They call him the 'Alex Ferguson of Ranji Trophy'! Chandrakant Pandit, a celebrated coach on the Indian domestic circuit, has won six Ranji Trophy titles with three different teams - Mumbai, Vidarbha and Madhya Pradesh.
The 60-year-old has now been appointed as the head coach of Kolkata Knight Riders after Brendon McCullum left his job to join the England Test team and Pandit believes this move will inspire other Indian domestic coaches.
"That is the indication one can get. KKR has taken a step to recruit domestic Indian coaches and it has been appreciated by everyone. More Indian coaches will look forward to such opportunities and will be motivated to work harder because they have seen the opportunity and recognition given to me," he told the Times of India.
The former India wicketkeeper-batter recently guided Madhya Pradesh to their maiden Ranji Trophy title. He has a reputation of being a no-nonsense, strict disciplinarian but the doyen of domestic coaches has never been too rigid about his methods.
"I don’t know what people are talking about me, but I’ll give you an example. If my son was 10 years old and suppose I was behaving with him in a certain way until he was 14, am I going to behave with him the same way after the age of 30 when he gets married?
"Rather than me saying I will be flexible, everybody must understand that the approach will definitely be different because the player who has played at the highest level, I have to be different with them understanding the psyche of the individual player."
Pandit has worked with the likes of Shreyas Iyer (KKR skipper) and Abhishek Nayar (KKR assistant coach) at Mumbai and he feels that will work in his favour. "It’s obviously a great advantage. The rapport that we had for so many years, we know each other so well.
"As a player and as a coach, we understand each other quite well. It’s not only Shreyas Iyer, but also Abhishek and the support staff that I have. There’s Omkar Salvi (KKR academy bowling coach) and Bharat Arun (KKR bowling coach). We all know each other quite well.
"It’s the greatest advantage to understand the entire culture of the team and players. As for Shreyas, he’s been one of the most outstanding players that I know. The way he started his cricket and how he is leading KKR with his fearless approach and attitude is a sign of a player who really wants to do well. We have a great combination and understanding."
Pandit also spoke about Shreyas Iyer's weakness against the short ball. "Obviously, certain suggestions will be given (to him) and what suits him is more important. Shreyas is an experienced player and we can probably communicate with each other and find out the solutions. There may not just be one (solution), so it’s about what suits him the best."
Kolkata won the IPL in 2012 and 2014 but have been very inconsistent since then. They lost to Chennai Super Kings in the 2021 final and then finished seventh in the last edition. "I always believe in the process. Every coach wants to win the title and it’s not only me. I’m also thinking of the same pattern.
"The process is going to be more important for us as a team. I have done my study and know how to approach those areas of improvement. We will definitely be working on that."
Pandit will continue to coach Madhya Pradesh in the upcoming domestic season. "It's been accepted by my franchise. So, I don't think any problem will arise due to that.
"More than the workload, it's going to help me in a different way as I'm going to coach even the domestic players too, which probably can help us get players into KKR as well. Obviously, I don't have to go anywhere else, I can keep watching domestic cricket. So, maybe we can find players for KKR there."