Men of mettle

Ray Jennings… fits the school headmaster stereotype, his legendary sternness complete with a stentorian sheen.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

For sheer consistency and impact, Ray Jennings (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Stephen Fleming (Chennai Super Kings) are in a different league, writes Arun Venugopal.

In the chaotic whirl that accompanies the Indian Premier League, stability has become an increasingly rare quality. The rate of change of support staff has been as high as that of the players. In such a fickle environment, two coaches have survived — and thrived — long enough to ingrain their philosophies in their respective teams.

Stephen Fleming and Ray Jennings have, since 2009, coached Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) respectively with distinctive finesse. Fleming has presided over his side’s twin IPL triumphs and a Champions League T20 title. Under Jennings, RCB went from being second last in IPL-1 to runner-up the following year. In 2011, it finished as finalist in both the IPL and the CL T20.

Not many coaches in the IPL have had such lengthy stints — Darren Lehmann had a fairly substantial time with the now-defunct Deccan Chargers, winning the tournament in 2009. But for sheer consistency and impact, Jennings and Fleming are in a different league. Venerated by their charges, they are as far removed from each other as they can be. Jennings fits the school headmaster stereotype, his legendary sternness complete with a stentorian sheen. One of the finest, most spontaneous wicketkeepers in his days, the 58-year-old South African quickly earned a reputation as a go-getter.

He was equally swift at courting controversies, the most infamous one being a cash reward allegedly placed on Allan Donald’s head, literally, during his tenure as coach of Easterns’, the South African domestic side. At RCB, he wasted little time in disciplining a brash Virat Kohli before identifying him as a future leader.

K. B. Arun Karthick, the RCB ’keeper, however, described the former South Africa coach as “very friendly.”

“He’s strict but he brings the best out of players. He communicates clearly and doesn’t compromise on fitness and attitude.”

Fleming, on the other hand, was probably the shrewdest captain of his generation, carving a street-smart New Zealand unit. As coach, Fleming, 40, brings to the table a process-oriented approach. Hardly is he seen getting overly emotional about results.

Stephen Fleming with skipper M.S. Dhoni. The Chennai Super Kings coach has created the most conducive team environment.-PTI

CSK’s S. Badrinath, who has shared the dressing room with Fleming since 2008, felt the latter had created the most conducive team environment. “Stephen has this knack of mixing things with jokes. He’s played many pranks on me (laughs). We have a team song that we sing after every victory. Such things, along with team-building games, create oneness. He keeps things simple — even our team meetings are crisp.”

This IPL, both the coaches would look to reaffirm their credentials. While Fleming would want a perpetuation of his team’s dominance, Jennings must be thirsting for the elusive silverware.