Stephen Fleming’s modesty is arguably his most conspicuous trait. It marks his pronouncements often and the charm of his humility doesn’t slip away.
Attributing Chennai Super Kings’ success to the high-quality players at his disposal rather than his coaching methods, Fleming is deeply proud of the side’s consistency.
The Kiwi is also amazed by the skill sets of today’s cricketers. He wonders whether he could have reverse-swept a wide yorker by Shoaib Akhtar during his playing days and replies in the negative.
Perhaps, if Fleming still had been playing, the Twenty20 format would have ensured he developed at the current rate of evolution of the game.
T20 cricket has also made players more courageous, adds the 41-year-old. “When the IPL began, T20s provided a release for the cricketers from other formats. Now, skill development has gone through the roof. And it flows into ODIs and Tests. Earlier, athleticism wasn’t a high priority for the players from the subcontinent. But the fielding of the current young Indian cricketers is a joy to watch.”
CSK’s recent flirtations with controversy perhaps required the players and coaches to put up a brave front in a different sense and Fleming admits that there was anxiety over the franchise’s future when the Supreme Court proposed suspending the team.
“There was nothing special said or done when we got together at the start of the season. But there was huge relief and excitement when we learnt the decision.”
The presence of various channels of leadership in the side helps CSK to combat the myriad issues it has or may face. Fleming firmly believes that the experience of his long stint as the New Zealand captain has helped him to do his current job better.
“It helps me to understand what’s required. Dhoni has been a captain for a long time so there’s some synergy between us. There’s trust between us as he realises that I’ve faced similar challenges in the past. I understand where he’s at in his career.”
In addition to the duo, Brendon McCullum, Faf du Plessis and Dwayne Bravo have also acquired the taste of leading their country. When asked about his compatriot, Fleming was quick to point out the different positives brought to the side by Brendon.
“Brendon’s looking to maximise his resources for NZ while Dhoni has a set pattern group of players. Brendon would seem to be more dynamic with his changes. Dhoni has been more calculated and works on consistency, rather than the flamboyance we associate with Brendon.” The recent success of Dwayne Smith and Brendon bears testimony to the ease with which new players buy into CSK’s culture because of the side’s consistency. “Players know what they’re coming into. For a team, six years are enough to put runs on the board. We pick players who’ll fit into our system and not the ones who’ll need to be moulded.”
This success has also given Fleming a lifestyle that makes him “incredibly happy.” The idea of coaching an international side, although appealing, will have to wait.