In the quest for their third title the Chennai Super Kings will take on the Mumbai Indians at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Tuesday evening. Table-toppers on the basis of their run-rate in the Pepsi Indian Premier League 2013, the MS Dhoni-led side are keen to win the battle and take the field again only on May 26 in the final at the Eden Gardens.
While speaking to the media ahead of the much awaited contest between the top two teams, CSK coach Stephen Fleming said, “CSK have been very good this year. To motivate the players to win another IPL, with a big semi-final against Mumbai Indians, is our main focus.”
“The group of guys that I have got, are focused on playing the best that we can play. And, as I say, hopefully itss two games away - beat Mumbai and then have another final. And really we are trying to let nothing else creep into the dressing room”.
Discussing the importance of the game heading in the final stages of the tournament he said, “It’s a big game, isn’t it? And certainly, Chennai (Super Kings) –Mumbai (Indians) makes the mouth water. We came close last year taking the long way.
Sometimes it can help if you continually play because you get to good form. We just came up short against a great performance by Kolkata (Knight Riders). But certainly the advantage of playing well on Tuesday and having two or three days off at this point of the tournament is very appealing, rather than travel and play which can tax the players. So, we would love to win on Tuesday and book our place in the final and then work out a good programme.”
Beaten on both occasions by the Mumbai Indians, CSK will be keen to reverse the results when they take the field. Speaking about the opponents he said, “Obviously we got thumped in the last match. So we didn’t just lose, we got absolutely thumped. And that’s down to a good performance by MI. You look at CSK and when we’ve played away in the finals, we’ve started our way through qualifying games and once we get to the finals we’ve been excellent. So, there’s a lot of focus on stepping up that performance. Some of the players we have in our side are big-match players. Our skipper, MS Dhoni, is probably number one in the world, in terms of producing performances when they matter. We turn to those types of players in these situations, whether it’s the Rainas or Dhonis or the overseas players.
Asked if MI have an advantage over them given the record, Fleming said, “Probably, yeah, they’ve beaten us twice this year. They are a team that has beaten us probably more than anyone else. But does it count for anything on the day? I don’t think so.”
Asked if there is too much dependence on Michael Hussey and Suresh Raina the coach said that given their position in the line-up and their roles he is pleased with the way things are turning out. He elaborated, “You depend a lot on your top three or four, that’s a fact. Teams that don’t do well have their top three-four batsmen not playing that well. The fact we have had Raina, Hussey, and (Murali) Vijay is starting to come into form, has allowed the Bravos, the Dhonis, the Jadejas to play cameos. So while Hussey has been fantastic, Raina’s also had a good period of play. If they all combine, it’s good for us. The guys are ready to go. I am more than comfortable with the team dynamics.”
While discussing the importance of mental strength towards the business end of the competition he said, “There’s a lot more pressure, isn’t it? The finals and the last couple of games and the round robins are usually full of pressure. You look at the Hyderabad game and the pressure towards the end of the game they felt. The semi-finals (Playoffs) are no different. It is the team that handles it the best that usually wins the competition. It takes one or two players for your game. You look at MI, they’ve got the players all the way through their side that can do it. And so do we. We are very excited. That’s the other point. We’re excited about being here again. We are proud of our consistency to make another final. We would certainly love to win it again, that’s for sure.”
The former New Zealand captain who has witnessed the competition and the game evolve said of the IPL, “I think this year has been very good.Cricket-wise, forget the rubbish that’s going on, but the cricket I’ve seen has been excellent. Some of the games have been close. A lot more tactics have been put in place. Looking at next year, the auction and how teams are bought and squads are changed I think you will see it will get better as the years go on.
“Talking from a coaching point of view, I am learning all the time. So, I think we’re being quite smart this year. And some of the things we have done, we have learnt from previous years. We like to think our performances our getting better.”
“The standard of cricket, I think, helps some of the skills that are now being put into play at the international level. I think it has improved the game. You look at some of the one-day games, the scores and some of the shots being now played. The pace in Test match cricket has improved. The skill-set of batsmen and bowlers, I think, is on the up. That’s due to T20 cricket and players being able to try new things and learn new skills,” he added.