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'Not trying to find a quick fix' - Fleming on CSK's search for ideal combination

"We've had injuries, we've been a little bit unsettled, but the main thing is getting guys in key areas and in form," CSK coach Fleming says

Deivarayan Muthu
24-Apr-2024
Form - or the lack thereof - and the unavailability of key players have left Chennai Super Kings searching for their ideal team combination, eight games into the season. This is the assessment of CSK head coach Stephen Fleming after they suffered their first defeat at home, against Lucknow Super Giants, on Tuesday.
CSK had left out Rachin Ravindra to bring back Daryl Mitchell and pair up captain Ruturaj Gaikwad with Ajinkya Rahane at the top. But the changes didn't bring the kind of output that CSK were looking for, with Mitchell falling for 11 off 10 balls and Rahane for 1 off 3.
"It's a mixture of trying to find that [combination] and also form," Fleming said at his post-match press conference. "We're a little bit uncomfortable with some areas, so we're trying to find not a quick fix, but the right combination where players are going to contribute for the back end of this tournament."
At various points during the tournament, CSK's balance has been disrupted by injuries to Matheesha Pathirana (hamstring niggle) and Rahane (calf niggle). Mustafizur Rahman had also missed CSK's away game against Sunrisers Hyderabad to tend to his US visa for the upcoming T20 World Cup. Mustafizur is available to CSK till May 1, when they will face Punjab Kings at Chepauk, and will then return to Bangladesh for their home series against Zimbabwe. Devon Conway's replacement, Richard Gleeson, the England quick, is yet to join the CSK squad.
"We've got another change coming up with Mustafizur [leaving] in a couple of games," Fleming said. "So, we're just trying to prepare and get a side that will give us the run home. We've had injuries, we've been a little bit unsettled, but the main thing is getting guys in key areas and in form. That sometimes takes a bit of time. Yes, there has been more change; some were forced upon us and some of it is form."
Mitchell, for whom CSK splurged INR 14 crore at the auction, has managed only 146 runs in seven innings at a strike rate of 123.72. That he has batted in four different positions in seven innings hasn't helped his cause, but Fleming is hopeful of Mitchell finding his feet at No.3, a role where he has had success for New Zealand.
"There's a lot of pressure obviously," Fleming said. "Getting up the order is more comfortable for him. Me putting him down the order in the hitting role wasn't his best position. So, we've looked to rectify that and get him up the order where he has had his best performances internationally. That might take a little bit of time, but the top three need to contribute the majority of runs.
"Ruturaj did that today, so hopefully he can continue his form and the others can pick that up... We're not firing on all cylinders by any means but we're in each game and we're asking teams to play well to beat us. We just got to get a little bit better."
The surfaces in Chennai this season haven't been as spin-friendly as they had been in the past, nullifying one of CSK's major strengths. On Tuesday, in conditions that became better for batting with the onset of dew, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali bowled just two overs each. Overall, CSK's spinners have picked up just four wickets in four home games and in contrast, the fast bowlers have taken 22 wickets in those games.
"There's not much assistance, we've had one pitch, which turned, and we won comfortably," Fleming said. "Yeah, I would like more synergy between the pitch and what we're trying to do. I unashamedly say that; it's your home ground and you have to defend and pick teams accordingly. So, when it's out of sync, you find it very difficult, so it's not quite right yet.
"But we just have to be good enough to play on what's in front of us. So, while you can moan off the field and love to have a little bit different, it's not the case and we just have to make sure we're good enough to win and we have been. Again, today, we created a chance. It's not like we're down and out, but we know we could be stronger, if conditions are a little bit different."
The Chepauk conditions will come into sharp focus once again, ahead of CSK's next game against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Sunday. While CSK have depth in their spin attack, SRH are missing Wanindu Hasaranga and their Indian legspinner Mayank Markande has leaked runs at 11.42 an over - the third-worst economy rate among bowlers who have bowled at least 15 overs this season.
SRH have never beaten CSK in Chennai in four attempts.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo