slow team with good players of spin. I am really proud how we adapted to that.

“I am proud the way experienced players showed their value, not in a smart way, but in a way that’s validated our faith in them. We believe experience coming back into the competition was going to be a key component. “

In Sunday’s final against Sunrisers Hyderabad, the CSK coach felt the key was how Shane Watson absorbed the early pressure exerted by SRH’s new ball bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep Sharma. At the end of the first five overs, CSK were just 20 for one.

READ  | Kane Williamson’s gritty knock in vain as Chennai Super Kings beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to win IPL 2018

“The opening spell was, I thought, outstanding from SRH. He might’ve been none off 10 balls. It was a real battle in the first four or five overs. It was a great final in that sense. Shane gradually found a bit of range and rhythm. He kept patience again that we’d experienced, didn’t give it away. He knew his power game would get the team out of trouble and it did in spectacular fashion. He has been a star performer for us.”

Comparing Watson’s below-par last season with Royal Challengers Bangalore and his fine form this time, Fleming said being in and out of the side at RCB affected him. “I watched him closely at the Big Bash and there were signs that he was in good form. I had no doubt he was going to make an impact. Fitness was an issue as it is a long tournament but he is more professional than even I thought. He is a bit broken now.”

In the end, SRH’s total proved to be inadequate and Fleming declared it was below-par, praising the effort of Lungi Ngidi and Shardul Thakur in the death overs. “Ngidi and Shardul bowled two good overs, under-nine runs. Anything under 180 we were happy with it.”

The main threat in bowling for CSK was to come from Rashid Khan, but quite remarkably they didn’t give the ace leggie a single wicket. “Rashid Khan was a definite plan. We actually have played him quite well, we’ve been more positive in the past but we were afforded the luxury through Shane’s hitting of being more conservative, even playing out a maiden. At that point in time, we had really nullified his impact and that was a key focus for our tactics to win the final, and we did that well.”

First Published: May 28, 2018 08:49 IST