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MP clinch maiden Ranji Trophy title | Is there any Bollywood director for a biopic on Chandrakant Pandit?

It is a storyline which is perfectly made for a biopic on him as the former India wicketkeeper fulfilled his dream of lifting Ranji Trophy for Madhya Pradesh, this time as a coach.

June 26, 2022 / 07:48 PM IST
Chandrakant Pandit. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Chandrakant Pandit. (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In cricket, rarely does it happen that a coach hogs the limelight on the greatest conquest of a team. Essentially and rightly so, it is always about the players and their contributions whenever a team becomes champion. However, only on exceptional days like today, June 25, 2022, when Madhya Pradesh won the Ranji Trophy title for the first time after defeating 41-time champions Mumbai, the players were overshadowed by the coach. This is unusual and odd and yet no one will ever hold it against Chandrakant Pandit because the unassuming and always-invisible coach is the last man to take credit for his team's win. If you don’t believe then check the archives and past stories of the five Ranji wins (three with Mumbai and two with Vidarbha) under Pandit’s coaching where he can hardly be seen in pictures or on TV.

However, it was a very different and extremely emotional day for Pandit who just couldn’t hold back his tears. As a player, Pandit had made his debut in the 1979-80 season and in over four decades, his image has been that of a hard taskmaster who believes in karma and mehnat. It was his misfortune that despite doing his best as captain of the Madhya Pradesh Ranji team way back in 1998-99, his team still faltered at the most critical hour of the final against Karnataka at the same M Chinnaswamy stadium. It is a storyline which is perfectly made for a biopic on him as the former India wicketkeeper fulfilled his dream of lifting Ranji Trophy for Madhya Pradesh, this time as a coach. And, that was the reason for his tears. After all, even the martinets are also human.

Over the last 23 years, Pandit moved from team to team around India. While he helped Mumbai in winning Ranji Trophy thrice (2002-03 and 03-04 seasons, and then again after a gap of a decade in 2015-16) during his tenure, he transformed the cricket culture of Assam. However, it wasn’t until Vidarbha’s back-to-back wins (2017-18 and 18-19 season) that Pandit finally started getting the recognition he deserved. Vidarbha was considered an unfancied team in domestic cricket and for them often making it to the elite group was itself considered a big achievement. And yet, Pandit wasn’t being flooded with job offers either from the BCCI to coach the India A team or be part of the senior national team despite his illustrious CV as a coach who had nothing to prove.  The IPL (Indian Premier League) teams of course couldn’t give him a contract because Pandit is from the old school, who believes in discipline and hard work as non-negotiable terms and conditions whenever he takes an assignment. This philosophy is something not many modern cricketers are comfortable with when they reach the highest level of international cricket. And Pandit too wasn’t bothered about missing out on a few million dollars by working for just a few weeks a year with a battery of assistant coaches and team analytics. He has his own way of doing things and more often than not he has got the desired results for his teams in domestic cricket.

When MP captain Aditya Shrivastava lifted the trophy and was asked about his leadership and tactical moves, he didn’t mince words. Shrivastava publicly and profusely praised the 60-year-old coach saying that he had never led a cricket team at such a level and whatever he executed, it was largely due to the background work done by Pandit and his support staff. Vidarbha’s only Ranji-winning captain Faiz Fazal in the past had echoed similar sentiments after winning the title twice. In many ways, Pandit to his Ranji team is a bit like what John Wright and Gary Kirsten used to be for the Indian cricket teams in the last two decades.

Transforming a team like MP in less than six months is indeed an arduous task. Narendra Hirwani, Rajesh Chouhan and maybe Naman Ojha are among some of the names which can be recalled instantly when you speak of Madhya Pradesh and cricket in the same sentence. There is no modern hero to look up to for the young generation. However, the likes of Rajat Patidar, Yash Dubey and Shubham Sharma (among the top five run-getters in this season) have ensured that their collective efforts can inspire the new generation to dream big. Especially, Patidar who has a terrific IPL for Royal Challengers Bangalore during the middle of the Ranji season and can be in the reckoning for national duty in the coming months. The likes of Himanshu Mantri and Akshat Raghuwanshi too contributed significantly throughout the season with the bat. Captain Shrivastava may not have scored as many runs as he would have liked but his leadership compensated more than enough for his team. The fact that the likes of Kumar Kartikeya Singh and Gaurav Yadav were among the top four bowlers of the Ranji season tells a tale. Apart from that, the duo of Anubhav Agarwal and Saransh Jain were among the outstanding performers for the triumphant team. The presence of many MP players in batting and bowling charts underlines the fact that collectively this group was far more superior than other heavyweights of domestic cricket in 2022.  While senior bowler Ishwar Pandey could play just three matches this season, the young pacer Kuldeep Sen was sensational during the IPL 2022 for Rajasthan Royals. Sen played just two matches this season like Hirwani’s son Mihir but it goes on to show that there is no dearth of talent in this MP team and the only thing they need is someone like Pandit who can make the most out of the natural talents available in many small towns of Madhya Pradesh.

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During the post-match interview with the host broadcaster Star Sports, conducted by his former team-mate and coach WV Raman, Pandit was not only articulate and composed but again uncharacteristically emotive. The former Tamil Nadu batsman reminded Pandit that there was former Karnataka batsman Vijay Bhardwaj in the commentary box as well, who must have reminded Pandit of the Ranji Trophy final he lost as Madhya Pradesh captain 23 years back on the same ground to Karnataka. Pat came the reply that he just avoided seeing his face. Pandit desperately wanted to disconnect himself from anything related to the lost glory in 1999. Pandit became philosophical and emotional when he said that in life many a time a father’s dream is fulfilled by his son and for him Shrivastava did the same for him as MP captain! Is there any Bollywood director for a biopic on Pandit?
Vimal Kumar has covered multiple cricket world cups and the Rio Olympics, in the last two decades. Vimal is also the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century- a best seller. You can find out more about the former Sports Editor of the News18 India channel on vimalwa.com
first published: Jun 26, 2022 07:25 pm
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