Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming is not worried about his team returning to the IPL after a long gap or about the reason behind the team’s suspension having any kind of effect on the players. On the eve of the tournament’s opener against Mumbai Indians on Saturday, Fleming spoke lucidly about the team having the usual “nerves” because of the two-year gap and stated that the players would not carry any kind of “scars” because they didn’t have anything to do with the events that led to the team’s suspension two years ago.
“I think we’ve prepared well. Just a lot of nerves around but no more than normal,” he said. “Players want to get into it and we’ve had the best part of 12 days leading into the competition, so the feeling is one of we’re ready to play. We’ve done all we can, but there’s still the element of getting into the tournament and getting the team selections right. The general feeling is we’re just ready to go.
“It (the suspension) doesn’t have an influence on the players. Players didn’t do anything to be scarred from, so there’s no scars there.”
When Super Kings returned to the auction table after two years, the average age of their side after the first day was 33. They made up for it on the second day of the auction by purchasing eight uncapped players, and Fleming explained why he was banking on experience.
“The notion that we bought an old side on day one of the auction was right,” he stated. “Day two was filled with a lot of young players. I value experience, we always have and if the professional player is in shape and performing well, I think they’re a valuable asset. Not often do you see young players come out and make a mark. People talk a lot about it but very rarely do young players shoot the lights out.
“I’m not sure when a young player came out and was the top run-scorer. Rashid Khan – you get some exceptions, Washington Sundar, but there’s only a handful whereas experienced players play major parts in the whole tournament so that’s why I value experience. There’s also about the quality of player, like [Dwayne] Bravo is still competing well, [Shane] Watson’s competing well, Harbhajan [Singh] has a great skillset, [MS] Dhoni is a fine leader. So, the players we’ve picked, I don’t think they’re spent by any means. It’s a year-by-year proposition, and this year I think they look very good.”
On Saturday night, Super Kings will return by taking on the same opponents they last played in the tournament, and finished runners-up to in 2015. Three year ago it was at Eden Gardens where they faced off and this time they play in Mumbai’s fortress, the Wankhede Stadium, where the pitch has a little extra pace and bounce compared to the average Indian pitch.
The visitors, however, have a fairly inexperienced seam-bowling attack apart from Shane Watson and Dwayne Bravo. Lungi Ngidi and Mark Wood joined the squad on Thursday night and only one of them is likely to make it to the XI. What Super Kings have in plenty is spin options in Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Imran Tahir and Karn Sharma. Fleming conceded that the pitch wouldn’t help the spinners much but wasn’t too concerned about it.
“Lungi Ngidi and Mark Wood are both good. Shane Watson is still very good with the new ball, Dwayne Bravo is very canny,” he said. “And the other guys can still bowl even if there’s not excessive turn. So, we’re just looking for smarter technique and stack up in all different scenarios. It’s not just being spin-friendly as indicated, we’ve also got seam bowlers who we also think can do a pretty good job.
“Just trying to read the conditions is always a challenge here. I guess looking at their team, they’ve no standout spin options. I say this with the greatest of respect for them. In terms of the name, Krunal Pandya is there, as we’ve got three or four. But we’ve also got the pace options that can accommodate this kind of a challenge.”
Mumbai may face the opposite problem when they visit Chennai but that is still three weeks away. For now, Super Kings need to shake off those nerves, get their yellow jersey back on, and take on familiar opponents who are also the defending champions.