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The Chennai Super Kings started off IPL 2013 on the wrong foot, with a loss at home against the Mumbai Indians. However, the two-time IPL champions brought their campaign back on track with a thumping away win over Kings XI Punjab.
As CSK prepare for another tough home game against the pumped up Royal Challengers Bangalore, Coach Stephen Fleming is glad the team will be entering the contest with their morale high.
“The first win is always very important for everybody to settle down and the longer it takes to get there, the more nervous and anxious you get,” Fleming told reporters on the eve of the match. “We’re happy to have got that first win under our belt and our morale is high after the style of win. “Bu having said that, we’re a very realistic side. We don’t get affected by a big defeat or a big win. So, you won’t see us differing from our approach to the game.”
CSK have been bolstered by the arrival of their star South African all-rounder, Albie Morkel, who has won them some crucial games, especially as a finisher with the bat. However, Fleming conceded that the team is most likely to stick with the winning combination from the last match. “He looks good. But to be honest, while he’s always a chance, given how well the team played in the last match, it will be difficult to make a change.
“The overseas players did really well in the last game but often a little twisted ankle or a small injury gives other people opportunities. So, we’ll have a good chat after training and make sure there are no such injuries. If that’s the case, it will be hard for Albie to push his way into the XI,” said the CSK coach.
While hinting at fielding an unchanged contingent of overseas players, Fleming said the team might make an alteration as far as the uncapped Indian fast bowler is concerned. He admitted that Ankit Rajpoot might make way for either Imtiyaz Ahmed or Mohit Sharma.
“Rajpoot only bowled one over in the last game so his position does come up for discussion,” Fleming said. “Imtiyaz Ahmed and Mohit Sharma are very good campaigners and we’ve spoken about them. At the start of the season we spoke about who is the best and most in-form Indian fast bowler we have. And their names will certainly come in the discussion for the team for tomorrow.”
As the talk drifted from CSK to their opposition, Fleming said they were vary of RCB’s form, especially that of Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. “There’s an excellent rivalry between the two sides and we certainly have respect for them after they’ve won three out of four games. This is going to be a high intensity game with the quality of heads on show and with a guy like Kohli in form, we expect them to fancy their chances of getting a big score,” he said.
However, Fleming was confident that his team will maintain the upper-hand against Gayle and company, like they have in the past, especially since they have a strengthened bowling attack.
“We’ve always managed to combat them well in Chennai and we hope to continue with that. Ashwin has bowled well to Gayle in the past and we’ve used him well. Now we’ve got a bit more firepower and we have other options against him. We’re definitely a stronger bowling side than we’ve been in previous years,” Fleming said.
Confidence will be sky high and there will be a lot of positive energy in the Mumbai Indians dressing room after their comprehensive 44 run win against the Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday. Their big guns in Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar might have failed to give them a good start early on in the innings, but they found two young lads; Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma to share the responsibility to help MI register a 200 plus score.
Up next against them is the Pune Warriors India outfit, a team that finally got a win under their belt after 11 straight losses when they trounced Rajasthan Royals by seven wickets on Thursday. Their batsmen went hammer and tongs after the RR bowlers who were left listless, defending a total of 146.
For Mumbai Indians’ pacer Mitchell Johnson, it’s all about slowing down the game when the batsmen are going berserk. “ Look, you have got to find a way to stop them from hitting out, because anyone on a given day can go out there and blast runs very quickly, it’s just how you cope with it,” said Johnson who addressed the media here in Mumbai.
“I guess for me it would be slowing down the game just a touch. As a bowler you can get a bit frustrated at times when the batsmen are after you and as a result, you start rushing back to your mark, wanting to bowl as quickly as possible. At such situations, you need to take a little bit longer to get back to your mark and think about your game a bit more. You’ve still got time in this game, you feel that you have to rush through everything, but you have to take your time, which works,” added the left-arm pacer.
When asked if there might be any changes in the squad considering it’s a day game at the Wankhede, Johnson said, “We are playing well and whatever team is picked will be the best team for the situation. Everyone is doing a good job so far, we have got two wins from the three matches and hopefully we can make it another win in our home ground.”
The previous game at the Wankhede stadium was a run feast. As many as 374 runs were scored in the match and one can expect a cracker of a contest on Saturday. “The Wankhede track is good for batting and good for bowling,” Johnson spoke about the wicket.
“If you missed your mark as a bowler, you can say you will get punished, but if you bowl at good areas, it is quite difficult to score. It will be interesting to see how the wicket will play tomorrow. The wicket played well last time around and hopefully we have yet another good wicket on offer.”
Johnson has played all the three games that the Mumbai Indians have played so far and is at the moment soaking in the love and admiration he has got from all the Mumbai Indians fans. “I have enjoyed it so far. It has been very exciting, very fun, the crowds have been amazing. I came here the other night and was a bit nervous playing in front of such a big crowd that was cheering for you. The feeling is amazing and I am really enjoying it at the moment.”
There was a smile on his face the moment he was asked, as to how it felt playing under his former Australian captain Ricky Ponting. “I guess having Ricky as captain again helps a lot. I have been under his captaincy for a brief period in my career and he knows me pretty well. He can pick up those little things quickly during a tough situation in such a fast game. I am enjoying having Ricky here; it has been good.”
And before signing off, Johnson had a special message. “We are dedicating this game to the under privileged kids as a part of the “Education For All” initiative. It’s a programme that is very close to Ms Nita Ambani’s heart and the team is fully supporting her and looking forward to playing for the kids.”