Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming is not only ruing the absence of Brendon McCullum from the batting line-up for IPL qualifier but also the fact that Tuesday’s match is an away game for them.
“Home and away games have become very important. People are becoming smart about the way they play at home. Teams doing well at home tend to have an advantage. You are finding that away games are more difficult. That’s a point for us to note that major semifinals now have turned into home and away games. This makes it a little bit harder,” said the former New Zealand captain.
“It’s a tough game as now it becomes home and away rather than a semifinal at a neutral venue. It’s a difficult game and a tough place to win but that’s what we are here for. We didn’t expect an easy game in a play-off match and we have got a tough one,” said Fleming.
“McCullum’s absence will impact a lot. He’s an excellent player,” he added.
He said that though the team knew the dashing New Zealand opener will leave at the end of the league stage of the T20 tournament to join his teammates for the Test series in England, there was not enough opportunity to field veteran Australian opener Michael Hussey earlier than the last game.
“We had known about it for some time and planning for this for some time introducing Mike Hussey in the last game, even though he did not get a major contribution, was important. We would have liked to have given Hussey a bit more time. (But) We were just not able to get that final win earlier to give us the luxury of introducing players.”
However, he said he had high hopes from Hussey, thanks to his past record, and fellow-opener Dwayne Smith, who played for MI earlier, when launching the Super Kings’ innings.
“I have every confidence in Mike Hussey. He’s been one of our most consistent performers over the years and in the way he trains suggests he would be thereabouts. And Dwayne Smith has got a very good record here,” he said optimistically.
“We need to play smart back ourselves. It’s a great occasion — Mumbai against Chennai,” Fleming observed.
Fleming said that a very fine line was the difference between league and knock out games and teams that stand up under pressure will win.
“It has been an excellent competition thus far and I think there are a couple of more twists to go. The teams that deal with the pressure and the individuals that stand up will be the difference.
“It’s about dealing with pressure. It’s a fine line. We saw David Warner (Sun Risers Hyderabad) step on the boundary (on Sunday after catching MI captain Rohit Sharma) and in the end it probably cost his side going through.
“It can be that fine, it can be one ball, it can be a small moment, a bit of brilliance and that can be the difference between winning the tournament and going home. The consequence gets that much more when you reach this stage.”
Asked about Suresh Raina not getting a really big knock, with 62 against Royal Challengers Bangalore his best so far, Fleming said the left hander was looking good in the middle and was due for a big score.
“Looking at his high standards over the years he’s due (for a big score). It’s not that he’s been batting badly or practicing badly, he’s been in excellent touch. It’s about just converting those into a score of note. And the last innings (41 not out against Kings XI Punjab on May 16) was good as he saw the game through and he likes playing at this ground.
“He’s one of those players we are hopeful will stand up. Big players rise to the big occasions and win those matches. He’s certainly one of those. He’s done it for us a number of times. He’s one guy we are attuned to. The beauty of this team is we have several players like that. Certainly it’s Raina, in the absence of McCullum, we will look to as the mainstay,” said Fleming.
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