Abu Dhabi: His sabbatical from the game has done Mahendra Singh Dhoni a world of good. This is what Chennai Super Kings (CSK) coach Stephen Fleming said Friday. He said that Dhoni is ‘mentally engaged and determined’ to encounter the challenges of a ‘tactically different’ IPL. It will be a clash of Titans when Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s CSK will take on Rohit Sharma’s Mumbai Indians (MI) in the tournament opener Saturday.
Fleming, a former New Zealand captain, stressed that his team’s experience of winning big matches will come in handy during the next 53 days.
Dhoni retired from international cricket last month. Prior to that, he had been on a break for over one year. So naturally Fleming was asked about the 39-year-old’s preparedness for the IPL. “It has been no different. He’s very fit and mentally, he’s been very engaged and determined,” Fleming said in an interview to CSK’s official website.
“In some ways the break can work for the experienced and older players that we have. MS (Dhoni) is fresh and ready to go. All I can say like the whole India, I am also waiting for Dhoni’s return,” Fleming added.
The three-time champions are banking heavily on their 35-plus players, including Dhoni himself. Then there are Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo, Kedar Jadhav, and Imran Tahir to name a few.
“…experienced players identify key times and that’s why they’ve done so well in their careers. They can turn games, absorb pressure or just sum out the situation. That’s what experience is about and that’s why we value it so highly,” said Fleming.
“And that’s why we’ve been able to get over the line in so many close games. It is because the key player has been one with a lot of experience. And you also mix that with skill. You are conscious of having a skillful side and adding youth when we can and with that get the balance pretty right,” the former Kiwi skipper added.
Starting against a quality side like MI is certainly exciting for Fleming. He wants his men to have a crack at the defending champions after their agonising last-ball loss in the previous edition.
“The first game is always full of anxiety, nerves and excitement. A CSK-MI game has extra excitement and pressure and we enjoy that. We’ve earned the right to play the first game by playing well last year. Given the way the final finished last year, it’s nice to have another crack at MI,” Fleming said.
“They (MI) are a very good side. 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,” the former Kiwi skipper added.