Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming on Thursday defended under-fire skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, saying it takes “a bit of work” to find best form after a long break and he will “get better and better” as the IPL progresses.

With CSK chasing a massive 217-run against Rajasthan Royals, Dhoni came out to bat at number 7 when they needed 103 runs from 38 balls. The former India skipper stayed unbeaten on 29 off 17 balls as CSK lost the match by 16 runs.

“MS is one of the players that hasn’t played much cricket in the last year-and-a-half. Everyone expects MS to come out and do what he has done in the past. It doesn’t just happen, it takes a bit of work,” Fleming said ahead of Friday’s IPL match here against Delhi Capitals.

“… a part of his process of getting up to speed is his game time and that (match against RR) was really the first time that he’d batted in the middle apart from a couple of balls against Mumbai Indians.”

Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir had criticised Dhoni for coming to bat at number 7, saying he was not leading from the front.

Fleming said: “As the tournament goes on, he’ll just get better and better. To come in and expect him to get a 30-ball 70 would be a tough ask and we’ve other players also who are in good form and can do a job. So, it’s valuing what each player can do and also respecting Dhoni is one of a kind when he’s in form and has been playing.”

CSK paceman Lungi Ngidi was taken apart in the final over against RR with Jofra Archer smashing him for four sixes and Fleming said it would certainly affect his confidence.

“It will certainly hit Lungi’s confidence hard, and the key thing for us is just for him to get better and analyse what he didn’t quite get right and make sure that the next time he’s in that opportunity he is better than what he was the last time,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter whether he goes for 30 or five or 10. Trying to get better all the time is what’s important. We’ve one of the best death bowlers in the game in our squad and already Dwayne Bravo has been alongside him. We’ll use the experience in the team to make sure he is okay and looks forward to the next opportunity he gets.”