Stephen Fleming recollected an interesting experience as coach of the Chennai Super Kings during the 2009 Indian Premier League in South Africa to underline the importance of man-management in the success of a Twenty20 team.
Former New Zealand captain Fleming, who has been a part of the Lions since inception in 2008, is regarded as one of the most successful T20 coaches in world cricket. Fleming and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni led CSK to two successive IPL triumphs (2010 & 2011) and as many Champions League T20 trophies (2010 & 2014).
CSK were also IPL runners-up in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2015 and semi-finalists in all eight seasons that they featured in to become one of the most successful sides in the IPL.
“I still think the greatest thing is man-management. In particular, in the IPL. Man-management in T20s is still the No 1 role to me. The tactical side of it, with the captain, is important, but managing players and getting them to perform a role,” Fleming told ESPNcricinfo.
Fleming was appointed coach of CSK in 2009 after having turned out as a player in the inaugural season.
“Matthew Hayden is a good example. My first year of coaching in IPL, I thought, ‘How on earth am I going to coach this great Australian player? What can I add to him that he doesn’t already know?’ So my conclusion was, I am actually going to give him the option: ‘What will be the best thing for you during this IPL in South Africa? What will be the ultimate programme for you?’
“He said, ‘Mate, surfing. I want to surf.’ I said, ‘Okay, mate. Surf. We will send you wherever you want to go. You surf, obviously you have franchise commitments, but outside that, we will see you game day. Let’s see how you go.’
“He trained a couple of days early on. Surfed. Did his fitness work. Surfed. Top run scorer. To me that was a real interesting take, to see this great player being set free. I remember at one point he was saying how good it was. ‘How good is this? I can surf. Do what I love. I can hit the white ball around. What a great time.’
“Now that’s not going to suit everybody. You can’t send everybody off. But for this guy, in this case, that was the best thing for the team, to have him absolutely fizzing about playing. By giving him the opportunity to experience a balance. And it taught me a lot about having the confidence to say, ‘You know what, as a group, trust what Matt is doing, because it is the right thing for us.’
“So you are breaking all that traditional ‘We need to be there as a group’. You don’t. Because this guy needs time off, and that guy needs extra nets. By this guy not being there, it gives that guy extra time at nets. You have got a win-win.”