Pandit gets the balance right

Known to be a disciplinarian, Coach Chandrakant Pandit spells out how he managed the Mumbai players during their victorious Ranji Trophy campaign.

Chandrakant Pandit's strict style of coaching has worked well for Mumbai.   -  Prashant Nakwe

When Chandrakant Pandit guided Mumbai to two Ranji Trophy titles a few years ago, the team had a lot of experienced players. This season, when he returned to the Mumbai dressing room as the coach of the team, he found a relatively young squad. And Pandit helped the team lift the coveted trophy for the 41st time on Friday.

Soon after the triumph, Pandit said how his reputation of being a strict disciplinarian attracted positive response from the young Mumbai players during their triumphant sojourn.

Excerpts from an interview:

How differently did you have to treat this side in comparison with your last stint as Mumbai coach?

What I was 11 years back and today definitely there is a difference. In fact, there are some players who were in the academy 10 years back, (Under-) 14 and 16. Shreyas Iyer was there in (Under) 14, Surya Yadav was there in (Under) 19. Fortunately that was an advantage for me because they knew me from those years. They were practising in the academy. That helped me a lot.

And of course I started looking at it in a different way because people say you have to change with the times. Naturally, I had to keep them tight also but at the same time, I also had to make them free. When I started the season, Milind Rege told them that Chandu is a very hard taskmaster, a strict disciplinarian. You may not like that but if you follow that, you may be able to get what you want. That is also a message that has been passed on.

Being a Mumbaikar, I have always been around domestic cricket or club cricket in Mumbai, they all knew me. People who have played under me or when I was a coach, they had already passed on the message that this is what he is. They picked up very nicely, that one thing I must acknowledge and appreciate. They responded very well. That was another advantage that they were all of the same age, and there was nothing they could do about it. So they just followed the directions that I gave them.

Did you get a feeling that given your reputation, the players were afraid of you?

Definitely there was something in their mind because it was spoken about a lot – once he has come back, you will see that he is so strict and so much hard on you as far as cricket is concerned – and that could probably initially have put them under a little bit of pressure. As we started staying together, touring and spending time, I think they understood my nature.

When you joined the team in July, was it a disjointed unit?

It was just hard. I didn’t know about what happened previously because I was not part of that, I was in Kerala. Of course, people were talking about it – that now you can see the change, what was happening in the team it will not be allowed to happen. They were happy for that. The others thought no, maybe he is too harsh. Those kinds of thoughts were there. It was an advantage for me because I never compromised on that. My intention, motivation was the same.

There were two things I told them when I took over – that we will be working on the process and not focussing on the result. You win, you lose, it doesn’t matter because I know this is a young bunch. There was no point in putting pressure on them saying we have got to win. But as they started playing then, I started reminding them that yes, what Mumbai used to do, you can also do. They were quite happy.

Of course, if there are certain things they want to change, they are a little afraid to come to me because they know that I am not going to listen to that. Of course, that is only the face that I have shown them. Of course, if there is anything they want to change, I do consider that. Certain things they want to change during the matches, but the process we continue, that was the best part of it.

  Ever since you have taken up the dual role – Ranji coach and indoor academy director – there have been murmurs that you have not been doing justice to both roles. How would you respond to it?

It is the association that decided to give me the two jobs, it wasn’t me who asked for it. I am ready to do two or even three jobs as long as I am doing my work. Academy, of course, I have done that job earlier as well and now when I am getting this opportunity, I have accepted.

Now everybody is happy because they know what is happening. Today if you see, U-19 they reached the final and U-16 they reached the final. Unfortunately both teams did not win. U-23 is now starting the final and Ranji trophy we have won. Women’s cricket we have done well, they were champions. U-14 is runners-up, so I would say the academy has done well. All these boys were in the academy from July.

How important is it for a coach to not be a remote control?

There are certain lines… Of course, I fully agree with what you say. Sometimes you have to understand that the coach is always under pressure, because ultimately result matters. The first gun is always (fired) at the coach. That’s unfortunate because ultimately the coach is sitting outside and doesn’t really have any control over there. That’s where we take one step ahead and say, “Right, guys, we will have to do this”. Of course we need to realise they need to be given their space for certain things, certain ideas.

Sometimes (skipper) Aditya (Tare) conveys me a message, saying he feels that this is what we should do in a certain situation. I say go ahead most of the times. Of course sometimes I do have that habit of telling this has to be done. But of course it is only when you look at the situation. It is only to ensure you don’t lose grip on that situation. It’s a little easier to see it from outside than on the field.

And you also have to give him (captain) an opportunity to experiment because they are playing at this level. I can understand if a coach is doing it at the Under-14 or the Under-16 level because result matters and you get into that zone. But these boys, they are all playing cricket with top players and they think about the game. So I always allow them to come up with ideas. For instance, there have been times when Aditya has told me he would like to give three more overs to a certain bowler. I say go ahead, but after three overs, it’s my choice. This is the understanding that we will have to maintain.