Mumbai: The IPL has been home to some of the greatest tactical brains in the game and on the 13th birthday of the glamorous tournament, Chennai Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming was declared the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) among coaches by an esteemed Star Sports jury on the latest episode of their flagship show Cricket Connected. Another CSK veteran, Shane Watson, one of the most decorated all-rounders, was nominated as the G.O.A.T all-rounder.
The 47-year-old former New Zealand captain Fleming, who has been with the Yellow Army since its inception, got the nod ahead of Mahela Jayawardene and Trevor Bayliss, who had won two titles each with Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders respectively. Fleming's chemistry with captain MS Dhoni, who has also been part of CSK since 2008, was key to the team's success.
The Blackcap southpaw, who played in the inaugural edition in 2008, took over coaching duties and has since shepherded CSK to three title wins (in 2010, 2011 & 2018), despite the team being suspended from the league for two years. Under his tutelage, Rising Pune Supergiants also reached the IPL final in 2017.
Speaking about the greatness of Fleming, former England skipper Kevin Pietersen said: "You are only as good as your players. I have played under Fleming at the Melbourne Stars. I love him for what he has achieved. To have that longevity to be in a cut-throat environment for such a long time is just a standout achievement."
Meanwhile, Watson topped an elite nominee list that included Andre Russel, Dwayne Bravo, Jacques Kallis, Kieron Pollard, Yusuf Pathan, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Irfan Pathan. The last two years have been nothing short of phenomenal for Watson, the first player to win Man of the Tournament in the IPL, twice.
Having featured in 134 IPL games so far, the 38-year-old batting all-rounder has amassed 3575 runs at an excellent strike-rate of 139.53. Despite having to overcome a string of fitness issues, Watson has punched above his weight to take the Yellow Army to many a famous win. In the 2019 final, he nearly carried CSK to another title, despite a bloodied knee.
Speaking about Watson's greatness, Pietersen said: "He has been such a player that if his bowling has gone off, his batting has become a lot better. I have played with him for a couple of years. He would have bowled so much faster had he not had so many back issues as a youngster. When he was younger, he used to bowl really fast."
Former India opener Gautam Gambhir too showered praise on Watson's all-round abilities: "If we talk about the past 12 years, for me Shane Watson is the best player because he has done magic with Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings. No doubt, his bowling was on a decline in the latter half of his career, but he had an overall impact on the game. He was an excellent player when he used to play for Rajasthan Royals. He not only used to bowl with the new ball but also batted in the middle-order. If you ask me the same question two to three years down the line, Andre Russell will win, hands down. But right now, I will go with Watson."
Ex-New Zealand pacer and renowned commentator Danny Morrison lavished praise on Watson on the show. He said: "I live in the land of Shane Watson. It's Kevin Pietersen's all-time favourite city. Brisbane is where's Watto's from, he's loved to bits and pieces. He is a guy you will want to have in your line-up."