CHENNAI: Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming has confirmed that talks of captaincy change with Mahendra Singh Dhoni happened as early as last season, which the franchise won in Dubai. Although Dhoni officially stepped down as captain on Thursday, two days before their IPL-15 season opener against Kolkata Knight Riders which they lost by six wickets, discussion on change of guard had been happening within the team management for a while.
As reported by this newspaper on Thursday, Jadeja was first told about the captaincy switch in December. However, all of it happened behind the scenes, and it was only on Thursday did Dhoni inform the franchise owners officially. And within hours, the Chennai Super Kings made it official, bringing an end to the most successful captaincy stint in IPL history.
Speaking in the press conference after their first match against Kolkata Knight Riders, Fleming said Dhoni wanted to give Jadeja a clean state to start. The Super Kings are the defending champions. "Something (captaincy) MS and I talked about even last season. The timing was MS' call. He wanted to give Jadeja a clean slate going into the series. It was communicated with N Srinivasan, and then to the team. We 100 per cent respect that," Fleming said.
With Faf du Plessis not around and the likes of Dwayne Bravo and Dhoni himself in the last leg of their careers, Fleming felt having the experienced players around will help them see through the transition. "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. You 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," Fleming, who has been the head coach of the franchise since 2009 said.
Against Kolkata, with Moeen Ali and Deepak Chahar missing for varied reasons, Chennai looked a bit under-cooked. Although they had more than a two-week training camp in Surat to get used to the red-soil surfaces in Mumbai, their batting never really found any momentum till the 17th over.
With two batters from the top-order, who played a big role in their title triumph last season missing, Chennai partnered Devon Conway with Ruturaj Gaikwad. And the two perished early. From there on, Chennai were hardly in the game as Kolkata Knight Riders dominated the fixture at the Wankhede Stadium.
Although Dhoni's unbeaten 50 was a saving grace for Chennai, his struggles against spinners was once again to the fore front. However, he cut loose in the end against pacers, to take Chennai to a decent total. Asked about Dhoni's innings, Fleming said: "It was good but it would have been nice if the top-order had fired. 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," he said.
As expected, the first match showed toss would play a role in the outcome of the match, with heavy dew affecting the second innings. Chennai have been not been a fan of matches beginning at 7.30 PM, with Dhoni maintaining that an 8 PM start would ensure the conditions remain the same for both teams.
"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," Fleming added.