'Fairy tales exit': Coach Fleming lauds Jadeja's heroics after CSK win 5th IPL title
IPL 2023 Final was won by Chennai Super Kings, trumping Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on Sunday. While Ravindra Jadeja hit the winning runs to hand CSK its fifth title, head coach Stephen Fleming has made a "fairy tale" claim about him.
Stephen Fleming doesn't believe in fairy tales in sports. Still, Ravindra Jadeja's near-improbable heist that took Chennai Super Kings to its fifth Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy might come closest to it. With 13 needed to win in the final over against defending champion Gujarat Titans (GT), CSK managed only three runs off the first four balls before Jadeja smashed Mohit Sharma for a six and a four off the last two deliveries to literally snatch the Cup from Gujarat's grasp.
"They say there are no fairy tales in the sport, but it was a pretty good one today. It has been a bit difficult 18 months where, as the captaincy was difficult, the injury was difficult, it took a bit of time from out of the game for him to come back into and be reintegrated into the Test side, and then re-integrate into CSK," Fleming told the media after Chennai defeated Gujarat in the IPL Final in Ahmedabad.
In fact, Fleming had in his mind conceded defeat before the final two deliveries were bowled by Mohit and Jadeja turned it all. "We have lost finals on the last ball, which is an absolute heartache. I was gearing up for another heartache when Jaddu hit one for six, and there could have been more heartache or joy. I was not sure. But when I saw the ball go down, there was pure joy. This competition takes you to emotional levels that you cannot imagine," the Kiwi added.
Fleming was all praise for Jadeja's firepower. "He plays a great role with the ball, but we have got so much firepower, that some ways we use him down the order, but something has to give. MS [Dhoni] has been very supportive and proactive in getting him up there, and today, he repaid that faith," Fleming added.
The former New Zealand skipper explained Jadeja's shot selection. "The six, I think, in particular of the ball, which was pretty close to being perfect, was defining, and then left-handed drive to the fine leg. It was a great way to finish it. I couldn't be happier for him. There has been some frustration at times, but he is our gun player, he is a No 1 ranked player and today he delivered," Fleming added.
The CSK coach said his side was poor in the field in the first half but kept getting better and more confident as the rain-affected match panned out. "215, I thought it was an excellent score, but the rain came, and we had to change the momentum. We felt the moisture around on the pitch. It was gettable. It was going to take a lot of batting," he continued.
"The start was really important because we were still shell-shocked from the fielding. The first four or six overs started to give us the belief, and once we got a little bit of taste for it, it is that type of ground where it is very hard to defend, so we knew we had a chance. It was going to be high octane all the way through," Fleming added.
Fleming praised GT bowlers Mohammad Shami and Mohit Sharma for taking the contest into the final ball of the match. "The last couple of overs were very tight. Shami and Sharma bowled well. Mohit Sharma, in particular, has been very good," he said. Cricket has always been a game of fine margins, believes Fleming, who has been CSK coach for a decade and a half now.
"I think I said a couple of days ago that this tournament is being defined by fine margins. I think the last couple of balls summed that up if you just missed a yorker or go down the leg side. We have talked about that all the way through, that if you can get on the right side of those moments, then we can stay in, and it was one of those days," Fleming said.
Praise for Rahane
Fleming heaped praise on senior India batter Ajinkya Rahane, who turned out to be one of the success stories for the CSK side with an incredibly successful season with the bat. What changed was Rahane's philosophy of not trying to be an anchor batter. "My understanding is that we got rid of the tag of being the guy you bat around or bat through. I think that maybe hung over his head a little bit too much and didn't allow him to be the player that he can be. And once that tag was gone, when I turned up halfway through the preseason training, I saw a guy who was in magnificent form," Fleming said.
Fleming said that Rahane didn't feature in their initial plan. "He wasn't in our initial thoughts, but the game in Mumbai was really defining. It was one of our best wins in the tournament, and he was the big catalyst behind it, so he cemented that No. 3 spot. He has been unwavering the whole way through he's been nothing but positive. His nets have been positive. Anytime he's been caught on the boundary or out playing a big shot, we've just reinforced how good he's playing. So, a little bit of belief and just sheer ability, he's been a wonderful player for us this year," he said.
Rayudu would leave a big hole, says coach
The former New Zealand captain said Ambati Rayudu, who announced his retirement after this IPL Final, will leave a big hole in their side. "Ambati Rayudu has been an absolute legend. I rate him so highly as a batter, and those three balls against Mohit Sharma today proved against one of the most in-form bowlers to hit him for 6, 4 and 6 was sheer class. Rayudu will leave a hole, there is no doubt about it, but the game keeps moving. Doesn't it? We expected that for him to go out like that was pretty emotional within the group and for him as well," Fleming concluded.