Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming heaped heavy praise on in-form allrounder Dwayne Bravo after his team beat Sunrisers Hyderabad to become the first franchise to qualify for the playoffs of IPL 2021. The 37-year-old Trinidadian has picked up 11 wickets in seven encounters this season and has conceded runs at only 6.56 despite bowling a lot of overs in the death.
As a matter of fact, Bravo has the second-best economy rate (7.1) in the death overs this season (minimum 60 balls) and is now only seven wickets away from becoming the all-time leading wicket-taker in IPL history. On Thursday, Bravo took crucial wickets on Kane Williamson and Priyam Garg and leaked only 17 runs in his four overs. Such has been his impact that MS Dhoni had to leave out Sam Curran to get Bravo back into the playing XI.
"There is some good competition for that place with Sam Curran. Sam was excellent for us in the first part and Dwayne Bravo has come back now the champion he is. So there is some really good competition around that allrounder's spot. We are really impressed with the way Bravo has responded to the challenge and he is back to his best. His bowling at the death has been outstanding," said Fleming.
The Men in Yellow finished seventh in the points table last season and didn't make it to the playoffs for the first time in their history. However, the three-time champions didn't panic and got a couple of handy players in the auction to strengthen their side. As a result, Chennai have won nine of their 11 games so far and are yet to lose a game in the second half of the tournament.
"I think I mentioned at the time, we were really proud of the way we finished (in 2020). We won the last four (three) games in a row and started to get a little bit of rhythm together. In the first half of the tournament, a number of things went wrong, and our form and confidence were really low. But the way we finished was really encouraging, and that actually gave us the first look at what we could be.
"When we were sitting down analysing it, we thought we were probably a couple of spots away from being quite competitive. In fact, even if that was a bad year, we were only possibly one good win away from making the playoffs. So we took more confidence out of it than maybe what others did.
"We knew it was just a couple of positions that would make us a balanced side. And then it was just about creating a style of play that was going to suit us and then just absorbing it and playing it. Once we got the players - Moeen Ali was one in particular - and had our boys fit and ready to go, and Suresh Raina back, it was just creating an environment that was positive and making sure there was no doubt."
The team management would be worried about Suresh Raina's form. The 34-year-old has only managed 157 runs in 10 innings at an average of 19.62 and a strike rate of 127.64. However, Fleming isn't too bothered and knows what Raina brings to the table. The former New Zealand captain also said that Chennai won't be making too many changes in their remaining three league games.
"We have a pretty clear role for him. He has got an optimal time. We want him to bat and we’ve afforded the luxury of a player coming and being aggressive. So, just getting the timing right without managing the batters. We value his experience and everything has got a part to play in the middle. It’s an area where can add strength. Suresh is an experienced player who is earned to have leeway and as the tournament goes on, his performance will improve.
"I'm not big on momentum, momentum can go just as quick as you have it. So we're not really talking about that. But what we probably have been afforded is the opportunity to just manage workloads a bit better. We've got a day and then we travel to Abu Dhabi, and then another day, another game.
"So we'll certainly talk about how we can manage our players, making sure that we manage the team that played today and also the opportunities for guys who are on the fringe. So we've afforded that luxury now, but we won't be too experimental."