Chennai Super Kings’ chief coach Stephen Fleming said the team has been left devastated by the IPL authorities’ decision to shift the former champions’ home games to Ranchi from their citadel — the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk.
Chennai’s matches were shifted after the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association failed to get the requisite NOCs to host the matches on May 18 and 22.
“We are very disappointed not to play in Chennai. I say this on behalf of the team, announce our disappointment that we can’t go back. We enjoy amazing support all around India and around the world. But we were looking forward to giving back to the Chepauk (crowd). We were devastated as we were really looking forward to those games,” Fleming said after Saturday night’s match against Mumbai Indians.
“Though Ranchi has been home away from home and we have played there beautifully, there was an element of returning back to the Chennai faithful. We won’t be able to do that this year. We will carry that with us and hopefully put up a couple of good performances at Ranchi and move on. But as I said the team is sad not to be going back to our fan base,” he added.
Fleming described the team’s stupendous four-wicket victory over Mumbai as a “blue collar day” for the hard work it required to breach the home team’s fortress in the Indian Premier League.
“It was a really blue collar day. We had to really work hard with the ball and with the bat. We knew it was round about a par score. We kept the momentum going, did not get bogged down. I prefer both sides’ performances rather than an easy one if we are lucky,” said Fleming after the two-time former champions stormed home in a thrilling finish in the last over bowled by Kieron Pollard.
Needing 11 in the last over to overtake MI’s 157 for 6, Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni took a couple of runs, then hit West Indian Pollard for a six over mid-wicket and a boundary to pull his side past the finish line in a thrilling finale.
Super Kings’ victory also inflicted on the hosts their first defeat at the Wankhede Stadium since the beginning of last season’s IPL.
Fleming said his side was a power-oriented team with the likes of Dwayne Smith, who top-scored with 57 in 51 balls, and Dhoni (22 not out), in it along with smart batsmen like Brendon McCullum and Suresh Raina to blend beautifully with the power game exhibited by the other two.
“I love his (Smith) power. Power is the key for top order batting. The McCullums and Rainas are very efficient. They provide very good foils. If Smith gets on top of the bowler with 3-4 sixes an over, we don’t worry about dot balls. The other players don’t get flustered and do what they know. Power would catch up.
“We are a pretty powerful side. Sometimes it’s hard to be efficient. Today they tried to manoeuvre Harbhajan (Singh) and worked very hard. If you don’t have power you get stranded.
What we tried to do is to provide power game with some smarts around it.
“We know we are not yet a complete package but are certainly working hard towards that sort of ability. Some days it’s going to come off, some days it’s not. I am particularly proud of today’s performance,” the former New Zealand Test captain explained.
Fleming hinted that Mumbai might have missed an additional spinner to complement Harbhajan on the Wankhede track which gave appreciable grip and turn to the slow bowlers when explaining why they included Samuel Badree at the cost of the performing Ben Hilfenhaus.
“We had wanted to give Badree an opportunity for some time. Ben Hilfenhaus has been doing a good job for us. We just thought, looking at our games coming up there would be an opportunity for Badree to play more of a role.
“Not just about today but about progressing in the tournament; even in the semi finals what type of team we can put out on the park. It was time to try it and make sure we got those bases covered.
Fleming also praised Dhoni’s skills as a finisher in the limited-over games at all levels of cricket.
“He has got wonderful skills to finish the game Look at his composure! That stands out more than anything else. He just backs himself to get 10, probably 15, may be even 20 runs in that last over and he just paces himself and gives confidence to the guys at the other end.
“His composure under intense pressure when the game is on the line is something we really treasure as a side, and it’s just not a one or two off, he does it not once but regularly for all sides he plays for. It’s a gift. We are very grateful we had that sort of finishing power along with the smarts.
“A B De Villiers (South Africa) probably fits in that category (as finisher) as well. But Dhoni has consistently done it for so long and for all teams. He stands out. Bevan was a craftsman. Dhoni has got the power aspect as well that puts him ahead.”
Fleming said the way Dhoni batted in the 19th over against the difficult to score Lasith Malinga was enough of an indication that he wanted to finish it off in the last over bowled by West Indian Pollard and it was a very wise decision.
“It (result) could have gone either way today, but you just got the feeling the way he played Malinga he was gearing up to win it off Pollard.
“Both teams had luck along the way. The game fluctuated nicely and Mumbai are not easy to beat at home. They had won ten in a row. We knew they were not going to give that up easy. We were just smart.