Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming on Monday said it was disappointing that spot fixing has overshadowed the Indian Premier League but hoped that the tournament would finish on a winning note.
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"Yeah, you're right, very disappointing! The standard of IPL in cricket and games has, I thought, been excellent. And of course this is going to overshadow any of the play that's going on. We've got one week now to hopefully get three more great games and in some way that hopefully will push aside some of the events," said Fleming on the eve of first qualifier against Mumbai Indians here at the Feroz Shah Kotla. (Read: Chennai Super Kings vs Mumbai Indians preview)
"We don't want them all pushed aside, of course. But we still want the IPL to finish off on a good cricket note. Certainly, from a CSK point of view that would be great," he said.
Asked about the impact of the controversy on players, Fleming said: "It's only under suspicion from outside and in some way you need a sense of naivety around. You got to, I guess, keep it in isolation and only concentrate on being the best we can be."
"And CSK have been very good this year. To motivate the players to win another IPL, with a big semi-final against Mumbai, that's our main focus. Everything else is speculated on outside of the game... so be it."
Fleming said Super Kings are focussed on the job at hand.
"Certainly the group of guys that I've got are focused on playing the best that we can play. And, as I say, hopefully it's two games away - beat Mumbai and then have another final. And really we are trying to let nothing else creep into the dressing room and that's certainly our focus here. Hot conditions and most definitely our focus is tomorrow," he said.
Fleming said the first qualifier remains the big ticket to the final.
"Well, it's a big game, isn't it? And certainly, Chennai-Mumbai makes the mouth water. We came close last year... Sometimes it can help if you continually play, you're in good form. We just came up short against a great performance by Kolkata."
"But certainly the advantage of playing well tomorrow (Tuesday) and having two or three days off at this point of the tournament is very appealing, rather than travel and play which can tax the players. So, we would love to win tomorrow and book our place in the final and then work out a good programme," he said.
The Kiwi said Mumbai Indians have a psychological advantage over Super Kings after beating them twice already.
"Yeah, they've beaten us twice this year. They're a team that has beaten us probably more than anyone else. But does it count for anything on the day? I don't think so," he said.
So will it be revenge match?
"Well, obviously we got thumped in the last match. So we didn't just lose, we got absolutely thumped. And that's down to a good performance (by Mumbai). One thing you look at Chennai when we've played away in finals, we've sort of started our way through qualifying games and once we get to the finals we've been excellent. So, there's a lot of focus on stepping up that performance," he said. (Read: Mumbai need to up their performance by 10 per cent: Rohit Sharma)
Fleming said some of the super Kings players, including skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are big match players, and they will step up their game when needed.
"Some of the players we have in our side are big-match players. Our skipper is probably number one in the world, in terms of producing performances when they matter. We turn to those types of players in these situations, whether it's the Rainas or Dhonis or overseas players. They look forward to these situations, it's just a hard slog to get in," he said.
Fleming is also happy with the IPL has evolved in the last six years.
"Yeah, I think this year has been very good, hasn't it? Cricket-wise, forget the rubbish that's going on, but the cricket I've seen has been excellent. Some of the games have been close. A lot more tactics have been put in place. Looking at next year, the auction and how teams are bought and squads are changed, I think you'll keep seeing it'll get better as the years go on."
"Talking from a coaching point of view, I'm learning all the time. So, I think we're being quite smart this year. And some of the things we've done, we've learnt from previous years. We like to think our performances our getting better," he said.
Fleming said though IPL's impact on international cricket is that players don't get too many breaks but there are other positives as well.
"The downside is that players don't get a break, some of them for two months. They want to play in the IPL. But the standard of cricket, I think, helps some of the skills that are now being put into play at the international level.
"I think it has improved the game. You look at some of the one-day games, the scores and some of the shots being now played. The pace in Test match cricket has improved. The skill-set of batsmen and bowlers, I think, is on the up. That's due to T20 cricket and players being able to try new things and learn new skills," he said.