Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming said they will have their 2008 template in mind when rebuilding their side: build a core that can play consistent cricket for 10 years.
CSK finished their season with three successive wins, although they failed to make it to the final four for the first time in their history. Fleming said rebuilding the side in the upcoming years will be a challenge but fun.
“It’s a great challenge," Fleming said at the post-match press conference. “It’s great fun and there’s responsibility around it, but when you get the likes of Ruturaj (Gaikwad) come through and some of the players getting the mix of youth and old.
“We go back to the same team which Mr. Srinivasan and CSK picked and how right they got it. We’re looking to do the same if we can get a decade of consistent cricket from a side, you’re doing something right. So, we’re tapping into that and yeah there’s big responsibility. Teams now and squads are a lot smarter and they really want what they want, so talent is at a premium. But, it’s one of the challenges, good and exciting challenges of being involved with an IPL side."
Fleming rued that they couldn’t play Ruturaj Gaikwad earlier in the competition, and dismissed suggestions that they played him too late. Gaikwad ended IPL 2020 with three consecutive half-centuries, the first CSK batsman to do so.
“No, we couldn’t play him earlier, in fact we played him too early," Fleming said. “Covid really knocked him around, we knew how good he was from the time we’ve had in the last two years - the pre-season in Chennai was outstanding. One of the disappointments was obviously he got sick and the fact that it hung around for so long, people underestimated what it does to a player physically and mentally.
“We tried to get him into the game really early on, looking back probably it was too soon, so it wasn’t effective. We might have pushed him in too quickly and he wasn’t quite ready physically and he got outweighed a little bit - some doubts were cast and just got to work with him in net practice and limited practice matches, but we always had in mind he was going to be a key player."
Fleming hinted that Suresh Raina’s absence upset their foreign player combination, particularly their inability to play Imran Tahir consistently.
“We had Josh Hazlewood also in limited games, but what we were in trouble is that we were without our Indian batters, we had to fill those gaps with international players. Whilst you’d like to play all your internationals, you having to fill a gap at the top of the order and it puts a squeeze somewhere else.
“So, we had to rely on Indian seamers and only one sort of overseas bowler at a time. It wasn’t like we didn’t want to play them. When you have one of the best T20 bowlers in the world sitting on the sidelines, it hurts me just as much as some of the experts saying why is he not playing. But, they have to think deeper than that as to what’s going on with the balance of the side and that’s one of the great challenges of selecting each side when you’ve got so much talent on the bench."
Despite the poor season, Fleming was glad CSK stuck together through the lows.
“We hung tough as a group. Obviously in the bubble we spent a lot of time together and when things aren’t going well in the IPL, it can get a bit toxic. But the players - every one of them - were incredibly committed to what we were trying to do. Some were getting opportunities and some weren’t which again is the nature of the IPL. We were finishing on an up is a testament to the players more than anything that they were still committed to respecting the jersey and franchise and finished the tournament well so that we can look back and say ‘what if’ rather than ‘what next’. We’ve got too many fans as well relying on us to do well and we have an obligation to do that. The players were in a good enough space and tough to repay that."