Ranji Trophy: The Pandit of all pundits

Known for being strict, Vidarbha coach Chandrakant Pandit, agrees that he can also slap his players if that could lead to title wins.

Chandrakant Pandit with the Vidarbha players in Nagpur on Thursday.   -  Vivek Bendre

Coming from the Ramakant Achrekar school of coaching in Mumbai, Chandrakant Pandit stands for discipline. The former India wicketkeeper-batsman hung up his domestic boots in 2000-01 but as coach, there is no end to his glories.

After coaching Vidarbha to its second consecutive Ranji title at the VCA stadium on Thursday, the 57-year-old taskmaster threw light on the importance of ‘rules’ and how a process can lead to a winning mindset; if needed, through harsh measures.

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“Chandu Pandit is a strict man, I am saying this very emotionally. People may not like how he goes about his coaching but I believe, I just do my job. My way of working could be a little different from others. I can also slap Faiz Fazal (Vidarbha captain) if I want, but that will also have a reason.

“Don’t misunderstand me but it is a part of the process that takes you closer to your destination. When you have a mission at hand, you should try to complete that. My players listened to each and every line I said. I am proud of them. They never complained. It led to a good rapport between the players and the coach,” said Pandit, after Vidarbha’s 78-run win against Saurashtra in the final.

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Post the 2017-18 victory against Delhi, Pandit had to digest reactions that held Vidarbha in a poor light. He had to win it for the second time to prove that his side isn’t a one-off success story. “To maintain the reputation, we had a goal. I can’t elaborate much on the process as I feel certain things are better kept within a team. You call that process. Cricket has its own ethics. I built a routine around the strength of the team. It was based on the players’ capibilities. The unit has been following that.”

Pointing to the strict school environment in the Vidarbha camp, Pandit also had to hear that he is running a school cricket team. “When Australia takes the field with the same discipline, you talk about their attitude. When we take the field, we become a school team? The captain always told me, ‘sir, this discipline is essential," he added.

Pandit, the coach, has five Ranji titles — three with Mumbai [2002-03, 2003-04 and 2015-16] and two with Vidarbha [2017-18 and 2018-19].   -  Vivek Bendre

 

Choosing the players

Over the last two seasons, Vidarbha has produced champion cricketers such as Rajneesh Gurbani — who took a hat-trick in the last final — and Aditya Sarwate, the side’s highest wicket-taker [55 wickets].

Pandit revealed how he had to keep certain in-form players out to get the combination right.

“We made sure we had both youth and experience. We also had to take a call to drop even senior players, and the ones who had performed. Aditya Thakare got five wickets [against Mumbai] but he didn’t get many games. Akshay Karnewar [who scored a handsome 73 not out in the first innings of this final] did not play every game. There was healthy competition. Atharwa Taide scored 95 [against Mumbai] but we still had to keep him out. It [the decisions] helped us pass this journey,” he said.

READ: Aditya Sarwate bowls Vidarbha to title win

Before the start of the 2017-18 season, Pandit had sat down with VCA vice-president Prashant Vaidya to jot down the probables.

“We could judge three types of players. The one who is thinking of playing cricket, another who is happy to be in the team and the one who wants to play higher class of cricket. The study helped us build this side. We gradually started developing the team. It is important to have that winning mindset.

“I had to change that thought process. I kept stressing that we need to develop a winning mindset. ‘Soch’ [thought] is a short word, but it is difficult to inculcate that [among the players and support staff].”

As a player, Pandit has appeared in five finals — four for Mumbai [then Bombay] and one for Madhya Pradesh.

He was part of the Mumbai Ranji side that won in 1983-84 and 1984-85.

Pandit, the coach, has five Ranji titles — three with Mumbai [2002-03, 2003-04 and 2015-16] and two with Vidarbha [2017-18 and 2018-19].