Why Chandrakant Pandit won’t be a hit with international teams

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Whenever Chandrakant Pandit coaches a state team to the Ranji Trophy title – he has now claimed four triumphs after appearing in five finals in the last six editions – there is the predictable lament in some quarters as to why it does not already train India or India ‘A’. It seems a perfectly reasonable question to ask – why does someone who has led even mid-level teams such as Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh to maiden trophies not manage the cream of Indian cricketing talent?

A few years ago, the man himself provided more than a hint of an answer. After Ranji’s Vidarbha victory in 2017-18 – in which he removed players’ mobile phones for the semi-final to avoid distractions – Pandit was asked if coaching the national team was the next step for him. him. “If given a chance, yes, why not, always welcome. But somehow I have a doubt because this method will not work,” Pandit had told Firstpost.

Pandit’s famous disciplinary style seeks full commitment to its ways not just from the players, but even from the state cricket association that brought it in. Selectors, captains, other support staff, they are all essentially secondary to how the head coach seeks to chart his team’s path. path to the cup. No deviation from the chosen route or disagreement with the enacted approach is tolerated. “A player knows that if he doesn’t act according to plan, he will have to face the wrath of sir,” Senior MP Ishwar Pandey told this newspaper ahead of their Ranji final against Mumbai.

Fear plays a part in Pandit’s style. Once, while coaching Vidarbha, captain Faiz Fazal had moments when the players complained about Pandit’s style. A player, who was slapped by Pandit during the Ranji Trophy championship match, continued to kiss him after the day’s match after experiencing success. “The players complained but later they all realized he was doing this for us. The team is kept above individual performance,” former player Prashant Vaidya once told this newspaper, then Vice President of Vidarbha Cricket Association.

The biggest star of this MP team, stripped down to a few bigger stars, was Rajat Patidar. Almost everything he did on the pitch at Chinnaswamy Stadium was cheered on by the few hundred Royal Challengers Bangalore devotees. In the first inning of the MP, Patidar hit fifty 44 balls before being caught by a no-ball. He walked slowly towards the dressing room, dreading the inevitable belittlement of a furious Pandit. When the no-ball was called, a relieved Patidar rushed down the middle and failed to score a single run for the next 26 deliveries.

Fear may have worked with MP, but can we imagine her working with the Indian team, or even India ‘A’? Pandit relies on sending replacement messages on a regular basis – what to play, what pitch to place, what shot to avoid. There’s no denying that his method works when there’s full national membership, but can you send a message telling Virat Kohli to stop playing cover reader? Or ask Rishabh Pant to prevent the daredevil from rushing onto the field? Or insist that skipper Rohit Sharma only implement the coach’s strategy?

By 2017, the Mumbai Ranji team had actually come to a breaking point. The Mumbai Cricket Association stepped in to terminate his contract at the end of the season. “MCA management has taken note of various instances where Pandit’s behavior has been an issue with the players. MCA felt that we should opt for a new coach for the upcoming season,” an MCA official told this log.

Even without approaching this extreme, Indian cricket teams had bitter fallout with determined coaches who sought to advance what turned out to be unpopular ideas or methods. And don’t forget that Greg Chappell and Anil Kumble had considerably more stature in the cricketing world than Pandit.

In a sense, Pandit’s method is more that of a football manager than that of a cricket coach. It works best with a set of players who perform best under instruction, according to former MP captain Devendra Bundela. It is telling that Pandit felt that the captain of MP Aditya Shrivastava was a good captain because he listened and implemented everything the coach told him, despite having ‘his own ideas’.

Dinesh Karthik called him the Alex Ferguson of the Ranji Trophy, and according to Abhishek Nayar he is the best first-class coach in the country. And you can’t really argue with the end results – Ranji’s six titles as a coach.

Another famous coach, Ray Jennings, once said that some players “needed a kick in the back”. The South African would punish wayward bowlers or errant outfielders by making them do laps. He felt that confronting players harshly and forcefully would make them better, but not all types of players can handle that style. Jennings won the Under-19 World Cup for South Africa in 2014, but as one former South African player remarked, his ‘my way or the highway’ approach was never going to help Jacques Kallis to make up for a batting fault.

A certain fascination with such coaches guiding national teams, of course, continues, in the belief that all a talented but temperamental group of players need is a ‘tough’ keeper to get them into a successful unit. This has led to disasters in the past and will continue to do so. It leaves little room for the uninhibited expressions of instinct and the roughness of personalities, both of which are essential components of genius. And genius is what you will often encounter at the highest level. Treating professional players like schoolboys will only work at lower levels, and that too in specific circumstances, when the whole ecosystem around the team has agreed to follow the leader, no questions asked.

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