Stephen Fleming is of the opinion that Ruturaj Gaikwad was, in fact, drafted into the side too early after recovering from Covid and rubbished the idea that his draft was delayed. Fleming has also added that Imran Tahir sitting out hurt him badly but that was needed for the balance of the side.
After a decade of domineering run that saw them reaching play-offs every single time they played in the IPL, Chennai Super Kings ended their campaign in the group stage in 2020. Their over-reliance on experienced campaigners and not showing ‘intent’ in the run-chase were touted as the major reason for their early season debacle which proved too costly for them that three consecutive wins to cap off the tournament didn’t even matter.
However, what was a big positive for the side was that youngster Ruturaj Gaikwad showed ‘spark’ and belligerence to score three consecutive fifties, ensuring CSK victories in each one of them. It gave rise to the debate that if CSK were right in not playing him in the middle-phase of the tournament when he had already recovered from the illness. But Fleming believes otherwise.
"We couldn't have played him earlier. In fact, we played him too early. Covid really knocked him around. We knew how good he was from the time we've had in the last two years and the pre-season in Chennai was outstanding. One of the disappointments was that he got sick, and the fact that it hung around for so long... people underestimate what it does to a player physically and mentally,” Fleming said in the post-match presentation.
"We tried to get him into the game really early on and looking back it was probably too soon. So it wasn't effective. We might have pushed him to get in there too quickly and he just wasn't quite ready physically.”
Another killer blow to their campaign was to mae Imran Tahir sit out of the playing XI despite the leg-spinner winning the Purple cap last season. It was something that dented their progress early on, with Piyush Chawla and Karn Sharma going for runs. Fleming put it down to team balance for benching Tahir.
"We had Josh Hazlewood also who played limited games. Where we were in trouble is that without our Indian batters, we had to fill those gaps with international players. Obviously you'd like to play all your international players, but when you're having to fill a gap at the top of the order, it puts a squeeze somewhere else. We had to rely on our Indian seamers and only one sort of overseas bowler at a time.
“We had to fill the slots that were usually taken by Indian players at the top and just rejig our side. It wasn't that we didn't want to play them. When you've got one of the best T20 bowlers (Imran Tahir) sitting on the sidelines, it hurts me as much as some of the experts saying why is he not playing. But they have to think deeper than that as to what's going on with the balance of the side," he said.