Chennai Super Kings’ build up to IPL 2020 has been a road filled with hurdles. First, they saw 13 members of their touring party including two players in Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad test positive for COVID-19. Then, senior cricketers Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh opted out of the tournament for personal reasons. CSK coach Stephen Fleming conceded they didn’t ‘get off to a good start’ but said the players dealt with the situation well.
“It has been different, and that’s been part of the challenge – understanding the unknown. We didn’t get off to a great start, with some positive Covid-19 cases, but I think we dealt with it very well. We were calm around our approach, looked after the players and staff very well, and the rest of the players were calm in the hotel room. There was a bit of anxiety wanting to get out and train. It is what it is, and the players dealt with it very well. On hindsight, the amount of pre-season training that we’ve done up to now, and the extra few days in the room, was probably a blessing,” Fleming was quoted as saying by CSK’s website ahead of their opening match against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
Fleming expected the season to be different tactically as there was no home advantage for teams.
“I see this season going to be very different tactically. With no real home ground advantage here, we’ve got to be very good at adapting to the conditions in each ground,” he said. “We’ve got three different grounds to assess and each ground has its own character and nuances and we’ve just got to be good enough to pick the right team and get the right game plan to match that. It’s like every game is an away game.”
The coach also expected MS Dhoni’s retirement from international cricket to work to his advantage, saying the captain was fresh.
“It has been no different. He’s very fit and mentally he’s been very engaged and determined. In some ways the break can work for the experienced and older players that we have. MS is fresh and ready to go,” he said.
CSK will take on arch rivals MI in the tournament opener in Abu Dhabi. CSK lost all four matches to MI last season, including the final by one run.
“The first game is always full of anxiety, nerves and excitement, and CSK-MI has added extra excitement and pressure and we enjoy that. We’ve earned the right to play the first game by playing well last year, and given the way the final finished last year, it’s nice to have another crack at MI. They are a very good side and it gives you a good gauge as to how the pre-season has gone and the areas that need improvement. You get a good idea after the first game as to where your team is sitting,” he said.
“It’s one of the challenges of having to travel to Abu Dhabi, we’ve got to have to be very good on the day to have to assess the wicket and pick the right combination. One of the big challenges for IPL teams is to get the combinations right. There are a lot of skilful players that make the side, but there are also a lot of skilful players that don’t. Picking the right side for the right conditions is one of the great challenges and we’ve got a good record at that. But I must admit, going to Abu Dhabi without seeing the wicket or assessing the conditions is going to be one of the big challenges to start with.”