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When the Royal Challengers Bangalore were chasing a modest 133 against the beleaguered Deccan Chargers, the Chennai Super Kingsturned from cricketers to fans for a day. Crammed in a hotel room, they cheered their hearts out for the Chargers. There was pandemonium in the room and emotions flowing in abundance. The sharp brains that plot the demise of their opponents on the cricket field, gave in to superstitions. Coach, Stephen Fleming, was shut out of the team room because the players thought he brought ill luck for the Chargers.
In the end, CSK got what they were desperately hoping for – a very unlikely DC victory and with it a berth in the playoffs of IPL 2012. They now play the eliminator against the Mumbai Indians in Bengaluru.
Ahead of the knockout game, iplt20.com caught up with CSK’s highest run-getter in the tournament, Faf du Plessis. The amicable South African admitted the team was “very lucky” to still be in the tournament and said it’s now imperative for them to make the most of their fortune and lift the trophy for the third time. He revelled in the fact that it was two South Africans – Dale Steyn and JP Duminy from DC – who knocked RCB out to give CSK a playoff spot. Does the team consider itself fortunate to be here?
Very lucky, to be honest. I did not think it would be possible for us to get through. When it is one result going in your favour, it is asking for a lot; but to have three results going in your favour, it is next to impossible. Destiny wants you to win the third IPL in a row.
Well, that’s what we are thinking now because we shouldn’t be here but we are here. You have to think that someone is on our side to push us to get another trophy.
Did the team watch the DC v RCB match closely?
We were watching all three games. We were watching the RR game, which they lost and we were cheering for MI – which we never do – and then, the RCB one. To be honest with you, I saw the first two matches, but the third one I just said, “I don’t see DC beating the powerhouse that RCB has”. The previous day, Albie [Morkel] and I had sent out a Tweet to Dale Steyn saying “Please do us a favour and just get some early wickets,” and he was just unbelievable. He took three wickets for eight runs. Another South African, JP Duminy, too scored big runs. It was the two South Africans who came to the party to see CSK through. We heard that the team had sent coach Stephen Fleming out of the room during that match?
Yeah, it was really funny. The whole team was sitting there and cheering. Fleming went out and RCB started to struggle. He returned after while to join the whole hype of watching the game. As he entered the room, everyone shouted, “Get out” and he was like “I don’t know why should I get out”. He went to his room and things started to go well for DC again. He tried to come in once again, but we denied him entry into the room. He was only allowed in when the last ball was bowled. CSK has lost both their league matches to MI. Will that play on your minds?
No. In fact, I think something that CSK has done very well as compared to MI is crossing the final hurdle. MI has been fantastic always in the round robin, but sometimes they haven’t gone past the knockout stage. We have been there, we have done it and we know how to do it. So, for us the important thing now is to understand that everything that has happened up till now is gone. The inconsistency is gone. In the past, we have been the better side in the big games, so that’s what matters in this game. What is the biggest threat from MI?
To have someone like [Lasith] Malinga is a great boost. He plays a key role in the bowling department and how we play him is going to be very important. He has done well in the matches against CSK. They have got good finishers and so do we; the only difference between the two teams is Malinga, who’s the best T20 bowler in the world. For us, [Ben] Hilfenhaus has been doing well with the new ball, which is something we lacked until he came. That adds strength to our team.
CSK’s game in Bengaluru was washed out, whereas MI beat RCB here. Will they have better knowledge of the conditions?
It is a really good wicket and we have got a really strong batting line-up. It was unfortunate that we missed out on the game because of the rains. There is a true bounce on the wicket, which the batsmen will relish. Hopefully, our powerhouse batting will put some runs on the board. Hilfenhaus and Michael Hussey have put you on the brink. What do you think are your chances of getting a game?
That’s up to the selectors. I was sick for two games; I had bad viral fever. That created a chance for Michael to come back in to the setup and he has done well. Now, it’s a difficult one for the selectors, because I have been doing really well and so is Hussey. Luckily, I don’t have to make that decision. But it’s not easy to leave out your highest run-scorer of the season.
That’s the theory. In the previous game, they went for Michael and the thinking behind that was that he has been doing well and I was sick and 90 percent fit. Now, I am back to 100 percent and I obviously want to play. But it’s up to Fleming and MS [Dhoni] and what they think will be the best team on that day.
The quality most needed in a finisher is the hunger to fight. No wonder Albie Morkel has taken to the role so beautifully. The South African has won matches for the Chennai Super Kings from hopeless situations, thus inspiring them to fight their way into the playoffs. It wasn’t the smoothest of rides for the defending champions as they stumbled, got up and eventually took support of the other teams to book a place in the final four.
Morkel, who has been one of the more consistent performers for CSK rubbishes claims of the luck factor having played a role in taking CSK this far. The proud Protea prefers to look at the positives and reflects on the team’s good performances, before they take on the Mumbai Indians on May 23, instead of discounting the hard work by crediting it all to luck.
Here are the excerpts of the all-rounder’s chat with iplt20.com:
Do you consider yourselves fortunate to have made it to the playoffs?
Everyone has been asking that question to us since last week. You can see it in that way, but from our point of view, every team played 16 matches in the league phase and we went through on a higher net run-rate, which means we played better than the teams below us throughout the league phase. That’s how we, as a team, see it and that’s how we’re going to approach the playoffs. How tough is it depending on the other teams?
It’s tough. We haven’t played consistent cricket this time, but at least we gave ourselves a chance of qualifying into the top four even though we waited for other results. I don’t think it’s a negative thing. You can’t always be on the top of the world; sometimes, you have to scrap and slip in through the back door.
CSK have lost both their games to MI. Does that mean anything at this stage?
It should mean something. They’re a very strong side and have played fantastic cricket throughout the tournament. The first time they absolutely outplayed us in Chennai and the second one went up and down throughout. We really should’ve won it in the end. I’m sure they’ll take momentum out of that, but then the semi-final [eliminator] has its own different pressure. It’s a knockout game and anything can happen on the day.
The Bengaluru track is very different from the one you’re used to in Chennai. Your thoughts.
You always pretty much get a good T20 track here, which produces high-scoring games. It’s not a wicket on which you need time to get used to. It’s a quicker wicket, similar to what he have back home in South Africa. It encourages the big shot players. Both teams have got some very good strikers of the ball. It’s very difficult to bowl at venues like this. It’s good to have big games on such venues. You get a high-scoring contest, which entertains the crowd and is thrilling for the players as well. Would you want to bat higher up the order on such a wicket?
It’s not only me, everyone who bats lower down the order wants to come up. But my role in this team is to finish games and that’s what I have to be happy with. It’s a role that gets really difficult at some venues where the wicket is slow and turning. It’s very difficult to hit from ball one on such tracks. On a ground like this, the role gets a bit easier. You can back yourself as you know there’s going to be pace on the ball and the boundaries are going to be short. Does the team have a plan for Lasith Malinga?
Not yet. He’s a world-class bowler and there’s no point planning for him. He’s got the slower ball, the yorker, the bouncer and is pretty good in his areas. Hopefully, he has an off day. If that happens, we have a very good chance against him.