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Cricket news - You don't always have to play four overseas players: Fleming

"Harbhajan Singh was a great option for the left-handed combinations that we faced in the first two games."

What total makes for a good game of Twenty20? High-scoring 200-plus encounters on graveyards for the bowlers or batsmen being clueless about either pace or spin on a wicket where bowlers dictate the terms? Ideally, somewhere in between - which would not only have the entertainment factor of sixes being scored and batsmen racing to milestones, but also keeping the bowlers in the game and not rendering them as mere bowling machines. But what kind of pitch would bring about such a balance?

There are traditional spin-friendly surfaces like in Chennai and Hyderabad, while Bangalore and Mumbai serve as haven for the batsmen. Kolkata has aided the pacers in recent years, while Delhi, for some reason, has gone slow. And then there are grounds like those in in Rajasthan and Mohali where the boundary dimensions can be a factor. It is the variety in terms of what the Indian grounds have to offer that adds intrigue to the IPL.

Take the case of Chennai Super Kings, who have banked on the spinners to deliver for them more often than not in home conditions. The total of 70 all-out by Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2019 opener in Chennai brought the pitch into focus. But the fact is that Chepauk is also the venue where 200-plus totals have been achieved 14 times, second-most in a single venue after 19 such totals at the Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore. Adding to the surprise is that the most number of totals of 100 or less have been scored in Mumbai while Chennai, Jaipur and Mohali have the least such scores.

"It depends which way you look at it," said Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming when asked what an ideal total for an entertaining game of T20 should be. "We bought a side based on Chennai's history, which is a slower track. What we saw the other night was an aberration, that's not normally how it is. A sort of a 160-170 score here has been what we've looked for in the past. The pitch at Delhi was fractionally slow but certainly dry. It think a variation of surface is what you're after.

"You don't want 200 every time. People think that's the best wicket but if you ask the bowlers that's probably not a great season for them. So something that's got a little bit of challenge for the batters, which you can also get a rough par score of about 160, maybe 170, in between there, and depending on how you get it and what's on offer, that would probably be the score or conditions you're looking for if you want it to be ideal," he added.

Overseas vs Indian players

When it comes to the Super Kings, the talking point has also been their use of only three overseas players for the last two matches. Although a couple of their players have pulled out of the IPL - Lungi Ngidi (injury) and David Willey (personal reasons) - the Super Kings had the option of including one among the three of Faf du Plessis, Sam Billings and Mitchell Santner. However, they have resisted that, keeping faith in the Indian players. They did rope in Scott Kuggeleijn as a replacement for Ngidi, but he'll only join the team next week while Mohit Sharma, according to Fleming, is on the mend for some fitness concerns.

When asked about the rationale of not using their full overseas quota, Fleming said that it wasn't just about foreign names but the overall balance and strength of the squad, and what each player brings to the table. Despite the team lacking a gun pacer, Fleming insisted that the ones already in the squad offer enough quality. "We value all the players in the squad - not as overseas or local players. We've got some good talent. Mohit Sharma is still yet to play and he's getting back from a fitness injury. We haven't got a tall, bounce bowler that Ngidi was. Kuggeleijn has got pace and the velocity of which is something different. The way the pitch is going here and the way our spinners are playing, I don't think pace is necessarily the key.

"Looking at the squad and skills is not based on overseas versus Indian. Harbhajan Singh was a great option for the left-handed combinations that we faced in the first two games. And that can change if you face a lot of right-handers, you've got Mitchell Santner there. But you don't have to play four overseas. Whilst in the past you've picked overseas players that fit into your side, we're really happy with the quality of Indian players that we have and that's why we tend to talk about the abilities in the squad rather than if you're an overseas player or an Indian player. We rate the players that we pick and those two sides sides were based on the best balance we thought would win the game," Fleming said.

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