IPL 2024: CSK more equipped than before for new captain after Dhoni, says coach Fleming


In the wake of a shock captaincy swap for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on the eve of its Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 opener, head coach Stephen Fleming said the team was better equipped to deal with the change than it was a couple of years ago.

However, he conceded that the management had been slow in looking at life after Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ruturaj Gaikwad was announced skipper on Thursday ahead of CSK’s blockbuster clash against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, replacing Dhoni, who led the franchise to five title wins.

The decision instinctively triggered memories of a similar situation in 2022, when Ravindra Jadeja was named captain ahead of the season only for Dhoni to return to the helm after CSK lost six of its first eight matches.

“The big thing about a couple of years ago was that we probably weren’t ready for MS to move aside. And what that did was probably shake us as a leadership group into looking at the possibility of (what happens) when he does go.

“Up until that stage, it was almost unthinkable, but it sowed the seed. So, we’ve worked pretty hard on making sure that any mistakes that were made then aren’t made again,” Fleming said.

“…being able to use the Jadejas and Dhonis and help Ruturaj as he develops is very important. In the middle, we’ll take a little bit of trial and error to a degree…”Stephen Fleming

The former New Zealand captain alluded to the franchise’s development of youngsters in facilitating the growth of a pool of able leaders, and referred to Tushar Deshpande’s evolution, in particular, to showcase the value of reposing faith in talent with a long-term view.

“We’ve been working very hard on making sure that the plans are in place so that all players are more self-sufficient. It’s not that only MS has a wonderful sense of the game, but one of the things we’re proud of is the development of young players.

“[Tushar] Deshpande, last year, to come through and then own that space. He has done well in domestic cricket. It proves that giving ownership and trust to players really works. It’s not just the captain’s job to pull the strings,” Fleming added.

Deshpande shone with the ball and as a lower-order batter in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy, helping Mumbai clinch the title after eight years.
| Photo Credit:
Emmanual Yogini/The Hindu

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Deshpande shone with the ball and as a lower-order batter in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy, helping Mumbai clinch the title after eight years.
| Photo Credit:
Emmanual Yogini/The Hindu

Even as CSK looks at life after Dhoni the captain, Fleming is confident the former skipper will have a big role to play as a player after recovering from knee surgery.

“I am expecting MS to play and play well. The indication from his pre-season is he is doing really well. The body is a lot better and stronger than last year. His desire to contribute and do well is as high as ever,” he said.

RELATED: Dhoni steps down as CSK captain: Win/Loss record as Chennai Super Kings skipper in IPL

Repaying faith in his long-time coach, the 42-year-old had an open net session for nearly an hour and displayed his still flickering big-hitting skills with some clean slogs down the ground and on leg-side.

Dhoni will also play a part in mentoring Gaikwad, both on and off the field, even as the coach hailed the 27-year-old as a ‘self-assured’cricketer and gave him some leeway with respect to failure.

Gaikwad with Dhoni during a training session ahead of the match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai.

Gaikwad with Dhoni during a training session ahead of the match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

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Gaikwad with Dhoni during a training session ahead of the match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bengaluru, at MA Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai.
| Photo Credit:
PTI

“It’s (about) getting that balance right without interfering, but also providing that leadership that you can’t ignore. It’s been too long and he [Dhoni] is too big a presence that you don’t just turn that off, you use it. And finding that balance and being able to use the Jadejas and Dhonis and help Ruturaj as he develops is very important. In the middle, we’ll take a little bit of trial and error to a degree.

“Ruturaj is very self-assured. Again, he’s not the most demonstrative captain or person around, but he’s got a very good approach with his fellow players and he’s very well respected,” the coach said.

Though the Jadeja captaincy project failed a couple of years ago, Fleming said the all-rounder’s contributions to the team over the years made him a natural leader and a vital aspect of the larger leadership group.

“He was instrumental in us winning the cup and has been a strong player for us year after year. Whether he’s got the stripes on his sleeve or not, he is still a natural leader. He is not outspoken… But his actions and the way he plays will be a strong component of our leadership.”



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