Dhoni’s absence a void that keeps getting bigger: Fleming
CSK head coach Stephen Fleming.

Chennai Super Kings, who were playing without their regular skipper MS Dhoni, lost by 46 runs to Mumbai Indians at their home ground in their IPL fixture here on Friday night. Chasing 156 sans Dhoni, CSK were bundled out for a mere 109 runs in 18 overs. Dhoni had to sit out the game because of fever and his absence was felt acutely by CSK as none of their batters showed application to stay long at a slow Chepauk wicket.

Speaking after the game, CSK head coach Stephen Fleming admitted that Dhoni’s absence in the middle was a void his team found too difficult to fill on Friday.

“Dhoni is a great leader and a great player, so whenever you take him out of your side and he has been a constant for us for so many years, you just get into the rhythm of having him there. When you take a leader like that out, there are going to be some holes to fill and it’s not that we are not trying to fill it, just that the hole is quite big,” said Fleming at the post-match press conference.

“It takes a mammoth effort to lift the team up when you have your best player unavailable. But we are good enough to do that.”

Even the last time Dhoni skipped a game for the team, CSK had suffered a thrashing against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Stand-in skipper Suresh Raina failed to inspire the team in the absence of Dhoni and their performance has been below par in the two matches the wicketkeeper-batsman could not play.

“The two games we played without Dhoni, the performances have been well below par. There is comfort when he is there, but he didn’t bat in the last game. I think the players are good enough and have experience and that’s the key when we have situations which don’t go our way,” said Fleming.

Against Mumbai Indians, CSK kept on losing wickets at regular intervals and failed to put together a partnership, a reason Fleming felt led to their loss.

“Look batting-wise we lost wickets consistently throughout so the pitch had enough in it to create problems if you were losing wickets. The partnership in the front with Rohit and Lewis was quite important, he said .

“If we would have kept taking wickets, it might be 135-140, we felt it was tough to drag it to 155, but we needed good partnerships at the top to minimise the effect of their spinners but we didn’t get that and it wasn’t our day really, a lot of things didn’t go our way, we didn’t create enough to make them go our way.”

The CSK head coach also admitted that he was concerned with repetitive mistakes committed by his team in the ongoing IPL edition. He, however, hoped that his team will come out with a much improved performance in the remaining games.

“If we do have situations that don’t go our way, we should have the experience of dealing with it; which we haven’t at the moment. I think what concerns me is repetitive mistakes we made many times this season. The fact that we are still at the top of the table is a testament to bowlers and individual performances,” said Fleming.

“We don’t want to wait until it’s too late, we have two games left, and hopefully, the finals. We should be able to pull off a team performance”, he added.

CSK, sitting at the top spot with 16 points from 12 games, will next face Delhi Capitals on May 1.