Playing four overseas players not a compulsion for CSK

Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming made clear that playing four overseas players is not a compulsion for his team.

Stephen Fleming said the pitch to be used in Sunday’s match is ‘looking better’.   -  M. Vedhan

When Chennai Super Kings played Royal Challengers Bangalore, it was the pitch that took the spotlight than the on-field performances. Both Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli were critical of the 22-yard and said sporting wickets were the need of the hour in competitive games.

On the eve of Chennai Super Kings’ second home match against Rajasthan Royals, coach Stephen Fleming said the pitch to be used in Sunday’s match is ‘looking better’.

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“We have watched the preparation, which has been extensive over the last three days that we have been here. There has also been a lot of work on it while we have been away. It certainly wasn’t up to scratch in the first game. Contrary to belief, it wasn’t by design from us.

“We have looked at the surface. It looks a lot better. It looks a lot harder and compact, but we have to be flexible as soon as the first ball is bowled and how it behaves and plays accordingly,” the coach said.

'We value the players'

When asked about the absence of Lungi Ngidi and David Willey and their replacements, Fleming didn't seem to be much concerned.

“We value all the players in the squad, regardless of whether they are overseas or local players. We have got some good options. Mohit Sharma is still to play. He is coming back from a back injury. We don’t have a tall fast bowler who gets bounce like Ngidi could. Kuggeleijn has got pace, which is something a bit different.

“The way the pitches are going here and considering the way the spinners are performing, I don’t think pace is necessarily the key. The bounce is something that interests us. But you can’t be everything. We certainly back the players we have got. That’s why we don’t make hasty decisions. We feel we have got enough cover and players in form waiting for an opportunity,” Fleming explained.

Pitch and overseas players

Fleming said the franchise was drafted keeping the conditions of Chennai in mind and a lot depends on the pitch, which according to the coach, needs to be a surface that suits both batsmen and bowlers. “It depends which way you look at it. We have made a side based on Chennai’s history, which is a slower track. What we saw the other night was an aberration.

“A score of 160-170 is something we have looked at in the past and we have often got more than that. We want a variation of surfaces. You don’t want a score of 200 every time. People think that’s the best pitch, but the bowlers wouldn’t agree,” he said.

The former New Zealand captain reasoned why his compatriot Mitchell Santner didn’t get a game yet and why three overseas players have only figured in CSK’s two games so far.

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“We don’t look at the squad based on overseas or Indian players. Harbhajan was a great option for the left-handed batsmen that we faced in the last two games. Santner could come in if we are facing a lot of right-handers. You don’t have to necessarily play four overseas players. We are really happy with the quality of Indian players we have,” he added.

With the controversy surrounding the umpire’s decisions and in a way affecting the results of the matches, Fleming said: “I would like to see the right decisions being made. You want as many right decisions made. But the flip side is you don’t want to interfere with the rhythm of the games. It’s a tough debate. I don’t have a firm stance on it.”