Chandrakant Pandit, the former India player and one of the most successful coaches in Indian domestic cricket, has decided to move from Vidarbha to Madhya Pradesh for the 2020-21 season. Pandit had coached Vidarbha to back-to-back triumphs in the Ranji Trophy and Irani Trophy in 2017-18 and 2018-19, having earlier achieved Ranji Trophy success with Mumbai too.
Pandit, who has also been in charge of Maharashtra and Kerala in the past, said he would always have fond memories of his time with Vidarbha and the support he received from the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA), but it was time for him to embrace a new challenge.
“I have coached Vidarbha for three years. Normally I always do my coaching stints for two years or three years. The idea is to always move forward. It’s good to take a new challenge,” Pandit told ESPNcricinfo. “There is no doubt I was very happy with Vidarbha – the way the team has played, the way I got support from the association. From Prashant Vaidya (VCA vice-president and chairman of the cricket development committee) and Anand Jaiswal (VCA president). So it is not anything else, but just to move forward and take a new challenge. I was very happy with Vidarbha. I respect the support I received, and that will always be part of my life.
“I had played for MP for six years in the past. So when they contacted, I accepted. Because I was not going to continue with Vidarbha. It was purely my call, nothing untoward (had happened).”
This year, MP were coached by Abbas Ali – the grandson of Mushtaq Ali – with Devendra Bundela being the batting coach and Harvinder Singh Sodhi, who has been the coach of the team previously, doubling up as bowling coach and manager.
An official with the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association said that it was too early to take a call on whether any of last season’s coaches would continue to be with the team, but confirmed that Pandit had been given a letter of intent to be the MP coach from next season. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India, Pandit has not been able to sign the contract formally yet.
“We’ll have to wait till things improve definitely,” Pandit acknowledged. “Ultimately it’s for the good of everyone (staying indoors for now). We have to take care of that. I’ll definitely be contacting players and drawing up plans. It’s like people who are working from home, I’ll have to do that for now till things get better. I’ll have to start planning for the MP team. Though I may not be able to get in touch with the players personally, but definitely, communication with the association, the secretary is there. I can put forward my plans so they can be ready with that. I’ve been talking to them and they have already told me that let things get better and then we’ll start. At the same time I’ll be trying to figure out what are the things I can do.”
Pandit’s departure from Vidarbha comes on the heels of Wasim Jaffer also announcing his retirement, leaving a bit of a void in terms of experience in the Vidarbha think-tank. Pandit, however, was confident that the processes put in place would hold the team in good stead.
“See whatever we have done in the last three years, we have developed a good, young team,” he said. “There was very healthy competition created. So I hope they maintain that and continue it. I’m sure the young boys coming through – the Under-23 side has won the CK Nayudu Trophy – they will be able to take it forward with whoever takes charge.
Vidarbha had come into this Ranji Trophy season as double defending champions, but although they began well, they faltered midway through, and ended up finishing seventh on the combined Groups A and B table, where only the top five teams make it to the quarter-finals. A loss against Delhi in the middle of the season hurt them particularly. Vidarbha declared on 330 for 3, with the lead being 347, to set Delhi a steep chase. It was a declaration made with the intent of going for full points rather than playing safe and getting only first-innings lead points, but Delhi had an inspired fourth-innings chase led by Nitish Rana’s 105* off 68 balls and they hunted down the target.