There was unfinished business to do when Chandrakant Pandit joined Madhya Pradesh as the head coach. At the same venue, against the same opposition and for the same side that he is now coaching, Pandit had played the last game of his professional career. Even the occasion was the same – the Ranji Trophy final of 1998/99. Madhya Pradesh had lost the final, meaning their long wait for domestic glory would continue.

In the quest for that elusive trophy, MP appointed Chandrakant Pandit, the high priest of domestic cricket who boasts as many as five Ranji titles, including two on the bounce with Vidarbha. It didn’t take too long for Pandit to put a full stop to MP’s agonising wait. The final hurdle that he stumbled upon as a captain two decades ago has been surpassed by a team coached by him.

Read More: Sarfaraz Khan Continues His Dominance With Blistering Century In Ranji Final

Madhya Pradesh, under his tutelage, overhauled Mumbai’s target with ease and panache, thanks to centuries from Rajat Patidar, Yash Dubey, and Shubham Sharma. These three helped MP take a decisive first-innings lead before the bowlers stepped up in unison to restrict Mumbai to just 269 in the second dig. As soon as Rajat Patidar completed the winning run, the rest of the squad frolicked to the ground. Meanwhile, a teary-eyed Chandrakant Pandit walked to the pitch in an assuming motion.

In his own words, this title was a bit more special than the other five. 

“Every trophy gives you satisfaction. But this is a little special because 23 years ago, I had been a captain and could not do it (then),” said Pandit. 

“But I am very, very proud about Aditya that he has done it. I always felt that I had left something back to Madhya Pradesh and that was one of the reasons that I was a little more excited and emotional about it to get that trophy back to Madhya Pradesh,” said Pandit in the post-match press conference.”

Barring a victory with Mumbai, most of his Ranji titles with a team that hasn’t been a traditional powerhouse in any sense. Madhya Pradesh must not have been a name you would have thought of. But this has been a constant theme of Pandit’s coaching journey – transforming a bunch of underdogs into a title-winning side. Pandit is known for being a hard taskmaster in the domestic circuit, demanding full commitment and obeisance from the players. 

https://twitter.com/WasimJaffer14/status/1540988922037080065

During his stint with Vidarbha, Pandit had once slapped a player for failing to do his duties. While this is a questionable act, and such a disciplinarian approach often leads to disintegration among squad members, the players who have toiled under him have no qualms about it. The one who was slapped in the morning hugged Pandit at night. 

When Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal was asked about this, he said, “Players have complained but later they all have realised that he is doing this for us. He ensures that we don’t miss our direction. We don’t talk about individual performances. Team is kept above individual performance,”.

Players arriving late have to pay fines before joining the squad. There were fines for no balls and wide too. If a no-ball gets you a wicket, you’ll have to pay Rs 1000.

Pandit’s control over his players goes beyond the boundary. He appoints players to take ownership of the different needs of the team. At Vidarbha, the captain and physio had to ensure that players are not deviating from diet plans. Similarly, other committees were formed to look after fitness, entertainment, and travel plans.

During the semi-final clash against Karnataka this year, Chandrakant Pandit seized all the mobile phones of the players. While other sides reached the venue just a week ahead of the fixture, the Madhya Pradesh side arrived in Bengaluru a month before the quarter-finals were scheduled. They played practice matches against Jharkhand and Karnataka for better acclimatisation.

MP captain Aditya Shrivastava lauded Pandit’s method but also wanted his coach to smile a bit more. “The first thing we will ask him obviously is to laugh out loud because he is a person at work, literally at any given time in day or night, any of the boys is eager for information or has issues with the game, he is always ready to help them.”

“He’s a person who’s all the time at work, with full intensity. First of all, we will ask him to enjoy with the squad for today,” said Pandit.

While Pandit’s tenure at MP is not coming to an end anytime soon, the most pressing question has been about what his next assignment would be. Having already conquered the domestic terrain, there’s not much for Pandit to achieve here now. The next logical step is obviously the Indian setup. With the BCCI having bucked the trend of appointing foreign coaches for quite some time, there are not many who can better Pandit’s CV at the domestic level. Sooner or later, we’ll be seeing him at a much bigger stage.

Featured Image Credit: BCCI