Watch the first game of the 2020 IPL between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings live on Sky Sports on Saturday
Last Updated: 18/09/20 8:45pm
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is “fresh and raring to go” as he prepares to lead Chennai Super Kings into the Dream11 IPL opener against Mumbai Indians on Saturday, says head coach Stephen Fleming.
Dhoni retired from international cricket last month having not played for India since their semi-final exit at the 50-overs World Cup in July last year.
But Fleming – speaking ahead of the Sky Live clash, which starts at 2.45pm on Saturday – rejected questions suggesting Dhoni might not be match fit for the IPL due to his long break.
Live IPL: MI v CSK
September 19, 2020, 2:45pm
“He’s very fit and mentally he’s been very engaged and determined,” former New Zealand captain Fleming told the team’s website.
“In some ways the break can work for the experienced and older players that we have. MS is fresh and ready to go.”
The IPL opener is a repeat of last year’s final, which Mumbai won by one run in a thrilling climax to the tournament.
CSK’s hopes of a fourth crown suffered an early setback when Deepak Chahar, Ruturaj Gaikwad and several support staff tested positive for coronavirus in August.
But Fleming feels the squad has dealt with the challenge well. “We were calm around our approach, looked after the players and staff very well, and the rest of the players were calm in the hotel room,” he said.
“There was a bit of anxiety wanting to get out and train. It is what it is, and the players dealt with it very well. On hindsight, the amount of pre-season training that we’ve done up to now, and the extra few days in the room, was probably a blessing.”
This year’s delayed tournament is being staged in the United Arab Emirates due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.
Fleming says adjusting to the conditions will be tactically “very different” and he is banking on the wealth of experience in his side to adapt.
Apart from Dhoni, the Chennai franchise can also call on Australian Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo of West Indies and Pakistan-born South African Imran Tahir.
“We’ve got experienced players, and experienced players identify key times and that’s why they’ve done so well in their careers, that they can turn games, absorb pressure or just sum out the situation,” Fleming said. “That’s what experience is about and that’s why we value it so highly.”
Defending champions Mumbai Indians suffered a terrible tournament the last time the IPL was moved there, losing all five of their games in 2014.
But skipper Rohit Sharma said in his team’s press conference such a record would have no bearing on the challenge to come.
“We didn’t have a great experience last time yes, but it’s a different team now,” Rohit said.
“The thought process is different. Six years is a lot of time. Like I said, it’s about understanding pitches and conditions, that is crucial so we are putting a lot of emphasis on that.
“Eventually the pitches will play a big part, so understanding them and adapting quickly is important.
“But yes, the past won’t play any part – it was just myself, Kieron Pollard and Jasprit Bumrah from that team. I think Bumrah played just one game. So the team is different, the staff is different and the thought process is different. We’re looking forward to a great IPL.”
Watch every match of the 2020 IPL live on Sky Sports Cricket.