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A familiar environment, working with people you are comfortable with, maintaining continuity and deepening relationships with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) set-up are some of the things Stephen Fleming wants to take advantage of while coaching Johannesburg Super Kings (JSK), who are also owned by Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited (CSKCL).
JSK have roped in another CSK player Moeen Ali, though how he will feature in two concurrent T20 leagues - SA20 and the ILT20 in the UAE - remains to be seen. JSK will also have a number of support staff members who have been with CSK for a number of years: Eric Simons and Albie Morkel as assistant coaches to Fleming, Tommy Simsek as physio, Gregory King as trainer, and Russell Radhakrishnan as manager.
"When you get people that you feel really comfortable with, the environment and who you're with, the culture develops a lot quicker," Fleming said in a video on CSK's Youtube channel. "And once you start to get that cohesion and those connections, the longer you can stay together or the more often you can get together, we think there's an advantage in that. Our relationships runs deep and it hurts when we lose players and it's exciting when we gain new players but relationships are really important and the support staff have been together...the thread of CSK runs pretty deep.
"Thankfully, through an owner and an ownership that really understands cricket and gives us the opportunity to explore these leadership styles, we're able to have a really good model that allows people to feel comfortable and be the best they can be, achieve as much as they can in their time with us."
One of the biggest changes for the support staff of the Super Kings franchise is the move to the green and quick pitches at the Wanderers, their home ground for SA20. Fleming said it was a way for them to show they were not a "one-trick pony" and the "versatile" modern-day players could adapt to such challenges.
"We've done that just to make it a little bit harder for ourselves to show that we're not a one-trick pony, which is not a strategic play that Faf was very keen on," Fleming said in jest. "But there is some change and one of the skillsets of the modern-day cricketers is that they play on so many different conditions and they're very versatile. There's no doubt we created an advantage in Chennai but we haven't had that for the last three-four years either. So there's been some real learning about how to adapt to situations and environments as well as looking after home environment as well. So the first year and the first few weeks are going to be really important. It's a long-term plan, which is what we'd like to learn as much as we can from the day we touch down and get together."
Du Plessis played seven seasons for CSK in the IPL but was released by them ahead of the mega-auction for the 2022 season. CSK tried to buy him back in the auction but Royal Challengers Bangalore won the bid at a cost of $933,000 (INR 7 crore). The CSKCL group then got du Plessis back again, this time for the South African league in 2023.
"It's really pleasant to be with Chennai," du Plessis said. "I have an extremely lucky and long relationship with Chennai. When the opportunity presented itself again, I was extremely happy with that.
Having played in the IPL for 10 years now, du Plessis said a new T20 league in South Africa whose teams are owned by groups from the IPL, could be "extremely important for the growth of the national team," and for the younger generation of players.
"I think it's [SA20] going to be incredibly crucial for the sustainability of South African cricket," he said. "I've almost been seeing first-hand the difference that league cricket can have on a country's cricket. Certainly been involved with the IPL for the last 10-11 years. You see the difference that it makes to the young generation and the young players, especially in that Indian cricket team and environment. That knowledge and wisdom and experience that you can share across with your young talent in your own country, I think that's extremely important for the growth of the national team.
"We haven't had that for the last two or three years now but this opportunity that the guys have set up, it's going to be hugely beneficial for South African cricket. The power house that it brings to South African cricket in terms of coaching, players around the world and opportunity for South African cricket…it's so important for a country's future in terms of the game itself, to have a strong T20 domestic league. And the way they've set up this league now looks like it's going to be one of the big leagues across the globe."