Planning, preparation, man-management and discipline have been the pillars on which Chandrakant Pandit has built his reputation as one of the most reputed and sought-after coaches in domestic cricket.
His no-compromise policy when it comes to above mentioned ingredients have changed the players’ perspective and also how cricket is played in respective states where he has coached.
Madhya Pradesh, who will face 41-time champions Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy final at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru from Wednesday, are the latest association for which Pandit has set in motion a cricketing revolution.
Besides Mumbai, his previous stints were with Kerala, Rajasthan and Vidarbha and everyone vouches for the way their cricket philosophy was transformed by the ‘Pandit Touch’.
When MP face Mumbai, it will the fifth time in last six seasons (2020-21 it wasn’t held due to pandemic) that a team coached by the former India and Mumbai wicketkeeper-batter will be playing in the final. He guided Mumbai to final twice, winning the title in 2015-16 and finishing runners-up in 2016-17. In the next two seasons, he was the man at the helm when Vidarbha won back-to-back titles.
And the last time MP made it to final was 23 years back with Pandit as the skipper. Whatever the result this time, this run is already a huge achievement for a side which struggled to make it to the knockouts in the recent past.
Pandit’s coaching philosophy is simple. He likes to put a structure in place and wants to watch as many players as possible before he picks his final squad. The idea is to not build the current squad but also put in a structure so that quality players are available for the future.
The classic case, as a Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association official pointed out, is that of 18-year-old batter Akshat Raghuwanshi. “He was playing junior cricket and Pandit was impressed by him during a practice match. Without any hesitation he included him in the squad and is now a part of the playing XI as well,” said the official.
The result was instant, as Raghuwanshi repaying the faith shown in him by scoring 286 runs in four matches this season with the help of one century and three fifties.
Aditya Tare, who was the Mumbai captain when Pandit was coach, pointed out the fact that he “always put team ahead of everyone else, even himself”.
“Whenever he has been in the last seven-eight years, he has taken the team forward. Whatever team he has had at his disposal, he has found solutions to get the best out of them. That’s something that he has in him—to get the best out of the group of players,” said Tare.
Pandit has a “no nonsense policy” when it comes to discipline in the squad and Tare said everyone was fine with it.
“That is something he stress a lot on and he wants everyone to be together, play as a team and if anyone is going away from what the team wants or team goals are, it doesn’t go well with him. At the same time, he gave the players the freedom. Whatever we asked of him and if it was for the best interest of the team, he would always say yes. He always had a very good rapport with players,” says Tare.
Faiz Fazal, who was the Vidarbha skipper when they won back-to-back titles with Pandit as coach, says the “preparation and planning” was meticulous under him and it made thing easier on the field.
“His X-factor was his tactical knowledge and ability to read game quickly,” said Fazal.
“He always insisted on don’t be happy with whatever you achieve. You always strive for more. That’s what he tried to implement in all of us. That made a difference when he was with us. One more thing stands out is that he never lost hope in any situation. He always believed that we can win from that situation,” added Fazal.
Bijumon, who was Pandit’s assistant when he was the Director of Cricket with Kerala, credits the 60-year-old for putting a structure in place for the sport in State to prosper.
“One of the first things he did was to start a Centre of Excellence in Kochi. He overlooked everything—from senior team to camps to coaching seminars. He personally kept a tab of everything and had a huge impact on Kerala cricket,” said Bijumon, who till recently was the batting coach at Kerala Cricket Association’s high-performance centre in Alappuzha.
He added: “He brought about a change in the mindset. People still talk about the camps he conducted and the young talent that came from it. His idea was to strengthen the bench strength, bring in more competition in selection process and prepare players for next generation.”