A couple of years ago, when Chandrakant Pandit was appointed the coach of Madhya Pradesh, the appointment process was questioned by the MPCA Cricket Committee. The Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association office-bearers, however, had refuted the Cricket Committee’s claims, saying the committee was consulted before the appointment.
Things eventually eased out and Pandit took charge of the team when the COVID-hit curtailed domestic season began in January, last year. And ever since taking over as the head coach of the team, Pandit ensured that Madhya Pradesh thrives. And on Sunday, the seasoned coach scripted history by guiding the team to its first-ever Ranji Trophy title, defeating Mumbai.
As the team basks in the glory, Sanjay Jagdale, the former MPCA president and erstwhile secretary of the BCCI, remembers the time when he told the current office-bearers to rope in Pandit as head coach. “In 2020, I heard that Chandu was looking out and that’s when I told MPCA secretary (Sanjeev Rao) we should try and bring him on board. Yes, once he was appointed the coach, there was opposition from a few quarters, but most of it was personal. The well-wishers of MP cricket always backed the decision,” Jagdale told Sportstar on Sunday.
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“Those who opposed the move had different agendas. It never bothered Chandu or the well-wishers of Madhya Pradesh cricket. Chandu never responded to those things and now, his achievements speak for themselves. Nobody can challenge his ability as a coach.”
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Jagdale, a former cricketer, has been the guiding force of MPCA and having seen Pandit since his playing days, he admits the seasoned coach knows how to inspire the players and get the best out of them. “Chandu brings a lot of good things to any association he goes to and his track record will suggest that. Chandu has been associated with the MPCA in various capacities in the past. When he was the captain, I was the coach of the team, then when I became the BCCI secretary, we engaged him as the junior selection committee chairman and (he) did a fantastic job. His commitment, sincerity, and self belief impacts anybody who is around him,” Jagdale said.
“It is bound to help the young cricketers as they get to learn a lot from him naturally. He is one guy who knows how to get the best out of a young or a senior cricketer and how to motivate them. He eats, lives and sleeps cricket.”
In 1999, Madhya Pradesh had reached the final of the Ranji Trophy under the captaincy of Pandit, but crumbled against Karnataka by 96 runs in the final at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium as Vijay Bharadwaj registered a six-wicket haul in the second innings. So, when MP broke the title jix at the same venue, it was redemption for Pandit.
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Jagdale stressed on the fact that one of the major reasons behind appointing Pandit was to improve the cricketing culture in Madhya Pradesh. “Winning Ranji Trophy was one of the targets, but we wanted to improve our cricket culture, which was going down over the last few years. There were a lot of issues during selections and a lot of other non-cricketing issues were affecting the team. We knew Chandu’s integrity, commitment and honesty, so we wanted him to come and improve our cricketing culture,” Jagdale said.
“He has done that in the senior level and we would like him to focus on the junior level in the next few years - that is one area where we need a lot of improvement,” the veteran administrator said, indicating that MPCA should give a longer rope to Pandit. “We need a lot of improvements at the district level, so we want to improve that and Chandu is one person who can do that.”
The team will reach Indore from Bengaluru on Monday evening and the association plans to hold a gala felicitation ceremony soon.