'A lot of distractions for CSK' - Fleming
Stephen Fleming, the Chennai Super Kings coach, has admitted his team has to cope with a lot of off-field "distractions" this IPL season. He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the nerves are steadying with the team back together.
"There's a lot going on, I won't lie," Fleming said in Dubai on Monday. "There are a lot of distractions. [Leading up to the tournament] I think we were all uncertain about how it was going to play out.
"We were desperate to get back into the fold of the team and have another chance to find some finals and carry on the history of CSK. It has only been six years but a lot has happened. It's nice to get back into a team environment, where you're somewhat cocooned, and get a bit more info. All we can do is try and be consistent again but yeah, it [controversy] is there, we acknowledge it."
The franchise has been on shaky ground ever since one of their officials, Gurunath Meiyappan, who is also the son-in-law of BCCI president N Srinivasan - the vice-chairman and managing director of India Cements, the company that owns Super Kings - was arrested on charges of cheating, forgery and fraud two days before the IPL 2013 final, amid the spot-fixing crisis. The Supreme Court of India, while hearing a case related to Srinivasan's conflict of interest issues, proposed suspending the franchise last month, but decided against it in the end.
Fleming said getting together again, as a team, could act as a balm for the players' nerves. "I almost take it for granted that getting back into the team environment is the most important thing. We'll touch on the controversies [in team talks], if we think it's an issue. But I think most players are pretty relieved to be back and playing together."
Super Kings have been the most consistent team in terms of on-field performances (five finals in six seasons, with two titles) and squad selection. This year, though, the team will have a bit of a new look to it: Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel, S Badrinath and M Vijay are not with Super Kings, while a few big names like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Samuel Badree come in.
Speaking about the changes, Fleming said: "I think there are some pretty powerful additions to the side. Some new tools to play around with this season. There has been a shift in that we've lost a great player in Michael Hussey, but we've gone for some power players that, on their day, can win games.
"We've learnt a lot in the last six years. Now we're trying to build a side that is more powerful. The players we've picked have quality and experience, these guys have done it before. Smith, in particular, has done it before for Mumbai. McCullum's the same - he didn't have much of a go at KKR, but we're looking forward to getting him an opportunity. Overall I know we've got a good side because the Indian core of players is dynamic."
Super Kings are particularly strong in the spin department, with the in-form R Ashwin and Badree backed up by Ravindra Jadeja. Fleming said this should help them, given the conditions in the UAE. "It's going to be important, looking at the practice surfaces and the heat naturally. It's going to play a big part.
"We're pretty comfortable - there's Jadeja, Ashwin, Badree is an excellent buy from West Indies, and we have Pawan Negi [a young left-arm spinner from Delhi] as well. Raina has bowled a bit too. We're pretty confident about the balance."