CSK vs MI, Qualifier 1: Stephen Fleming laments Super Kings’ poor Powerplay record, backs struggling batsmen
Shane Watson's repeated failures have added to CSK's poor Powerplay scores. © BCCI

Chennai Super Kings‘ coach Stephen Fleming has addressed the issue of a lack of runs in the Powerplay as the reason for the defending champions chasing a place in the IPL 2019 final, after their six-wicket loss to Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 1 at the MA Chidamabaram Stadium in Chennai.

CSK have the worst record in the first six overs of a match in IPL 2019, in terms of runs scored and wickets lost (29), which has often left MS Dhoni with the task of injecting quick runs at the back end of innings.

On Tuesday during Qualifier 1, CSK lost Shane Watson for 10 off the last ball of the Powerplay. That left them 32/3, and an eventual total of 131/4 in 20 overs proved insufficient to stop Mumbai reaching their fifth IPL final.

After the loss, Fleming was asked about the inability to properly pace an innings and identified it as an ongoing problem for CSK.

“It is tough. There’s the problem we’re finding – we’re so far behind in the Powerplays. We’re doing things right from overs 6 to 20, the run -ate today I think was 7 and 10 [in the last six overs]. We’re getting the right runs there … [but] we are just finding ourselves behind in the Powerplays.”

(READ: Our batting needs to get better, says MS Dhoni as CSK lose to MI)

In 15 matches this season, CSK have only crossed 50 inside the Powerplay twice. That they finished second on the IPL 2019 points table owes largely to Dhoni’s form and the team’s spin bowlers, particularly on the slow and low MA Chidambaram Stadium surface.

CSK are not out of the IPL yet, with a chance to follow MI to the final presenting itself on Friday in Qualifier 2 between the winner of today’s Eliminator between Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Fleming hinted at a change in strategy for the knock-out match.

(AS IT HAPPENED: CSK vs MI, Qualifier 1, IPL 2019)

“You run the risk if we over-attacked in the middle in those conditions, you can find yourself bowled out for 100,” he said. “So you’ve got to have an element of safety. By the time you get that it’s around about 14 overs, from there we were able to go at 10 an over which got us through to a competitive score.

Ambati Rayudu IPL 2019
Ambati Rayudu has scored 261 runs at a strike-rate of 93.54 in IPL 2019. BCCI

“But we need to have more balance in the first six – around 40 would be nice. That may get you to a score of 150-160 which can be a match-winning score. We’re just falling behind at different stages but it’s the first six that’s holding us back when we lose wickets. Maybe in case we just throw the shackles off and have a crack in the next game and see if we can just get ourselves into form and confidence.”

(IN PICS: How Mumbai Indians beat CSK in Qualifier 1)

Despite Watson scoring 268 runs in 15 games and Ambati Rayudu 261 at a woeful strike-rate of 93.54, CSK have backed their two star performers from the successful 2018 season. For Fleming, this was part of the franchise’s fabric and a reason for them winning three IPL titles.

“You’ve just got to back them. Two or three games out from the end of the season, we’re making decisions on players to get us through to the end,” he said. “We sort of go the other way [of chopping and changing], trying to just back the player enough that their cycle will come. And if it runs out, then so be it. We can go back and analyse that we should have made the change five games ago. But if you make a change now in the finals and change the tactics, it just means that you haven’t had the right discussions leading up to this point.

“And we just back players because they’re proven performers, doing all the right things, but it is just not working. This can be a cruel game, especially when you’re playing in conditions like this for over half the season. So we make quite balanced decisions or have quite robust discussions around it. And this year we’ve just backed the players we’ve got and will continue to do so.”