‘No worries’ about taking on CSK – Ricky Ponting

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Ricky Ponting, the Mumbai Indians coach

Ricky Ponting, the Mumbai Indians coach, said the team has “no worries” about taking on Chennai Super Kings in the IPL final on Sunday at Eden Gardens. Speaking exclusively to ESPNcricinfo, Ponting also expected things “not to change much” from when they beat Super Kings in the first qualifier at Wankhede.

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The Mumbai players were given a couple of days off after their win on Tuesday and the team held its first training session ahead of the final only on Friday.

“There is only a certain amount you can train when you are two months into a T20 tournament,” Ponting said. “It is more about tactics and mindset rather than the skills. We are playing Chennai and we played them in the last game. So, things won’t change too much. It is a matter of execution now.”

Ponting, who took over as coach at the start of the season, said he faced no problems asserting himself in the role despite the presence of a large support staff. Among those in the Mumbai camp are team icon Sachin Tendulkar and chief mentor Anil Kumble, who Ponting said were “not a constant around the team.”

“It is hard to define their (Tendulkar & Kumble) roles. They are mentors and help out the guys if required,” he said. “Sachin has been to a few of our team meetings and so has Anil but they have not been a constant around the team. We want to make sure that there are not too many voices going around and one message is passed to the team and individual players. It is important that the younger guys do not have too many messages going into their minds.”

Ponting credited Tendulkar and Kumble for knowing when to “step back” and “waiting to be spoken to rather than trying to impose themselves on the group.” Now with just one winner-take all game to play, the former Australian captain is hoping to pass on the knowledge he has acquired on how to put your best foot forward in big finals.

“Having been there and done that along with some individual success as well, I think I have good little points that I can pass on to the team,” he said. “The players have a good idea already as I have said a lot of things along the way about facing challenges and playing in big games. You prefer to have players in your team that have done that before as that experience is undeniable and we have got some of those players.”

“You can’t go from being a high level of competitor to nothing and you need to have something in your life. Coaching in a tournament like this gets the competitive juices flowing again”

Having stood down in favour of Rohit Sharma as captain of the franchise in their run to the title in 2013 and having worked in close proximity with him this season, Ponting is convinced India can invest in Rohit as part of their leadership group.

“You can see the growth in Rohit, especially in the second half of this tournament, where he has had to make crucial decisions with the bowling changes and the strike bowlers,” he said. “He has done well under pressure. He has played at different positions for the team, be it opening the batting or batting at number three and four. He has not had the smoothest of years, but you would not know because he is quiet. He has the steely determination to be the best that he can be. If he continues to grow and keeps learning the way he is, I have no doubt that he can captain at a higher level.”

Among the potential challenges Ponting faced as coach was his relationship with Harbhajan Singh. The pair were involved in several high-profile skirmishes over their international careers, and Ponting admitted there was “animosity” between the two when he first joined the franchise in 2013. However, he insisted those issues were put to bed very early and now there was a “healthy respect” between them.

“It was up to both of us to stand up as men and break down that barrier. We wanted the best for the team and we did that,” he said. “I think I was the first one to congratulate him on his selection to the Indian Test squad for Bangladesh.”

Having tasted success as coach in his first stint itself, Ponting said you can “never say never” to him taking up a position as coach of an international team in the future.

“If the team starts winning a few IPLs, people might start thinking of me as an international coach,” he joked. “The cricket runs in my blood and I want to do the best that I can do to enjoy that competitive feeling. You can’t go from being a high level of competitor to nothing and you need to have something in your life. Coaching in a tournament like this gets the competitive juices flowing again.”

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