The match in Bengaluru on Saturday night between the Royal Challengers and Chennai Super Kings bears more consequences than being a mere contest between two of the strongest IPL teams.
While the hosts will do anything to end up on the winning side to give themselves a chance in the top-four, CSK would want to end the league phase with a win and a first place on the points table.
Super Kings coach, Stephen Fleming, stressed on the importance of ending in the top-two in order to have an advantage in the Playoffs and secure a spot in the Champions League T20.
“If Rajasthan Royals don’t win their game (against Sunrisers Hyderabad), we will automatically be in the top two,” Fleming said. “If that happens, we may have the option of giving opportunities to guys who have been on the sidelines for a while. But we’re not going to be throwing games away or do anything stupid because we realise that consistency has always been our key.”
According to Fleming, another reason why the team will be happy to play the benched players against RCB is to give a break to some of the regular players ahead of the knock-out games.
“Some of the guys are coping with injuries and fatigue and we’d like to give them some rest if the opportunity comes up. If it doesn’t, we still have to play very well and confirm a spot in the top-two. So, the way the competition is set up, there’s still a reason for us to focus despite making it to the Playoffs,” said the CSK coach.
Despite being in a more advantageous situation than RCB, Fleming knows CSK cannot put their feet up given the hosts face a must-win scenario.
“When a team is desperate to win, they generally give their best game out and we expect RCB to do the same against us on Saturday.”
For all the opponents, a major sub-plot for stopping RCB is stopping Chris Gayle, and Fleming said CSK were no different.
“There’s huge amount of planning done on Chris Gayle and we’re no different. We’re lucky enough to implement our plans and get Chris out early on a number of occasions. The worrying thing might be that he must be due (for a big score against us). So, we must ensure we hit the right areas all over again and hopefully it’s our day. He’s been remarkably consistent for such a dynamic player. His consistency on this ground is particularly brilliant. So, we know we have our work cut out.”
While getting Gayle out early is a team goal, Fleming said R Ashwin and Chris Morris were the two main weapons that CSK will unleash over the Caribbean giant.
“There are two-three bowlers we are looking to use. Ashwin’s had success against Chris. Chris Morris had a successful outing against him in the last game we played against them. However, the key plans may not always come off and the other bowlers have to be just as good as the bowlers who we originally plan to use against him. Chris (Gayle) has been very smart to take it slowly in the first six overs and give himself a chance to have a go from the seventh onwards. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the frontline bowlers against Chris. So, it is our responsibility as a bowling group to take whoever gets the first chance,” he said.
While focusing on Gayle, Fleming also warned his bowlers of the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and others in the power-packed RCB line-up.
“It will be a high-scoring game if any one of their top-three get going. RCB are very top-heavy with their batting and their first three guns are very big. Hopefully, we’re good enough to pick wickets and put their middle-order under pressure. Any team coach will say the same thing – if you can get RCB’s top-order out, you will be able to control the run-rate.”