Cricket punditry, the Pandit way!

“Every cricketer, after his retirement, says he wants to give back to the game and that’s what I have been doing. I want to continue as long as possible.”

Giving the right pointers: Chandrakant Pandit enjoys coaching up and coming teams like Vidarbha.   -  PRASHANT NAKWE

Chandrakant Pandit’s CV is getting impressive by the day; in recent days as a coach and mentor. After many years of playing first class cricket for Mumbai and Madhya Pradesh, Pandit has devoted time to

coaching. And for close to two decades hundreds of cricketers in Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala have benefited from his knowledge and experience.

Pandit was coached by Ramakant Achrekar, the legendary mentor of Sachin Tendulkar. He played with some of Mumbai’s giants and also learnt a lot from the greats of the game in Mumbai.

Recently he helped Vidarbha win the Ranji Trophy for the first time; another feather in his cap. In this interview, Pandit shares his thoughts on many aspects related to cricket coaching.

You were raised in a city with a rich cricket legacy. How did you find the environment in Vidarbha in the context of players’ skill levels, knowledge etc?

I would not like to compare a team which has a rich legacy and has produced a number of stalwarts with many other teams. I would say that a team like Vidarbha had the talent with the players having a very good level of skill. But they had not experienced tough situations and developed winning habits. They lacked self-belief. This year they surmounted all the hurdles and won the Ranji Trophy! They are gradually beginning to play smart cricket.

Vidarbha has been working on the development side through its academy in Nagpur and in the districts. It can have a good bench strength for the future. One should admire the way its under-19 team and players are coming up. Very soon the Vidarbha team will do well across all formats of the game.

How did you make a start in the new environment where the systems were far from situations that exist in Mumbai and other top teams?

I went through the history of Vidrbha’s players and their development over a period of time. This I got to know from the records and feedback from different sources. Some of them were very talented, but labelled as short-format players. I talked to them and gave them the confidence that they were capable of excelling in multi-day tournaments. I told them that they had the talent to beat any team in the country. I tried my best to inculcate a cricket culture by putting in place routines and systems and worked on the process. I did not want the players to come under pressure to get results.

Unbridled joy: Vidarbha team members rush into the ground after the victory in the Ranji Trophy final. Pandit has established a very good work routine for this team.   -  R. V. MOORTHY

 

What’s your view on coaching cricketers from Mumbai and the other teams you were involved with?

Considering Mumbai’s history and culture towards the game the players and the team had the confidence to perform and develop winning habits. They played for results. With other teams, I had to put in a lot of effort on all aspects of the game. Looking at it another way, I would say that it was easy to coach the other teams because they were willing to learn and develop their cricket. Hence it became easy for me to mould them.

Have one-day (50 overs) and Twenty20 hastened the overall development of cricketers across the country?

The short format has many advantages and disadvantages. The shorter version has seen players look at the game in a positive manner, play innovative shots and develop outstanding fielding skills. In this scheme of things, the variance is the lack of good technique and temperament to play a long innings.

What are the demands of a coach at first class level?

It’s a huge demand in the context of developing players and forming a good team. There are certain States that have a young bunch of talent looking forward to make the future team. There are certain States which have a combination of international and first class players, and here the coach has to get the best out of them. In both cases the coach has to be result-oriented.

Do you think that a Level-3 coaching certificate is a must?

I believe that one must have played many years of first class cricket to coach at that level because he would have experienced various situations and hence would be able to recall that practical knowledge he has gained. He must have good management skills to keep the team together all the time. He must have the technical knowledge to correct a player in even a small way and thereby improve the performance level. It is always better to have theoretical knowledge. It is beneficial for the coach to go through Level -3.

Veteran Wasim Jaffer has helped Pandit immensely in getting the message across to his Vidarbha team members.   -  R. V. MOORTHY

 

What do the players expect from a coach?

This depends on an individual. He determines it. A coach has to provide confidence and guidance to raise his/team standard, sort out technical flaws if needed and help the players handle tough situations with his temperament so that they can dish out quality cricket.

Obviously, you would have found out different ways to deal with cricketers of different regions?

It’s all about finding out the cricket culture of the State, a player’s family background and mindset and also his approach and attitude towards the game. And importantly, if the player is ambitious to play a higher level of cricket.

Can you recall your roles and experiences with Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala?

Every team was keen to develop its cricket across all levels and it was a different experience.

Maharashtra: It had 21 districts and much of the cricket activities were happening in Pune. And so, after I was hired by Maharashtra, important tournaments were played on a home and away basis to develop cricket in the districts. Mr. Ajay Shirke was very keen to get results and showed a lot of faith in my ability. I gave ideas and suggestions to develop the young team and he supported me. I was lucky to have a helping hand from Vasu Paranjape Sir. Maharashtra’s players had shades of Mumbai cricket at skill level, but they lacked the fighting spirit.

Madhya Pradesh: I could see the quality of the talented players trained under Sandeep Patil. MP had role models like Narendra Hirwani , Rajesh Chauhan and Amay Khurasia, all of whom had played for India. Players like Harvinder Singh Sodhi and Sunil Lahore also played under Sandeep (Patil).

Sanjay Jagdale had a vision and he was instrumental in developing cricket in the State. He was keen that the Mumbai-kind of playing cricket was sustained in MP after Patil’s tenure and hence he got me involved.

New players with little experience, but keen to do well, emerged like Naman Ojha, Devendra Bundela and J. P. Yadav.

The association gave me a free hand which made things easy for me. The late BCCI President Madhavrao Scindia encouraged me and requested me to play for another year after my retirement from first class cricket. This was after the MP team did not qualify for the knock-out stage.

Going places: Rajneesh Gurbani, the Vidarbha paceman, has come along nicely with 39 wickets in Ranji Trophy 2017-18. Pandit saw him only this season.   -  R. V. MOORTHY

 

Rajasthan: This State had a raw bunch of talent. Here cricket was played in 36 districts, but unfortunately the merit of the players was not recognised.

Kerala: It has 27 districts. And in spite of having an academy at district level, the development of the players was very slow. The KCA President Mathew and the association focused in creating infrastructure and other facilities.

Talking of Vidarbha, did the presence of Wasim Jaffer and Ganesh Satish make things easy for you and the team?

Yes. They did make a lot of difference because they have tasted wins and developed winning habits. They had loads of playing experience in first class games. They were good role models. The young players felt the change in the dressing room atmosphere with inputs coming from Wasim and Ganesh. They helped me to reach out to the young players. My strategy and planning were implemented with Wasim’s help in every possible situation and through captain Faiz Fazal.

How good is Rajneesh Gurbani? He has taken 39 wickets this season...

He has shown tremendous progress in his bowling skills. I must say though that I had not seen him before the start of the 2017-18 season. He has the ability to move the ball both ways. He does not have much experience, but he has shown a fierce determination to perform and the ambition to play at a higher level. He needs to develop physical strength in order to bowl with extra pace. He has the ability to bat well in the lower order and so he can be a good all-rounder prospect for the future.

What about the roles of the specialist support staff?

The coach has to work with them to get a consistency at skill level and performance. The bowling coach comes into play in a particular pitch condition, working on the bowlers’ skills taking into account the quality of the opposition. Subroto Banerjee was the bowling coach and the bowlers took 178 wickets during the Ranji Trophy campaign.

Trainer Amiykumar Mohanty and physio Niraj Karamchandani played their part to prevent injuries and in the recovery phase.

The presence of a video analyst helps to plan and work on strategies. Building a database and its study assists in the improvement or progress of the individuals and the team. All this was handled by Aniruddha Deshpande.

But what is also important for them (the support staff) is to work passionately rather than just do their duty. Otherwise it can hamper teamwork.

Do you believe in the yo-yo test?

I believe in a good fitness level of the player because the game demands so much from him. Fitness helps the team. I believe cricket-oriented fitness should be achieved by the players to cover all aspects of the game.

What next?

Every cricketer, after his retirement, says he wants to give back to the game and that’s what I have been doing. I want to continue as long as possible. I would be happy to serve Indian cricket in whichever way possible.

Probably, in the future, I would like to share my experience through a book or two; from playing days to coaching.

I would also like to guide up and coming coaches at any level.

Achievements

Pandit has won the Ranji Trophy as a player for Mumbai (1983-84, 1984-85) and as a coach for Mumbai (2002-03, 2003-04, 2015-16), Rajasthan (2011-12) and Vidarbha (2017-18).