40 times Ranji Trophy champions, Mumbai have embarked on the 2015-16 season under the able guidance of coach Chandrakant Pandit. The former India cricketer is at the helm of building the young team, who are looking to make their mark in the ongoing season.
Pandit has been working relentlessly with the Aditya Tare-led lot since being appointed the coach. Besides rigorous training sessions, players have been assigned roles and responsibilities on the field and off it, which the coach elaborated upon while talking to bcci.tv.
Will you take confidence from the way the team played last year to reach the semi-finals despite the unavailability of regulars, injuries to players, debutants etc?
Of course! We should give credit to the entire unit. Last season too, the beginning was not as expected. It was similar to this year (a poor start), but I think they came back well in the tournament. Playing the semi-final is not an easy task. I especially would appreciate the young players who did not have much of experience playing in the Ranji Trophy for more than a couple of years and still they managed to do that. The injuries part I am not aware about so much but still I think (they did well) to reach the semi-finals. That definitely is a positive way of going forward.
What are the challenges you see while looking to build a young team?
There is always a challenge when you take up any kind of assignment and especially with Mumbai, because people have so much expectations from the Mumbai team. Looking at the history it’s bound to happen that people are going to expect the same thing (the achievements). I would definitely say that looking at the young team which is in a building process, it is going to take little time. Mumbai has a lot of talent. Since seniors have retired and there are young players who are trying to build a reputation for themselves in the domestic cricket, it would have helped them to have some experienced players around. There are a lot of young players so it will take little time (to build the team). There are some players who have been playing for a couple of years and they will definitely take it forward.
Would you look at Abhishek Nayar and Dhawal Kulkarni who are relatively more experienced than the others to guide them?
Yes, of course we have always been saying that Abhishek is always been our guiding force. That is what we call him. On the field and off it he is taking a lot of initiative to take the team together. I think it made a lot of difference when he started taking initiative, the gelling of the team is fantastic. Dhawal is back into the squad and he is taking responsibility to guide the fast bowlers. That’s how the combination goes. (Aditya) Tare is also taking a lot of initiative to take care of the squad. I would say that more than anything else we are happy as a unit. We spend a lot of time together and everyone is keen to understand what their responsibility is.
Does the pace attack look much stronger with Kulkarni back and Shardul Thakur being the joint highest wicket-taker last season?
Of course, that has strengthened to the attack. Shardul has been bowling well since last year. Dhawal is an international cricketer and he has come back which is another push for us.
Mumbai's hasn't had a settled opening combination in some time. How do you work on that? Will it be a flexible line-up?
Looking at the young squad, we have a couple of good youngsters. We have to wait and see because not everyone can play in one game. We have to see how they fit in the team and as per the need of the team and the match situations.
What do you look for in a player?
It’s the passion, the attitude and the discipline what we look for and I think that the boys understand very well. They have been following the process. We always been keeping in mind that we are working on a process rather than the result. The reason being we need to know what is the process to achieve the result. Result is definitely mandatory but we should not take on pressure by saying that we want to win all the time. Everyone must understand that it is a young lot and they need little time to build their reputation in front of people.
How do you impart and impress on the batsmen the importance of putting a price on the wicket?
That has been our Mumbai culture and history that Mumbai batsmen never give away their wickets (cheaply). It is considered a crime (if you throw your wicket away). That is what has been told to us by the past cricketers and that’s the same thing I pass on to them. They realise that. For some reason if we are going to lose the match or they are going to miss out on their hundreds that will not help them in the future.
Do you look to assign roles to the players?
Yes, we have been working on that already. We have talked about what is their role and what is expected by the team. In particular situations, I as the coach will pass on messages from time to time and they have to be flexible with that and they understand very well.
For the team to gel also we have made committees where players can take initiative. There is a fielding committee, a ground committee, meeting committee, even for things like travel, we have a travelling committee, and meetings organising committee. We even have a committee for organizing team dinner, so there is lot of responsibility. We have kept them busy and they have been enjoying a lot. They understand what is the importance of sharing that responsibility.