MUMBAI: Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who retired from international cricket last month, is in top shape and ready to lead the Chennai Super Kings in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League on Saturday, head coach Stephen Fleming has said.
The 39-year-old former skipper drew curtains on an illustrious, trophy-laden career for the national team, having not played for India since their semi-final exit at the 50-overs World Cup in July last year.
Due to his long break, there were concerns over Dhoni's readiness for the IPL, which will be played in the United Arab Emirates due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in India.
"It has been no different," former New Zealand captain Fleming said in an interview on the team's website https://www.chennaisuperkings.com/CSK_WEB/module/news/html/newsdetails.html?newsId=857&news_providerId=3 on Friday. "He's very fit and mentally he's been very engaged and determined.
"In some ways the break can work for the experienced and older players that we have. MS is fresh and ready to go."
The IPL kicks off on Saturday with a repeat of last year's final, which the Mumbai Indians won by one run against the Chennai outfit.
Three-time winners CSK did not have an ideal pre-season when many people from their touring party tested positive for the novel coronavirus upon arriving in the UAE, but Fleming felt the squad had dealt with the challenge well.
Adjusting to the conditions in the Emirates also means the 2020 edition of the popular Twenty20 tournament will be tactically "very different" and Fleming is banking on the wealth of experience in his side to adapt.
Apart from Dhoni, the Chennai side also boast experienced campaigners like Australian Shane Watson, Dwayne Bravo of West Indies and Pakistan-born South African Imran Tahir.
"We've got experienced players, and experienced players identify key times and that's why they've done so well in their careers, that they can turn games, absorb pressure or just sum out the situation," Fleming said.
"That's what experience is about and that's why we value it so highly."