Chennai Super Kings (CSK) head coach Stephen Fleming said his team’s mounting injury list, including captain M. S. Dhoni, is a cause of concern after its narrow three-run defeat to Rajasthan Royals (RR) at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.
While Dhoni has been carrying a knee injury since before the start of the season, CSK’s latest overseas recruit Sisanda Magala, roped in as a replacement for Kyle Jamieson, suffered a split webbing while fielding on Wednesday night.
Fleming, however, lauded Dhoni’s commitment to prepare in advance and keep himself match-fit as the 41-year-old does not engage in competitive cricket beyond the IPL.
“He (Dhoni) is nursing a knee injury which you can see in some of his movement, hindering him somewhat. His fitness has been professional. He comes in months before the tournament starts. He does some nets in Ranchi, but his main pre-season is a month before he comes to Chennai. He works his way back into match form, and I think you can still see he’s playing pretty well. So we never have any doubts about the way he manages himself. He always keeps himself up to speed,” Fleming said in a media interaction after Dhoni nearly pulled off a thrilling win for CSK.
Chasing 176 on a two-paced surface, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja were left with a 21-run deficit before the final over. Dhoni smacked Sandeep Sharma for two sixes before the RR seamer nailed three consecutive yorker-length deliveries to eke out a win.
CSK suffered its first defeat at the venue to a team besides the Mumbai Indians for the first time since 2013, and Fleming said that the Royals subjected his side to its winning template at home. Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2/25) and Yuzvendra Chahal (2/27) controlled the middle overs, forcing pressure on a shaky CSK middle-order, leaving Jadeja and Dhoni with an uphill task.
“They’ve got world-class spinners. It was sort of a blueprint of a Chennai performance with Ashwin, Chahal and (Adam) Zampa working away. We knew it was going to be a grind like that. It got close, but we were just really behind in the chase. Some good batting at the end got us closer, but we just lost the momentum through the middle,” Fleming remarked.
Fleming was also vocal about CSK’s sloppiness on the field in the first innings as two dropped catches helped Devdutt Padikkal (38) and Ashwin (30) add vital knocks for the Royals.
“Extras, sloppy in the field with some catches going down, and little things on the day are going to matter as the competition is getting tighter and little things like these will determine results,” he said after the league witnessed its fourth last-ball finish in the last five games.
Fleming admitted that the CSK think tank has to overcome multiple selection and injury headaches ahead of its next match against Royal Challengers Bangalore at the high-scoring M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.
“Magala’s hand was split, so he was unable to bowl those last two overs. The same with Deepak Chahar in the last game, so we’re operating on pretty thin resources. A lot of players coming out of a big domestic season are a little bit broken, but we just keep having to find solutions. We’ll do that in the next four days. It’s not ideal (bowlers’ injuries). The captain has to then think on his feet,” Fleming added.
The CSK coach also gave a rundown of other players on the mend, including their Rs 16.25 crore signing, Ben Stokes. “Chahar is out for a few weeks. Magala is out for two weeks. Stokes is monitored on a day-to-day basis. Simarjeet Singh, a little bit here, 10 days. Sri Lankan pacer Matheesha Pathirana tested positive for Covid-19 in New Zealand and has recovered and is available for selection now. We did not want to rush him back for this game.”
CSK, which endured its second defeat in four games, will meet RCB in Bengaluru on Monday.