Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming had captaincy talks even last season, the Chennai Super Kings coach has revealed. Dhoni decided to give up the CSK captaincy on the eve of the tournament, evident from how all the promotional advertising still has his face and not new captain Ravindra Jadeja's. The timing was Dhoni's sole decision, Fleming said.
"We talked about it," Fleming said. "Something MS and I talked about even last season, during the last season. The timing was MS' call. He wanted to give Jadeja a clean slate going into the series. It was communicated with Mr Srinivasan, and then to the team.
"We 100% respect that. It is going to be a bit of a transition period as we develop a relationship with Jadeja and also have MS there. You just don't discard a player just because he doesn't have the captaincy tag. Develop a new captain and you work with the experience you have got, and thankfully we have got quite a bit of that. This is a bit of a change, but we will work through that."
In only his second match not as captain of Chennai Super Kings - first in the IPL - Dhoni demonstrated the conundrum he is as a batter in T20 cricket. Against the mystery spin of Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy he practically stalled the innings, getting to 7 off 18 before he hit his first boundary. However, he made up for it in the end by scoring 35 off the last 13 balls he faced.
In short, there was nothing new from Dhoni: against quality spin, he refused to take risk, which also perhaps had to do with the conditions and the score of 61 for 5, but when the bowlers erred even slightly with the dew setting in, he was brutal on them. And he did so with little match practice, having retired from all other official cricket.
"It [Dhoni scoring runs] was good but it would have been nice if the top order had fired," Fleming said. "The depth we have got in our batting is a positive. And certainly MS getting runs early in the tournament is a positive. But it was a pretty rusty tournament all up. It was a positive but there is a lot of improvement there.
"What we found today is, we started the tournament a little bit nervous. We didn't assess conditions that well. We were just behind the eight ball really. That happened last year as well, and it was a good catalyst for us to move forward. Conditions were quite tough. It was very wet the second half. Assessing conditions during the first part of the tournament is going to be a key aspect. Winning the toss as well. To make sure we get our decision-making right. So it was a tough day for us."
The toss remains a reality that teams have to live with in T20 cricket, more so in conditions where the pitch starts off spongy and then there is heavy dew in the second innings. Apart from him batting at his best - ideally not batting at all because he is more of a fail-safe these days - Jadeja could do with some of Dhoni's luck with the toss: since 2018 he won 37 of the 63, the best rate for any IPL side.