The new IPL franchise, Pune, on Monday appointed Stephen Fleming as their head coach for the upcoming edition of the tournament. The decision looked almost a formality after MS Dhoni became the team’s first pick in the IPL player draft on December 15. Dhoni and Fleming have had been the most successful team management pair in the short history of the IPL, having taken Chennai Super Kings to the finals six times in eight years and winning the title twice. With the Super Kings banned for two years, it would be a reunion of the old mates in new colours.
Gary Kirsten, the former India coach who has been sacked by the Delhi Daredevils after two years in charge, was reportedly on Pune’s radar as well. But eventually the management settled for a proven combination. “We thought of others also but he (Fleming) is the choice,” franchise owner Sanjiv Goenka informed The Indian Express via a text message. In the press release issued earlier in the day, he said: “I warmly welcome Stephen Fleming as the Chief Coach. He has been remarkably successful as a player in the international arena and I firmly believe that his technical knowhow, perseverance and organisation skills will work wonders for our team. I have tremendous faith in his leadership ability and believe that it would have a positive impact on our team members.”
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Both Pune and the other new franchise Rajkot are under pressure to make an instant impact in the IPL, given that their existence is limited to two years only. With the player auction expected on February 6, there’s not much time left to finalise team plans. Pune roped in the likes of R Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis and Steve Smith as well in the player draft. In the former New Zealand captain Fleming, they now have one of the sharpest minds in the game who will take care of the planning in consultation with his captain.
Season 9 gets underway on April 9.