Kolkata: Facing calls for suspension from the IPL following the arrest of its 'team principal' on charges of betting, Chennai Super Kings team on Saturday sought to distance itself from the scandal saying their players and support staff were not involved in betting or spot-fixing.
With CSK in turmoil after its 'team principal' Gurunath Meiyappan, who is also the son-in-law of BCCI President N Srinivasan, was arrested by Mumbai Police on Friday on charges of betting, captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni did not turn up for the scheduled official press conference on the eve of the IPL summit showdown.
Instead, coach Stephen Fleming read out a statement, after apologising on behalf of Dhoni.
"Firstly, apologies from the captain. With the rain, we decided to keep the team back at the hotel for the preparation for tomorrow's match," he said.
"The players and the support staff are distressed by the allegations and the news reports concerning CSK franchise, the IPL and Indian cricket. We have played every match to the best of our ability. And we are very proud of our record of having appeared in the playoffs in all the six seasons of the IPL," Fleming said.
"The players and the support staff have no direct knowledge of betting or the separate spot-fixing allegations. As difficult as it is, all of our focus is on preparing for the IPL final tomorrow," he added.
The growing scale of the IPL spot-fixing scam had cast a shadow on tomorrow's final between CSK and Mumbai Indians. But it was later confirmed that the summit clash would go ahead as per schedule and the embattled CSK would also continue to be a part of the league despite the arrest of its top official on allegations of betting.
Taking questions after reading out the statement, Fleming said the crisis-like-situation would rather benefit the team.
"I guess one of the other issue is, as I put in the statement, puts more pressure on the side. But we welcome that. We are a side who have risen to a lot of challenges over the last six years. We are proud to build the side and are very much looking forward to a big final tomorrow," he said.
"We back our players. It's the ability to absorb pressure and respond. The more of those if you have in the side, the better chance you would have," he added.
Asked about the success mantra of his side, Fleming said, "We had a strategy right from the outset that we're going to be loyal to players. That was apparent during auction in the fourth year when we retained about 95 per cent of our players.
"What we built up over a period is relationships and a team of players who understand themselves. That's a level of camaraderie when we talk about teammates and team work. We are lucky to build a team in six years period. I think it has shown benefits in tough times," said the former Kiwi captain.
On the performance of his side so far, Fleming said, "We had a great run. We have been very consistent. We have been under pressure but responded well. From coaching point of view, it's one of the better seasons and sides. Along with MI, a fitting finale. Delighted with the way it has progressed
"We have had great records so far. We're up against a very good side. We had some great battles against MI this season. We just got better and better. We used minimum players to get the results that we needed.
"Like Hussey enjoys batting with Raina. Like the other night, the way they batted against Mumbai was outstanding. That type of partnership and relationship is very important."
He praised Dhoni's leadership qualities and the strong performances by the likes of Suresh Raina and Michael Hussey.
"MS Dhoni is obviously the jewel in the crown. The way Raina has developed over six years and how good he has become for CSK and for India in both forms... We have got Dhonis, Jadejas. There is a lot of talent."
Hussey, on his part, said that his side were focusing on tomorrow's summit clash and not on the off-field distractions.
"It's about focus on the game. There can be distraction with a lot of stuff going around. We just have to focus on our job and roles in our team and give our best performance. If we do that it will give us a good chance to win.
"We don't need any more motivation. Final is motivation enough. The boys are really looking forward to it. The boys are excited to get everything behind and put all the controversies behind and express ourselves.
"For me, there is no additional pressure. I try to give good start. It does not work all the time obviously. But I'm going to try my best," he said.
Hussey said the best part of CSK was that the team did not depend on one player for winning matches.
"One of the strengths of our team is that we don't rely on just one player to do well. It requires contribution from everyone down the list. Lucky to have good players in CSK."
Asked about their tomorrow's opponents, Hussey said, "We have got enormous respect for Mumbai. We have had tough battles across six season. But on the final anything can happen. It's T20 game. We need to focus on our job for our team and hopefully collectively get over the line.
"It will be an extremely tough match where one amazing catch, one run-out or saving a boundary would make the difference. It's going to be a fantastic match. MI are a brilliant and CSK have been doing well for quite a long time. It's a fitting finale for a great tournament," he said.
Asked if he has any regrets for quiting international cricket as he has been doing so well in the IPL, he said, "I've certainly got no regrets for not playing International cricket anymore. I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the IPL and being part of the successful CSK team. Certainly, I'm looking forward to spend sometime at home after IPL."