Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming insisted that he has no issues with his batsmen taking high-risk options in the middle-overs and asserted that CSK are keen to utilize all sources effectively. Fleming admitted that CSK were essentially beaten by an ‘all-time-great' Pollard innings.
CSK, in IPL 2020, were notorious for their lack of aggression in the middle-overs, but IPL 2021 has seen the side improve in the said phase in the most dramatic fashion imaginable. This season, the Super Kings have boasted a SR of 149.21 in overs 7-15, a tally which is comfortably the best in the league. The Super Kings have managed to achieve the same by not taking the foot off the pedal, even in the case of losing wickets, and the same was evident in their showing against Mumbai on Saturday.
From 112/1 CSK were reduced to 116/4 in no time, but the fall of wickets did not stop the team from adhering to a full-blooded aggressive approach. Putting little price on their wickets, the middle-order batsmen took the attack to the MI bowlers and ended up scoring a remarkable 102 off the last 8 overs to thrust the side to an above-par total.
CSK’s England-like approach has left many pleasantly surprised, and speaking post-Saturday’s clash, head coach Stephen Fleming attested that his team will continue to follow the same template. Fleming said that CSK have learnt their lessons from 2020, and claimed that the goal of the side is to use the batting depth in the most efficient way possible.
“We were on the attack. You never like to lose wickets and we lost an established batter who took a positive approach. I’m not too critical around there because we were really trying to dominate the middle overs,” Fleming said in the press conference post the MI game.
“We knew it was going to be a high scoring game and we knew we had the batting resources. We learnt from last year where we got a little bit caught up in the middle. Today we lost a couple of wickets but we still got 220. We’re happy that we kept pushing and we’re happy to keep using our resources. It looks uncomfortable but we still had Dhoni and Sam Curran who didn’t bat. We really wanna push the middle-over phase year.”
This middle-over onslaught was largely thanks to Ambati Rayudu, but his partner, Ravindra Jadeja, never got going. Batting at No.6, Jadeja managed just 22 off 22 balls, failing to hit a single six, and many experts felt that the southpaw’s slow innings deprived CSK of 15-20 more runs. But Fleming defended Jadeja and claimed that his SR was on the lower-side as he played second-fiddle to a rampant Rayudu.
“He (Jadeja) didn’t get going but at the other end it was high scoring. Sometimes it works that way that one person is going incredibly well and the other person turns over strike. So we looked at the partnership rather than just the statistics and alas the last 5-10 overs were very good.”
CSK, after dismissing a well-set Quinton de Kock in the 10th over of the chase, looked like they were on course for a thumping victory, but a once-in-a-lifetime knock from Kieron Pollard denied the Men in Yellow a sixth straight win in the season. Pollard, with Mumbai needing 125 off 8 overs, blasted 87 off 34 balls and single-handedly demolished the CSK bowlers to hand Mumbai an important win. Fleming asserted that defending totals on small grounds can, at times, be a very difficult task, and conceded that his side was beaten by an ‘unbelievable’ Kieron Pollard innings.
“You get a score and you probably add 10. Especially against a side that has that many power-hitters. We did incredibly well to get below 220 but in games like this, with the small grounds and the quality of batting, it’s sometimes very hard to defend. The match ebbed and flowed, the teams made mistakes and eventually Mumbai got over the line. That’s what the IPL is about - it’s about ensuring you do the little things a bit better. We just fell short a little today.
“This is probably the best innings Pollard has played in the IPL for a long time. He’s an effective player but he’s done it for a long time. If you look at it, he was the mainstay and we did a lot of good things around him, but we couldn’t just shut him down. From a team point of view, we got over 200 with the bat, held in there and got some wickets and put some pressure on them and were undone by a fine innings today.”
Despite the defeat, however, Fleming stated that CSK will head into the next game as a confident unit. The Men in Yellow, as things stand, are still top of the table, and Fleming said that Saturday’s defeat was just a mere case of CSK falling victim to the fine margins of an IPL game.
“We had our chances, no doubt about it. But that’s the fine margins of IPL. We could get better; we’ve done pretty well. We’re confident heading into the next game. If you’re gonna get beaten, you’ve got to ask the opponent to play pretty well and that’s what they did tonight.”