The spot-fixing scandal had "disrupted" Chennai Super Kings' campaign in the just-concluded IPL, coach Stephen Fleming said after they finished runners-up to Mumbai Indians in the sixth edition of the Twenty20 tournament.
"We are a very calculated side usually, but it's really been a very difficult last week. Off the field, we were to experience something we had not been used to. But certainly it (our campaign) was disrupted," Fleming said at the post-match press conference after CSK lost to MI by 23 runs in the title clash at the Eden Gardens here last night.
"We had a pretty good IPL. It was trouble free till the last week. There was an element of consistency in a topsy-turvy tournament. We love winning but we are also pretty humble in defeat," he added.
Chasing a modest 149, CSK, a two-time former champions, were restricted to 125 for nine in their fifth final appearance, as Mumbai Indians lifted their maiden IPL title.
Indian cricket was recently thrown into disarray because of the IPL spot-fixing scandal which led to the arrest of three players, including Test pacer S Sreesanth, and several bookies with underworld connections.
The scandal reached the doorstep of BCCI President N Srinivasan with the Mumbai Police arresting his son-in-law and CSK owner Gurunath Meiyappan for alleged involvement in betting.
"We discussed that (spot-fixing) yesterday. How much affect it had on them in the final, each player would have to answer that. I acknowledged in my statement yesterday that it had been a tough week," the CSK coach said.
"We were hoping that our performance (in the final) would reflect the pride and the nature of the side. But it was not to be. We were outplayed," Fleming said.
"So a disappointing end to what was a good tournament for us. We played well, we probably had the most consistent tournament. We just came out short (in the final)," he acknowledged.
Fleming said Mumbai Indians' Lasith Malinga made the difference with the new ball as CSK could not recover from the loss of their three top-order batsmen inside the second over.
"Malinga's was an outstanding spell. He took the new ball after a long time. We just had to get through that spell. He had Michael Hussey probably with the best ball of the IPL. He (Hussey) has been so good for us this year," he said.
"Chasing that many, with Hussey 60 not out, we would have won the game easily. (Mitchell) Johnson followed it up as well. Three quick wickets and the shot selection after that was pretty poor."
Asked whether CSK batsmen panicked in the big game, Fleming said: "Certainly it was not a nice situation. The strength of our side is that we have a long batting order. With Dhoni coming down to finish the game, it gives confidence to the top order.
"It was just a case of putting our innings together but we lost our composure with (Dwayne) Bravo and (Ravindra) Jadeja's dismissals. Even with (Albie) Morkel and Dhoni we had a chance but they (Mumbai) just kept picking up wickets.
"We tried to stay composed with the depth in our batting order. We tried to minimise damage and change the momentum," he said. "We did not play good shots today. We succumbed to pressure. Surely, we should have chased down (149), but we did not come close. Dhoni batted really well but we're never going to win the game with eight down and chasing that many."
Giving due credit to Mumbai Indians, Fleming said, "Mumbai were always going to be tough. They have had great games this year, their bowling attack was outstanding and responded under pressure. Probably it was a par score but they came out winning. Certainly it was the highlight for me."
Asked whether CSK were losing the edge after going down in successive finals, Fleming said: "It's hard to have the edge. It's a one-off game.
"Last year, we lost playing well. This year we played poorly. We have to get to another final to rectify that. But we're still proud of making five out of six finals. Surely would have liked to win three or four out of five."
The coach backed struggling opener Murali Vijay.
"Vijay had a disappointing IPL. He has a good chemistry with Michael Hussey at the top. He has been playing international cricket for India. He has also perfromed well for us in the IPL. So, we will give him a little bit of time," Fleming said.
With the players up for auction in the next season, Fleming suggested a transfer window system just like in football so that fans can be loyal to their stars. "If you chop and change too much, it's hard to come next year with a completely different team. You would have Dhoni playing somewhere else, Raina somewhere else. Then, you're asking too much for the Indian cricket fans," he said.
"If you can keep a core group of four, five or six intact it's better. No point in spending time with young Indians if they're going to be traded somewhere else. Maybe a transfer window would be a bit more conducive," he suggested. "I would like to retain. It enables people to identify their stars. The style of play is easier from coaching point of view," Fleming signed off.