Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming on Saturday said that the four-time winners are better prepared for the IPL final against Gujarat Titans than any other time in the past, when conditions affected their performance. Fleming said CSK’s win-loss ratio remained around 50 per cent because they would usually build and prepare their squads keeping the conditions and pitches at the home venue at Chepauk in mind, but that is not the case anymore. He said the team would be ready for any conditions — there are rains expected during the final here on Sunday — and that they have erred in reading conditions and pitches in the past.
“We geared ourselves up so well for Chennai that we did struggle with conditions at times in away games, so the finals were always a little bit of a challenge, and our record is about 50 per cent of winning the final,” Fleming said during the pre-match press conference.
“It is maybe due to the style of the game we created — a victim of being so good at home that we had to make adjustments when we went to a neutral venue.” Fleming said CSK were “a bit more rounded” this year.
“Because of that going back to Chennai (for Qualifier 1), it was hard. I wanted to bowl (first) in the last qualifying game and batting proved to be the right call and MS (Dhoni) was the other way in the last game,” he said.
“So we are well off the mark in trying to get the conditions right but the team is rounded enough to put performances together. Come the final, we are not worried as to what conditions we get, there are two pitches to choose from now but we are not too worried. We are a lot better placed than what we had been in the past,” he said.
The former New Zealand captain said that making early breakthroughs will be key for his side as GT batter Shubman Gill’s red-hot form presents the biggest challenge for CSK. “He (Gill) is playing really well. It (the plans) does not really change, you hope that you pick him up early, you have enough firepower to create an opportunity. The only thing that we are looking at is when you have got openers, when they are in such good form, there is an opportunity to get into the middle order.
“If we can get a couple of early breakthroughs then, (just like) in the last game we played there is an opportunity. But we got to get past him, he is playing really well,” Fleming said.
For someone who has won IPL title four times with CSK, Fleming said it is not easy winning the trophy back-to-back.
“So hard! It is impossible, it is going to be so hard for them (GT) to do it (laughs). No, they are a good side; you got to say ‘really well done’ to what they have put together in a short space of time,” he said.
“I like the coaching staff a lot, they are really balanced guys. Ashish, for all his talking, has got a really good grasp of the game, his enthusiasm is really high after working with him in Chennai. We have a huge amount of respect for what they have done but it is very hard to go back to back.” Gujarat Titans’ team director Vikram Solanki also returned the favour, but added that knowledge of conditions in their ‘home ground’ here should hold them in good stead.
“We are definitely better for the experience for having played here, having played in the final (last year) here, and having been successful in those big games. We are better for it,” he said.
“We entirely appreciate this sort of respect CSK have given. They have been a fabulous team for a good number of years now and we respect that. We are confident; what transpires on the day is what transpires on the day,” Solanki added.
Solanki praised GT’s bowling trio of Mohammad Shami (28 wickets), Rashid Khan (27 wickets) and Mohit Sharma (24 wickets), who also are the top three wicket-takers in this IPL.
“If you look at the tournament in its entirety, the impact player rule has had a bearing on the number of batsmen that are playing, therefore, wicket-taking becomes all the more important. We have always being attacking minded, an attack that is able to take wickets in different conditions through different phases of the game,” he said.
“That is our go-to, the ability to take wickets. All three have been quite brilliant this year, they have worked extremely hard and they deserve all the success that is coming their way.” The former England batter said at just 23, Gill could be an example for young batters to model their batting on.
“For a young man, he is quite a brilliant technician as far as batting is concerned. He would certainly be one of the examples that you would like to use for young players on how to bat,” Solanki said.
“He has all of the qualities of a world-class player and he is just showing his skill level. Fortunately for us, he is in good form, he works very hard on his game, not just in practice. He is very conscious of the opposition that he is going to face, where he is likely to gain advantage, what are the dangers, what are the things that he is going to have to deal with.”
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