Having won the Ranji Trophy as a coach six times, the former stumper, known for his no-nonsense, tough-as-nails approach, faces an altogether new challenge.
Having just taken over the reigns of the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchise, the ‘Alex Ferguson of Ranji Trophy,’ as Dinesh Karthik put it, is ready for clearly what is the biggest challenge of his coaching career so far.
The new KKR coach gave an exclusive interview to TOI.
🚨 We have a new HEAD COACH!Welcome to the Knight Riders Family, Chandrakant Pandit 💜👏🏻 https://t.co/Eofkz1zk6a
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) 1660736148000
What was your first reaction when you got the new role? Did you see it as a reward after all these years coaching in domestic cricket?
I was obviously happy. I wouldn’t say it’s a reward for what I have achieved in domestic cricket. Whenever the opportunity comes to you, you always like it. I was very happy because it came from KKR, one of the leading IPL franchises. Having known so many players in KKR, it made me very happy and excited to work with them. It’s a very happy moment for any coach to work with a big franchise like KKR. Knowing the culture of the team, the feedback I’m getting, the support staff I’m getting, I’m very excited with all of it.
Have you had any interactions with Brendon McCullum, who was the head coach of KKR for the past three years to get some feedback on the side?
No, I haven’t done that yet, but of course, I would like to get feedback from everyone. He’s a coach who worked so hard in building the team and naturally I’d love to get the feedback from him. Even the (KKR) support staff has been outstanding. Getting feedback from everyone is only going to help us moving forward.
Do you feel Indian coaches are beginning to impress IPL franchises? You’re the third Indian head coach in the IPL after Ashish Nehra and Sanjay Bangar?
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.
A former India wicketkeeper-batsman himself, Chandrakant Pandit recently coached Madhya Pradesh to their first Ranj… https://t.co/2yBGaIX1gQ
— KolkataKnightRiders (@KKRiders) 1660737836000
You have been known as a strict disciplinarian in domestic cricket. Will you continue with it or alter it when working with overseas players like Sunil Narine and Andre Russell?
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.
In a few months, there’ll be an IPL auction. Although a mini auction, it’ll be your first. Have you started planning for the auction?
Yes, I’m already on it.
You have worked with Shreyas Iyer and Abhishek Nayar (KKR assistant coach) at Mumbai. How helpful will that experience be?
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.
Many congratulations to Chandrakant Pandit on his appointment as Coach, KKR. Maybe the first time ever that a succe… https://t.co/rwhS2Ahtku
— Syed Saba Karim (@SyedSabaKarim5) 1660738541000
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.
There’s a perception that Shreyas has developed a weakness against the short ball. Is that something you are looking to sort out in the nets with him?
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.
How confident are you on bringing home another title with KKR next season. KKR last won an IPL Trophy in 2014. Have you identified areas to work on?
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.
I believe that you will continue to coach Madhya Pradesh as well. So, you’ll be busy throughout the year. How will you handle the work pressure?
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.
Chandrakant Pandit at KKR is a very interesting move. In the future I think we will have more Indian coaches . The… https://t.co/2xBiHyGUkd
— Vikram Sathaye (@vikramsathaye) 1660798853000
Yesterday, Ajinkya Rahane, who plays for KKR, was given an opportunity to resuscitate his career when he was named as the captain of the West Zone team for the upcoming Dulpe Trophy. Your thoughts..
It’s good that he isn’t being neglected. I’m quite happy about it. It’s good that he’s been given an opportunity in domestic cricket. By making him the captain, they’ve shown faith in him. This will give him plenty of confidence going forward.
There’s nothing wrong in a cricketer going back to domestic cricket to find his form. Obviously, Ajinkya is an experienced player, and it’s just a matter of finding a little momentum for him. I definitely feel he’ll bounce back and earn a recall into the Indian team.
You’ve worked with Venkatesh Iyer in the Madhya Pradesh team and now he is here too. How do you plan to bring the best out of him?
We’ve to make sure to get the best out of every Individual, not only one particular player. But of course there are players who’ll be playing very key roles. He knows me well and he has been spending time with me in MP so we’ve regular communication with each other. So, we’ll definitely try and sort out how to get the best out of him.
KKR have the current Australian captain Pat Cummins in their ranks. How do you deal with somebody like him?
It’s always exciting to work with top-class players. And of course, having so much experience, it won’t be only me who’ll be giving advice. Obviously, we’ll be communicating with each other. A lot of inputs will come from these experienced players, which should work well for the KKR and our team. So, it’s more important than me handling anyone or people probably understand how I’m going to deal with it. But I think it’s just a simple way I’m going to put it: Regular communication, understanding each other and trying to get a lot of solutions will work for our team better.
Have you met Shah Rukh yet?
I’m yet to meet all the owners. Mr Jay Mehta, Juhiji and SRK- I’m looking forward to meeting them soon.