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IPL Staff in Chennai 05 April 2013 - 08:07pm IST

Fleming wants CSK to hit the ground running

Coach wants his team to shed the tag of slow starters

Chennai Super Kings have consistently been one of the strongest team in IPL since the inception of the tournament. But despite remaining the only team in the competition to make the top-four in all five seasons, coach Stephen Fleming wants CSK’s journey in IPL 2013 to be different from the last four years.

The Super Kings have been notorious of getting off to a slow start before peeking at critical junctures in the tournament. In IPL 2012, the defending champions almost fumbled out of the tournament before crawling their way into the playoffs. They eventually lost to the Kolkata Knight Riders in the final.

Fleming wants that to change this time. He wants his team to begin on the right foot. “We’re not happy that we’re a slow-starting side,” Fleming said while addressing the media ahead of CSK’s opening game of the season, against the Mumbai Indians at the Chepauk. “It does take us some time to get into the tournament. It depends on where our key performers come from because we rely a lot on our Indian players,” the coach said, hoping things would be different this time around.

“Generally right before the IPL there’s one or the other big international event that takes place. This time it’s different. With the great series win against Australia you feel that the confidence within the core Indian players in our team is very high. Hopefully that translates to a good start.”

Fleming said the team could’ve identified a way to be more consistent right through the tournament – by sticking to a similar playing XI most times. “Apart from the first season when we won our first four games, we haven’t been good enough, although we’ve improved in areas where we thought needed improvement. But we’ve realised that we cannot keep making changes in the playing XI too often. This year we’ll be conservative with our selection and maintain the competition within the squad.”

However, in the very first match, the team will have to make a few changes in the combination due to the absence of two of their South African stars. While all-rounder Albie Morkel will miss a few matches due to his commitment to the Titans in South Africa’s domestic T20 tournament, CSK’s opening batsman, Faf du Plessis will miss the first month of IPL with a lower back injury.

While acknowledging the class of Morkel cannot be replaced, the CSK coach believed the Indian players can fill the shoes well. “We’re an Indian side that’s complemented by internationals,” he said.

“We can’t replace Albie but what we can do is place another all-rounder in his place. In R Ashwin and (Suresh) Raina with his off-spin we have two good Indian options. With (Dwayne) Bravo, we have more firepower when it comes to an all-rounder,” he said.

du Plessis was the surprise package for CSK in IPL 2012 with 398 runs at the top of the order, including three half-centuries. Thankfully for the Chennai-based team, the Test retirement of Michael Hussey will lessen the headache.

“Considering Faf du Plessis will not be there with us for the first month it has worked out very well,” Fleming said of Hussey’s availability for the entire duration of IPL 2013. “Last year Faf and Mike Hussey were competing for a spot and it was one of our challenges whether we could fit them both in the side. Hussey being available for the full season will make Faf’s absence a lesser blow. It’s a bit up and down in T20 cricket but Mike and Murali Vijay have been very good for us at the top of the order,” the former New Zealand captain said.

While batting has always been CSK’s strength, death bowling has let them down at times, due to more options in the pace department. Fleming was glad that the team has covered that area in the 2013 IPL Player Auction.

“We’ve got some good pacers in our side now with Jason Holder, Dirk Nannes and Chris Morris joining in this year. Now we’ve fallen into the category that a lot of teams have been in, in the way that we have a lot of options to choose from.”

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