Coach Speak

'We probably are the underdogs' - Wessels

May 30, 2008

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Wessels: 'I've shared a fantastic relationship with him (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) with me taking care of the off-field stuff and with him focusing on the on-field things' © AFP
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Kepler Wessels, coach, Chennai Super Kings
We probably are the underdogs going into the match because of the way Punjab finished the league phase, despite us beating them twice in the qualifying rounds. We are in the semi-finals now and those wins are history.

The advantage we have is the presence of (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni, someone who the opposition fear and the players, youngsters especially, in our team take a lot of confidence from. I've shared a fantastic relationship with him, with me taking care of the off-field stuff and with him focusing on the on-field things. It was a case of me giving him a team that's prepared for action and then him leading the side on the field which he has done very well. So he will be a major threat in this key tussle.

The winner will be the one who does the basics the best and holds up under pressure. We've got a good all-round side with our bowling and fielding improving with every game. The loss of Stephen Fleming is huge but this is not the first time a foreign player has left the team. Previously, we lost Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey and Jacob Oram, but we were prepared for such a development and had made contingency plans. Yes, a player of experience at this stage is always going to be big, but we just have to carry on and retain our focus.

Punjab have a well-balanced unit for this form of cricket. Shaun Marsh is clearly the dangerman in the sort of form he's in, as he has made the job easier for them having batted (almost) through the innings.

Pressure will be the big factor and whichever team does the basics and stays calm on the day will end up winning it.

Trevor Penney, assistant coach, Kings XI Punjab
Punjab have a fantastic team spirit. We have gelled well after a couple of losses and recouped to get ten victories subsequently. Going into the knockout phase, our spirits are high. We have the right blend of youth and experience which suits all conditions.


Penney: 'He (Shaun Marsh) now faces a new challenge against Chennai's well-rounded fast-bowling unit © Getty Images
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One peculiarity about our batsmen is all of them play the normal cricketing shots which is our real strength and that also nullifies the chance of getting out. The other advantage we have is that the majority of our bowlers are Indians and they have excelled in home conditions.

The key factor, according to me, is how we execute our plans and if we are successful then we will come out unscathed. I'm quietly confident about our chances. If the team is unable to do that, then there is the danger of the momentum shifting in favour of the opposition.

On form, they (Chennai) are the underdogs but they beat us both times in the league phase and now being the semi-finals, it's a clean sheet now. The deciding factor can be a brilliant catch or a spectacular run-out and I hope our fielders will create those turning points early on to add pressure on the opposition. Twenty20 is all about little things, little factors that influence the flow of play.

Shaun Marsh, obviously, is the most dangerous batsman in the tournament, setting up a good platform for us but every other batsman is right up there, waiting in the wings to go all out. He now faces a new challenge against Chennai's well-rounded fast-bowling unit in Makhaya Ntini, Albie Morkel, Manpreet Gony and L Balaji. We are also aware of the omnipresent danger that Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) poses and he might even be the key factor but we are not thinking about their strengths.

It has been a tiring seven weeks but now we are where we wanted to be - in the knockout phase.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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