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Fleming hails Jadeja’s ‘fairytale’ after topsy-turvy 18 months

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Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming was effusive in his praise for Ravindra Jadeja’s finishing heroics in the early hours of Tuesday. The left-hander showed nerves of steel under pressure to hit 10 off the last two balls and secure CSK their fifth IPL title which has them level with Mumbai Indians’ legacy as the most successive IPL team.

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the southpaw since the start of last season when he was handed captaincy, but had to give it back to Dhoni midway through an underwhelming season both for him and the team. Jadeja has also grappled with injury woes but has made strong comebacks across formats, culminating in his heroics for CSK where he delivered the title with the bat.

“They say there’s no fairytales in sport but that was a pretty good one today,” Fleming said on Jadeja’s topsy-turvy journey with the franchise since IPL 2022. “It’s probably been a difficult 18 months where the captaincy was difficult. The injury was difficult. It took a bit of time for him to get out of the game and come reinvigorated in the Test game and then reintegrate into CSK.

“He plays a great role with the ball. But we’ve got so much firepower, that sometimes we use him lower down the order. But something had to give. And MS has been really supportive and proactive of getting him up there and today he repaid that faith,” Fleming added.

The game began to slip away from Gujarat Titans’ grasp when Ambati Rayudu walked out and hit 6 4 6 off one of the best death bowlers of this season, Mohit Sharma, in the 13th over. The equation dwarfed significantly but Mohammed Shami bowled an incredible penultimate over to leave Mohit to defend 13 off six balls. Mohit made a strong comeback from his previous over carnage by executing his yorkers to perfection and giving just 3 runs off the first four deliveries. The scales began to tip in GT’s favour when Jadeja took strike with 10 to get from 2 balls. Mohit however, missed his length by a little and Jadeja capitalised by depositing it for a six down the ground.

“The six, in particular, off a ball that was very close to perfect, was defining,” Fleming said. “And then a good left-hander hitting through fine leg was a great way to finish it. I couldn’t be more happy for him. Yeah, there has been some frustration at times, but he is a gun player. He’s a No.1 ranked player and today he delivered.”

For CSK to even end up in a situation from where they needed 10 off 2 was down to what Rayudu pulled off. He saw through Mohit’s change of pace, retained his stable base and carted two big sixes over long-off, and dispatched an attempted wide yorker through extra cover for a four. He got out next ball but his 8-ball 19 was the catalyst for CSK’s dramatic title win. Fleming doffed his hat to the retiring batter, and reckoned he’ll leave a big hole behind in the team.

Rayudu's cameo of 19 from 8 balls put CSK on track in chase

Rayudu’s cameo of 19 from 8 balls put CSK on track in chase ©Cricbuzz

“Ambati Rayudu has been an absolute legend. I rate him so highly,” Fleming said. “That over and the three balls against Mohit Sharma proved why. Mohit is one of the in-form death bowlers and the way Rayudu hit him for 6,4,6 was sheer class. He will leave behind a hole there’s no doubt about it.

“But the game keeps moving doesn’t it. He’s identified that mentally, physically and even looking around the room, it’s his time to go. We’ve respected that. For him to go out like that, it was pretty emotional for the group and for him as well. I’m really pleased for him and what he contributed to CSK,” Fleming added.

Though CSK ended the last cycle before the mega auction with a title win (in 2021), they struggled to cope with rebuilding their squad for the 2022 season. They finished second from bottom but recovered expertly a year later to catapult themselves to the other end of the points table and eventually get their hands on the coveted trophy. Fleming felt that disbanding a winning side and rebuilding it was an emotional experience.

“I think it’s worth acknowledging that when you win in the last year [of the cycle], then you lose your team… it is quite emotional. It is actually quite hard to rebuild the year after because you’ve worked so hard in the four-year cycle to get to where you want to be.

“And you have a champion side and to be disbanded and have it picked apart. It’s actually an emotional experience losing players. Losing Faf is a good example of that. So we then had to make sure that we try and put back the pieces together with players that we felt could replicate the skill-set that we want and how we want to play the game,” Fleming added.

Fleming opined that last season was about getting players accustomed to the way they play their cricket, and reserved praise for the way Gujarat Titans have gone about their business in winning in their first season and making it all the way to the final in the next one.

“Last year took a little bit of time, just introducing the players to the CSK way and getting them accustomed to the IPL. Here’s where I give a huge amount of credit to Gujarat, with the way that they’ve entered the competition and even reached the final today. They did that extremely well: they recruited well and had a real clear mindset as to what they wanted with their players,” Fleming said.

“And we try to do that as well. Sometimes it works in the auctions and sometimes you miss, but over a three-year period you keep adding to areas that are maybe a little bit deficient. And that’s always concentrated on. We got through this year but we’ve got to get better but other teams will just keep getting better.”

“And then we will disband again. It’s a bit of a harrowing experience at times, we’ve got these great relationships, we have to cut them and rebuild again. Maybe emotionally last year we were a little bit low but this year certainly we had the energy around what the players needed and what we wanted from them,” he added.

However harrowing the experience might be, CSK can take some confidence from the fact that Dhoni has deferred his decision to bid adieu and hopes to work hard to make his way back to play one more season.

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