Inside the IPL with Eric Simons, a Q&A – 3rd May 2019

Q – Whereas all of the other teams have been focussed on qualifying for the play-offs, it has looked and felt like CSK were “inevitable qualifiers”. Is that how it felt within the camp?

A – No! First of all, you need to be an actuarial scientist to understand just when you have actually qualified. There are so many permutations with other fixtures and results. Even when there was a widespread perception that we had actually qualified for the play-offs, there was actually still a technical possibility that we could have missed out. It was only when Sunrisers won their last game that we were definitely in.

But the real goal is to finish in the top two, which even after lasts nights win, we still have not secured. Top two means you only have to win one game to reach the final. Otherwise you need to win two games to get there, the second of which is just two days before the final, so that’s not ideal. The key for all of us, players and coaches, is just never slack off and start taking it easy.

Q – It has been interesting see a number of teams, including CSK, only use three instead of four overseas players. Ominous evidence of the depth being created in Indian cricket?

A – Yes, good point. But, to be honest, it may also say something about some of the overseas players – perhaps they haven’t kicked on and performed as well as their reputations suggested. You have to keep up with the pace of the IPL. But there are more young Indian cricketers being exposed and growing reputations in the IPL and also to international cricket than ever before and I don’t doubt they could have selected a second group of 15 players who would have done India proud at the World Cup.

Q – How much training and practising is actually done at this stage of the tournament? Presumably rest and refreshment is more important? Are YOU tired, physically or mentally?

A – There is less  practise and training at this stage of the tournament but ‘detox’ and ‘grooving’ is still important. The basis for all batting is still a solid defense or cover drive and, for bowler, the ability to bowl a good length delivery hitting the top of off stump. So you can spend a game reverse-lapping and hitting inside-out over extra cover, or bowling all your varieties and trick deliveries, but it’s good to get back into the groove of what constitutes ‘good cricket skill.’ It doesn’t have to be a long time, but it helps to know the basics are all still intact.  Rest and recuperation are important at this stage, of course.

Q – Can you recount a particular 48-hour or 72-hour stretch this year which gives us an idea of the extreme scheduling teams have to deal with in the IPL?

A – There have been some testing times but schedules have got better and better over the years. We used to have situations where we wouldn’t  get back to the hotel until 2:00am after a game and leave again at 7:00am for a flight to the next venue. After unwinding it meant sleep was restricted to about three or four hours. These days we are more likely to fly in the afternoon allowing the players to sleep until 11:00am. But it’s not the same quality of rest and sleep, it is certainly compromised. You can see it from time to time – tempers are more easily frayed and people become more quickly irritated when they get pushed or bumped at an airport. It’s another reason we are fortunate to have such an experienced squad – they know what to expect from themselves emotionally during these times and how to keep calm.

Q – The only team to have beaten CSK in Chennai over the last dozen games has been the Mumbai Indians – and they’ve done it twice. There are a couple of other ‘bogey’ fixtures between other teams? Are they ‘bogey’ fixtures – or just coincidence? Will you be hoping to avoid Mumbai again until the final?

A – There are definitely ‘bogey’ fixtures for all teams but they are almost always based on technical issues rather than psychological ones. A team with a couple of good off-spinners against a team with three or four top order left handers, that sort of thing. Delhi had 5 out of the top 7 as left-handers last night. Imagine if we had another Harbajhan Singh.  Some teams have fast, ‘impact’ bowlers and batsmen against teams which prefer to ‘starve’ batsmen out and accumulate their runs without the need to make a fast, crash-bang start. They are very contrasting styles and sometimes one can prevail over the other far more often than the law of averages would suggest. It can become a mental thing, but not often.

Certainly for us, Mumbai is not a team we see as a bogey team. They are a good very well balanced side and perhaps they feel technically suited against our style but we have already discussed plans to overcome them should we cross paths in the play offs.

Q – Is the World Cup becoming a distraction, that you have seen or witnessed?

A – Interesting. Most people say ‘no’, but how can it not be on the minds of many players? They don’t want it to be a distraction but it must be very hard. Everyone said it was ‘out of their hands’ before the announcement of the squads but now, it’s a bit different. There are some very hurt players who were excluded, and there are bound to be some players who are concerned about the possibility of injury before the tournament. So it is there – of course it is. Knowing the World Cup was going to be after the tournament and that some players would be leaving early was a part of the management recruitment and strategy process before the tournament. Even during last years auction. Now managing players around selection and non selection for their respective world cup squads is just another one of the challenges we face as coaches trying to get the team in the right frame of mind for the big moments.

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