Fleming rules out international coaching
Stephen Fleming has confirmed that he has no ambitions of coaching at the international level, despite his success with the Chennai Super Kings. Fleming has taken the team to three trophies - two IPL titles and one Champions League win - and has formed a strong partnership with Indian captain MS Dhoni, but has no desire to extend that any further.
"I get my cricket fix doing this," he told ESPNcricinfo. "And then I am just enjoying living a normal life. With all the travelling I did as a player, it's nice to just have a normal life. It's great to be able to do this for a few weeks a year but that is it."
Fleming's decision will be a loss to the coaching fraternity, especially as he is regarded as one of the most astute men in the job. His players, like Faf du Plessis, describe him as authoritative but not dictatorial, and helpfully instructive without being overbearing.
That much was on display during the team's arrival press conference in Johannesburg. A question was asked to the table on the way Dhoni thought about R Ashwin and Fleming allowed S Badrinath to answer instead of him. "He has confidence in Ashwin to bowl in the Powerplays. Ashwin has also been bowling a few new balls with a new action. He comes up with something new every day, so to have a guy like him in the team gives more options to the captain," Badrinath said.
"Very good, that's absolutely right," Fleming told him and added nothing to the assessment. Badrinath is not a youngster and as one of the core members of the squad was thought more than capable of handling questions over their strategy. The smile that crept over Fleming's face spoke of his satisfaction that the players are capable of holding their own.
Fleming's philosophy lies in relying on individual strengths rather than actively cultivating a team ethos. That is one of the reasons he has been able to bring the best out of someone like Albie Morkel, who is a CSK superstar but has not been able to replicate those performances at national level. Fleming explained that he has given Morkel certain reassurances that he does not have when playing for South Africa.
"He is a bit more secure with us and a bit more in spotlight which may make him more comfortable with CSK in his role," Fleming said. "When you have got a talented side like South Africa, they try different techniques and tactics all the way through and he may be searching a bit for his role within the side."
Having complete definition of what is expected of him has seen Morkel turn in far better performances, especially with the ball, for CSK. "He wants to be more consistent with the ball. He tends to be more inconsistent with the international stuff rather than with us," Fleming said. "There will be a pressure aspect there, a composure aspect especially where he is searching more for that magic formula. When he comes back to us, he has that confidence and has those good thoughts again and performs well."
Morkel is of particular importance to this CSK campaign because he will also add an insider's knowledge of conditions. "He also arranges golf brilliantly and [is] magnificent with safaris," Fleming joked. "The biggest challenge is trying to find the right team for the conditions at this time of year so Albie will be useful to us in getting that right."
Bowlers are expected to have a good time on South Africa's bouncy pitches which should even the contest between what is thought to be a batsmen's game and them. "It was initially tailor-made for the batsmen, now the bowlers have improved a lot," Michael Hussey, another CSK stalwart, said. "The onus over the next couple of years is for the batters to step up their game."
It is trends like those that Fleming has been so effective reading and preparing for. He has picked up on the nuances of a format that is seen as the caveman of cricket - without much subtlety - and has had success because of it. "The competition has got a bit tighter," he said. "We are all looking for new ways to do things. But in saying that, there is a risk you can complicate things." For now, simplifying them is as much as he wants from his coaching career.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent