Chennai: Chennai Super Kings chief coach Stephen Fleming on Monday hailed Mahendra Singh Dhoni's leadership qualities, and said the veteran stumper's willy captaincy was one of the key reasons behind the team's third title triumph in the Indian Premier League.
"It was Dhoni impact. It is very important. Dhoni does have a very strong influence and impact on players. MS's (Dhoni) belief and confidence in a strong role for a player works for us. He has a strong ability to bring the best out of players. (Ambati) Rayudu is a great example, being in and out of the team," Fleming said at a press conference in Chennai.
"It is a great dynamic. It is about using the strength of a remarkable captain, with a strong franchise, with a good game plan."
Returning to the IPL after serving a two-year ban, CSK defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets in Mumbai to claim its third IPL title on Sunday night.
CSK returned to a victorious homecoming with fans cheering at the airport and at the team hotel.
Fleming was all praise for Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, who starred with a blistering unbeaten knock of 117 to ensure a dream comeback for CSK.
"We loved what Shane Watson has done in the past and our discussion was around his future. And we had seen during the Big Bash that his form had returned. We wanted to use him in a different way... Opening the batting and bowling a few overs," Fleming said.
"We always like players who are multi-talented. And also, Shane has been to Chennai several times playing for Rajasthan. He is an incredible professional. He realised he has got some limitations. He looked after himself and MS looked after him well. In the end we didn't need his bowling... there is no great illustration of his ability than yesterday," the former Kiwi captain said.
Watson thanked the team as well as skipper Dhoni and Fleming for their constant support and helping him stay fit and up for the challenge throughout the tournament.
Fleming said shifting their home base out of Chennai because of the Cauvery issue was one of the tougher things for the team.
"Most of the plans were to build a team according to Chennai's conditions but those things weren't in our control. Moving out of Chennai was a difficult decision. We knew the conditions of Pune. We had to change the way we had to play the game. The experience enabled us to do that. It was a big change but we had to get on with it," he said.
CSK's home matches were shifted out of Chennai after trouble during the first game at the MA Chidambaram Stadium owing to the state-wide protests on the Cauvery issue.
The coach said it was a team performance but did not forget to pinpoint individual contributions throughout the season.
"It wasn't one or two players dominating. It was a squad effort. We went back to players who are loyal. We stick together through thick and thin," he said.
About the decision to pick leg-spinner Karn Sharma over the experienced Harbhajan Singh for the final, he said the captain wanted a leg-spin option.
"If you look at the last few games, Harbhajan hadn't bowled a lot. The captain wanted another option against right-handers. We had been very open about combination of spinners, not necessarily left-hand, right-hand, who could do well. We wanted another option around the right-handers. It was just an option again.
"The captain wanted a leg-spin option. In fact, Harbhajan and Karn have got great records in finals," Fleming said.
He also said he was happy with the way CSK pacers Lungi Ngidi and Shardul Thakur bowled towards the end.
"I was really happy. The last two overs from Ngidi and Shardul, I was happy because it could have been a lot more. I was comfortable with the way we bowled," Fleming said.
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While RCB will look to start afresh, CSK got a confidence-boosting 20-run win against defending champions Mumbai Indians on Sunday night.
Gaikwad batted through the innings to lift Chennai Super Kings from a precarious 7/3 to 156 for six as the IPL-14 resumed in the UAE after the first phase in India was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic in May.