'It's about winning games'
Having retained their core group of players in the auction earlier this year, Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming believes that the defending champions enjoy an edge over other nine teams in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.
"There has been a lot of talk and discussion since the IPL auction commenced. We are very happy to have the majority of the players back in the team. Disappointed to lose some but happy to get others. We feel that we are maintaining the success rate in the team over the last three years.
"We have a majority of the players and they know how the environment works in the team. Therefore, it is much easier to work with three or four players, who are starting from the scratch. Anyway, on principle it is about winning games," Fleming said.
Image: Stephan Flemming
Photographs: Getty Images
Murali Vijay to open the innings
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will clash with Gautam Gambhir led Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the opening match of the IPL at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.
Fleming said that the team is yet to decide on an opening partner with Murali Vijay and the decision will be taken only before the start of the match.
"Murali Vijay is one and we will discuss the other name with the skipper. We have a number of options to look at and we are fairly well settled with the top seven batsmen. We have got number of options with Suresh Raina, Anirudha Srikkanth and others.
"We are pretty well versed on who plays on top and we have got some great local talent and this possibly has been our strength for the last three years. The quality with Raina, Vijay and Dhoni makes it easy to start international players to give their best," he said.
Image: Murali Vijay
Enough talent on display
Having retained Dhoni, Raina, Vijay and South African all-rounder Albie Morkel, the home team bid successfully to retain spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, prolific run-machine Subramanium Badrinath, Australian Michael Hussey which gives their batting a formidable look.
South Africans Morkel and Faf du Plessis, Sri Lankans Nuwan Kulasekara and Suraj Randiv, and New Zealanders Scott Styris and Tim Southee have already joined the squad.
"Some players are not available but we can pick the combinations. Players coming in at different times give us good momentum. We got Styris, Southee, Randip, Kulasekara, and Albie Morkel. So, we have got enough talent.
"We pick the squad from these available players. Bravo, Bailey, Patterson, Boillinger and Mike Hussey could have been away. But we can pick a squad on any given day and any other guy can play.
"The combination that we come up would give the captain a lot of options," he added.
Image: R Ashwin and MS Dhoni
'WC generated a lot of enthusiasm among the people'
Fleming, the former New Zealand skipper, said with the IPL closely following the World Cup, the euphoria and excitement around the tournament have been great.
"The enthusiasm and euphoria after winning the World Cup have been high for the people and it's time to come and get another dose of a great event. The World Cup generated a lot of enthusiasm among the people and I expect good support for the Indian players," he said.
Fleming said the Chepauk strip looks to be a slow turner, like most wickets in the subcontinent during this time of the year.
"I am not good at reading pitches throughout my career. But, it was a bit slow turner. I think the pitches tear when lot of cricket and big cricket is played on the strip. I will not be surprised if the pitch is not the same.
"I can say that the team is prepared to bat and bowl on whatever the surface we get as we have good spinning and seaming options," he said.
Image: Indian team after winning the World Cup
Dhoni's brand of cricket
Players shifting loyalties became the hallmark of this year's IPL auction and Fleming said, "It is one of the challenges of the auction format and perhaps one of the reasons that we stuck with our side."
"The players have been playing here for last three years and they have got massive support from the public. All these added up to keep the players because we got a wonderful team environment and good leadership from top to down," the coach said.
Asked about Dhoni's leadership qualities, he said, "His was a phenomenal feat and I think he will enjoy wonderful couple of months. He will play with real passion and excitement.
"Funny thing is that he has been held back by the pressure and the desire of winning the World Cup. He is now free to play his brand of cricket. I think you could say that it is going to be really an exciting couple of months in IPL for Dhoni. Certainly, I will say that he is a great player to watch," he added.
Image: MS Dhoni and Albie Morkel