Crescent Kashmir

Fleming pleased with CSK’s intent continuity

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Two years ago, Chennai Super Kings looked like they were staring at the beginning of the end. MS Dhoni’s batting powers had waned, a botched succession plan was attempted and aborted in the space of eight games, and an overall batting timidity pervaded all season. The mega auction was still a couple of years away for CSK to even think of planning ahead for a total reset. But, to turn the corner that seemed nearly impossible in May 2022, all they needed was some productive off-season introspection.

“The years we don’t do well, we look at why and rectify that. So one of the changes was having very strong intent,” Stephen Fleming said.

“I think last year, Ruturaj and Devon shared that sort of role. It’s still a high risk when you’re playing that positively. The volume of runs both of them got last year was a big reason for us progressing through the tournament.”

Season Pair Runs SR
2021 Ruturaj Gaikwad & Faf du Plessis 635 & 633 136.26 & 138.20
2022 Ruturaj Gaikwad & Faf du Plessis 368 & 468 126.46 & 127.52
2023 Ruturaj Gaikwad & Devon Conway 590 & 672 147.50 & 139.7
The commitment to this change – to bat with freedom, originated right at the top with Gaikwad and Conway and trickled down seamlessly as CSK got their recruitment bang on. Ajinkya Rahane counter-attacked pace, Shivam Dube smashed spin and their phase-wise strike rates saw sizeable increments.

Phase-wise scoring rate across the 2022 and 2023 seasons

Seasons PowerPlay (0-6) Middle-overs (7-15) Death overs (16-20)
2022 7.15 8.15 10.34
2023 9.35 8.63 11.52
With Conway ruled out until May for this season, CSK found a third opening pair – Gaikwad and Rachin Ravindra – to keep the intent flag flying high. The New Zealand all-rounder walked in and essayed his role at the top of the order to perfection – taking down RCB’s PowerPlay bowlers to get 31 off 13 in that period. He fell in the seventh over but his job was done by then, leaving the floor open for Rahane and Mitchell to take this baton forward. The work in the off-season on maintaining their batting ideas were there to see rightaway. In both, the final of 2023 and the opener of 2024, not one batter scored a fifty and yet CSK completed two chases over 170. In the final, every batter – barring MS Dhoni – hit at least one six and scored at a strike rate of over 150.

“I really liked the intent of the batters,” Fleming said, about the 2024 opener. “We have a longer batting line-up with the extra player and I thought the intent that our batters showed was great. You don’t always get one big score, to have everybody contribute is positive as well. Games are easier if 1 player gets a 75+. That’s the aim but it doesn’t always happen. We don’t know whose day it is going to be tomorrow but the players are training well for the occasion and the intent they’ve got is very encouraging.”

The impact substitute rule that was introduced last season has had a hand in the increasing scoring rates across all teams, but CSK have married that well with their batting intentions.

“It probably helps [having an impact player]. But from our point of view, it’s more the intent,” Fleming opined.

From the eighth-best scoring side in 2022 with a strike rate of 131.05, CSK climbed to second last season – with 148.65, notably hitting 30 more sixes. CSK players responded well to being empowered to take risks, bringing him IPL title #5. And encouragingly for Fleming, the endeavour for a record sixth in 2024 has started on the same footing.

© Cricbuzz

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