Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming said that he estimated CSK to win a maximum of 2 or 3 of his side’s five games at the Wankhede, but insisted they exceeded expectations by winning 3 of the first 4. Fleming expressed that, in particular, he has been mighty impressed by CSK’s batting.
IPL 2020 saw three-time champions Chennai Super Kings struggle immeasurably due to them playing in batting-friendly conditions, and the general consensus was that the side would endure a similar fate this time around, particularly with them playing their first five games at the Wankhede. A heavy defeat in the first game reasserted the same, but the Super Kings have since turned the tables around remarkably. After losing to Delhi Capitals in their first game, CSK have not just won each of their next three fixtures at the venue, but done so comprehensively. The team has struck the right notes with both bat and ball and the side’s clinical showing has seen the Super Kings surge to the top of the IPL table for the first time in two years.
CSK’s conquering of the Wankhede has been nothing short of sensational, and speaking post the KKR victory on Wednesday, head coach Stephen Fleming echoed the same sentiment. Fleming said that, by winning 3 of the first 4 encounters at the venue, his side ‘exceeded expectations’ and attested that he was super impressed by the batting, that has fired in all four matches.
“I was very satisfied with the way we finished the tournament off. We had to add some personnel, get some players back and we did that. But saying that, we still had to work on the style of play and that has been the focus in the pre-season knowing that five games can still have a big impact in the season. So a very big focus on making sure we assess the conditions and they’ve been quite unique. We’ve done that pretty well. I’d say 3/4 has exceeded expectations,” Fleming said at the press conference on Wednesday.
“I thought 3/5 or even a couple would have been good, and look at other areas where our old traditional game would stand up but very proud with the way the batting has stood out. Two 190s and a 220, so we’re playing well in that department, which is good.”
After being guilty of playing an ultra-conservative brand of cricket last season, CSK, this time around, have played carefree, fearless cricket, and this was embodied by their showing in the third game versus Rajasthan, where the side posted 188 despite no player managing to score more than 35. According to Fleming, the presence of batting depth - CSK in the first three games batted till 11 - has made a big difference, as it allows every batsman to throw caution to the wind.
“We thought we were a little bit thin last year to play a high-risk game, so we were a little bit conservative. Once again, we were coming out of Chennai, where a 150-160 score is very adequate. We had to swivel around and change. More attitude than anything this year. I think we have added players who have made a difference already, but the attitude is really the number one thing, so it’s about the mind shift,” Fleming said.
On a flat Wankhede deck on Wednesday, the CSK bowlers received an absolute pasting and one of the bowlers who ended up getting battered was Shardul Thakur. In just 3 overs, Thakur conceded 48 runs and also saw himself lose discipline at times, bowling wides aplenty. Despite the right-armer’s glim showing, Fleming lent his support to the pacer and asserted that T20 cricket, at times, can be ‘brutal’.
“About Shardul (Thakur). Yes, this game can be a little bit brutal. He was pretty good. He took over and bowled the death yorkers that you would see from (Dwayne) Bravo. He was able to sort of control things.
“The execution is hard when you have got hitters like (Andre) Russell and Dinesh (Karthik) and (Pat) Cummins at the end. He did well to keep delivering (the yorkers). I think he was good tonight.”
Cricket aside, Fleming also revealed some worrying information concerning MS Dhoni, that the CSK skipper’s parents were hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19. Fleming insisted that the CSK management are ‘well aware’ of the situation and have set up support for the family, and added that CSK will ensure that Dhoni “has the support he needs”.
"Not a lot of talk about this (Dhoni's family) between the players. But from the management's point of view, we are well aware of his family's situation. Support has been set up for his family. I had a talk with MS and the situation is under control for now. We will monitor the situation for the next few days.
"It is a tough time for everybody, especially in India at the moment. We are spending quite a lot of time talking about care in the wider group of friends and family. We have that responsibility to ensure MS has the support that he needs. We hope his family recovers quickly."