M. S. Dhoni has stayed the same since 2008, says Stephen Fleming

“His calm presence and his influence over the team has been consistent through the years,” says the Chennai Super Kings head coach.

Steady approach: M. S. Dhoni en route to his 46-ball 75 against Rajasthan Royals.   -  R. Ragu

Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings head coach, has observed M. S. Dhoni ever since the Indian Premier League (IPL) was launched in 2008. He believes Dhoni hasn’t changed at all in the manner he bats and leads his side.

“He has been pretty much the same since 2008. I thought his last innings was one of the good ones,” Fleming said here on Tuesday, referring to Dhoni’s 46-ball 75 knock against Rajasthan Royals two days ago.

“I have seen a lot from him, but his individual composure and skill at the end of the innings helped win the game (against Rajasthan Royals) and it was the dominating factor between the two teams,” Fleming, who has also been with the club since 2008, said.

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Fleming also praised Dhoni for his calmness. “His calm presence and his influence over the team has been consistent through the years. It has been talked about a lot, but it has a big effect when the players turn up and know that he’s going to be consistent, rather than up and down depending on form or life. He has been constant right through the 12 years that I have been involved as coach,” Fleming added.

‘Good start’

Under the leadership of 37-year-old Dhoni, Super Kings has won all three matches so far and Fleming is happy with the performance. “It’s been a good start, But I would not say [any of the wins were] dominating performances. It’s been good hard-fought wins, especially the last game; I am very pleased with it,” Fleming said.

“A lot of things were going against both teams, just looking at the pitch conditions and also the moisture. I thought we handled that pretty well, the way we got out of trouble in the last game on the home turf. It was pleasing from the coach’s point of view. By no means we are anywhere near where we want to be, but we are winning some key moments with some experienced players standing up which is a good sign,” Fleming said.

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At a time when most of the other franchises have tweaked their teams, Super Kings has maintained its side. How tricky has it been? “One of the benefits of maintaining the same side with little turnover is that you can start the season [a] little bit ahead of other teams, who have a big turnover of players. So we turned up with very much the same team that played the final [last year] apart from one or two [injured players]. If you are changing only one player, roughly again, it doesn’t have a major impact,” Fleming said.

Suresh Raina (left), M. S. Dhoni (centre) and Harbhajan Singh at the Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Vivek Bendre

 

“Probably the most important [thing] is that it allows to get into the competition a little bit quicker. The guys know the roles they have been picked for,” he added.

Older, but wiser

He also revealed that the players have specific roles during the preparation. “Then it’s just the case of form, getting into the game and winning key moments. The other aspect about our team is experience, they have been around a lot and know what to do and they can handle the start of the tournament quite well and it was a case with [Dwayne] Bravo here in Mumbai a year before,” he said, referring to the West Indies star’s heroics in the season opener last year.

The team is gaining in maturity over the seasons, according to Fleming. “The talk [is] about the team getting older, but from my point of view, they are little bit wiser. Twelve months wiser,” he stated.