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Time for the playoffs

As I write this, we’re just a few hours out from our playoff game against the Mumbai Indians.

The guys did incredibly well, finishing top of the standings and giving us some breathing space going into the playoffs.

By that I mean a defeat in the first game does not eliminate us, and that’s good to have in a format of cricket where any team can win on any particular day.

This year’s campaign has been quite different from previous ones, as we’re usually a side that peaks late, going into the playoffs.

This year we’ve played some great cricket early on and, as a result, have finished top of the standings, having been ahead from right near the start.

What it also means is that we’ve already qualified for the Champions League, which was one of our goals as it always is.

So, what we’ve got is a happy coaching staff and a happy group of players. Coach Stephen Fleming has emphasised the fact that it’s new territory for us, as we’ve previously charged into the semifinals, playing great cricket.

Now, we’ve been on top for a while, so the conversations in the dressing room have been about not being complacent and expecting things to just keep happening the way we want them to.

The discussions have been about ticking all the boxes and making sure we keep preparing well – we want to be the most prepared team.

As I sit here, I’m looking at our first game against Mumbai, which is always huge. I think it’s the two best teams in the tournament and I wouldn’t be surprised to see us both in the final.

I was asked how the Indian players in the Super Kings squad have reacted to being in the playoffs, as you would think it’s a bigger deal for the guys playing at home.

The reality, though, is that most of them are used to success, as a team, and it’s also the reason why most of them are international players. So, they won’t have any problems with the pressure, and it’s quite nice to see how relaxed the guys are.

With regards our big or form players, I would say Suresh Raina is one to watch. He’s hitting the ball nicely, while Dhoni is always a big player for us, with big match temperament and the ability to win a game for a team.

Hussey and Vijay have done well at the top of the order, and it would be nice for one of them to bat through, with the more aggressive guys batting around them.

Off the field, the big issue has been the three Rajasthan Royals players accused of spot-fixing. It’s just very sad for us, as it damages the IPL brand and affects us as players.

What we also have now is the anti-corruption guys being a lot stricter with the players. If we leave the team hotel, we have to tell the manager where we are going, and no-one is allowed to visit you in your room anymore. Don’t think some of the single boys are liking that too much!

Lastly, just a word on Rob Walter’s appointment as Titans coach. As you may know, he’s currently the national team fitness coach, but I know that he’s been wanting to move into coaching for some time now.

We were all rooting for him and I think he’s the perfect man for the job. There were some good candidates, but I just think Rob is the long-term solution for the Titans.

He’s someone who is ‘young’ in terms of his coaching career, but he already has lots of experience with the Titans and the national squad.

I also think he would have benefited a huge amount from working with Gary Kirsten and he’s very popular with the players.

It’s exciting to see what he’s going to bring to the Titans, but I’m confident that he will do very well.

Until next week, when I hope to report back on an IPL trophy. Otherwise, I’ll be on my way on my next trip to Holland, sooner than expected!

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