The Madhya Pradesh players can wait a little more on Sunday to celebrate their Ranji trophy win which looks almost assured after the fourth day’s play ended in Bangalore. However, it is likely that the MP coach Chandrakant Pandit may not be too pleased with the eventual result since he would have expected an outright win.
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And yet, the MP coach shouldn’t be too harsh in his assessment because beating Mumbai in a Ranji final is not something too many teams have achieved in the past, and no one knows it better than the former India wicketkeeper who has been a stalwart as Mumbai player as well as a coach.
Doubtless, it wasn’t a typical David versus Goliath contest in the Ranji trophy final played between Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The first innings lead is of course not an ideal way to win a prestigious tournament but the young MP team would not mind it at all. In many ways, it was a contest between two evenly balanced teams even though history and past record favoured Mumbai.
However, cricket matches are never won by past records or deeds but on present form and skills, and this point must have been underlined by the former Mumbai coach Pandit to his wards in the Madhya Pradesh team.
History suggests that half the battle against Mumbai is lost by being in awe of their unparalleled triumphant streak in India’s premier domestic competition’s history. The 60-year-old Pandit has an enviable CV as a giant of Ranji Trophy as far as coaching accomplishments are concerned. And is one of the most respected figures in Mumbai cricket who has guided them to three titles in the past. The current Mumbai coach Amol Muzumdar is someone who has been deeply influenced by Pandit into the role because they have had long association as player-coach and captain-coach with Mumbai.
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Behind the curtains, the Ranji final was also a battle between the two coaches who have exhibited different kind of philosophies. While Pandit is a self-confessed martinet which is at odds with the modern coaching culture, Muzumdar is a typical contemporary who is well aware of the data analytics and other tools now prevalent in modern coaching methodology.
Pandit, who was the coach of the India U-19 squad at the 2010 World Cup, has never coached an international team despite his success in domestic cricket. On the other hand, Muzumdar has been associated with Rajasthan Royals as batting coach since 2018 besides being the batting consultant for international teams like Netherlands and South Africa in the past. The former Mumbai captain has also handled India U-19 and U-23 teams.
In short, despite taking charge of his home team in a Ranji final for the first time and nothing to show on his CV in comparison with Pandit, Muzumdar is not a novice as coach.
Ornamentally speaking, if Pandit can be considered the Dronacharya (the famous character of the epic Mahabharata who was considered the ultimate Guru) of domestic cricket coaching, Muzumdar is like a modern Eklavya (the mythology’s fascinating character who wasn’t directly coached by Guru Drona and yet learnt the art of archery through sheer devotion) to him. Muzumdar may not have directly learnt the nuances of coaching from the veteran but is deeply influenced by the Pandit school.
The Eklavya epithet perhaps also sits well with someone like Muzumdar who was plain unlucky not to have played for India in any format despite scoring nearly ten thousand (9,205) runs in Ranji trophy.
There is another common link between the two. Besides representing Mumbai and Assam during their playing days, both of them learnt the nuances of the game under the great Ramakant Achrekar sir. Over the last one-and-a-half decade, both Pandit and Muzumdar have spent countless evenings in Mumbai maidans discussing cricket. Despite missing out on his maiden Ranji title as coach in his very first season (incidentally he was part of the triumphant Mumbai Ranji winning side in 1993-94 on debut as player and as captain in 2006-07) Muzumdar may be happier for his former coach who proved his mettle by winning the competition for Vidarbha, back-to-back, once he left Mumbai.
It was under Pandit’s guidance that Vidarbha for the first time not only managed to beat the formidable Mumbai but also served them an innings defeat.
Similarly, Pandit too can be proud of Muzumdar’s journey in his debut season as coach. Remarkably, the 47-year-old has revived the fortunes of Mumbai Ranji team who made it to the final for the first time since Pandit stepped down as their head coach. Mumbai have floundered badly since then but this season, they seem ready to carry the incredible legacy of the Mumbai gharana going forward.
Of course, the ending of the season for Muzumdar is not a memorable one but for Pandit it is the fulfilment of a dream for which he has waited for over two decades. Pandit didn’t have anything to prove to anyone as coach however he had an unfinished business personally. In 1998-99, Pandit was playing for Madhya Pradesh as captain and had taken them to the final against Karnataka in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy stadium. Alas, his team couldn’t conquer the final frontier then.
Now, as coach, Pandit can perhaps assure Muzumdar that he may not have to endure such long wait for Ranji trophy title in his new innings.
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