IPL 2020: MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming, a dream combo on its last legs?
The change in demeanour is probably a sign that the end is nigh for Fleming as coach of Chennai
In many ways they are similar. Both are unflappable, calm and collected on the field. They led their respective countries for nearly a decade. Hence it was hardly a surprise when they teamed up at the Chennai Super Kings in 2009 as captain and coach.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain and Stephen Fleming as coach do not ever give away what is going through their mind about a particular situation. They have the same poker-faced approach to the game like they had when they first started leading their respective sides.
Fleming very quickly understood that Dhoni is the boss of the ship and always deferred to him when it came to decision making around the franchise. It was a dream combination. Dhoni took charge on the field and later, Fleming would front the media at post-match press conferences
The workload was perfectly divided.
They both also believed in giving a long run to their players and have done the same at Chennai. While the rest of the world was baying for quick changes to the line-up, Fleming and Dhoni were steadfast in not changing.
"I think it helps as players know they get more opportunities. We are reticent to changing the team other than realising the areas that we are not happy with. Also, you are not sure if that change will help or not," reasoned Fleming. "We try and improve and if players are doing the right thing, we will back them as long and even longer than possible," added Fleming.
Players in the Chennai franchise realise the value of this faith.
"What Fleming and MS Dhoni do, it is incredible. They trust the players; they trust the quality and calibre of their players. They know if they keep the faith, the things will certainly change," felt Shane Watson.
"Credit to Dhoni and Fleming, it's obviously the CSK way, they stick with players a bit longer than other teams might," said Faf du Plessis.
But just like the formula around Chennai Super Kings has started to wear off, you are finally starting to see the calm demeanour also giving way to some emotion. No not from Dhoni, but from Fleming.
After a long time, we saw Fleming become a little animated while watching the action last week. The pressure of not starting well in the tournament was finally starting to tell on the usually cool Fleming. He was gesturing, at times animatedly as the fielders made an attempt to catch or stop the ball. That was unlike Fleming.
We even saw Fleming snapping at a question during one of the post-match conferences this season. "Really? It is a question?" Fleming fumed when asked at the post-match press conference about Kedar Jadhav's batting order.
He even admitted finally to having an ageing team under his wings which is something no one from the Chennai camp was willing to thus far.
The change in demeanour is probably a sign that the end is nigh for Fleming as coach of Chennai. The upcoming fortnight will probably give us a peek into the future.
Chandresh Narayanan is an Indian cricket author and broadcaster
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