The venue was the same from where he walked out teary-eyed after losing the Ranji Trophy finals as a captain in 1998-99 season in April 1999, defeated by Karnataka by a margin of 96 runs.
Ever since the team’s inception in 1950s, it was their best chance to win the trophy. Months of hard work were in vain as Pandit walked out of the venue without the silverware in his hands.
Though he guided Mumbai and Vidarbha to titles as a coach, he had failed in his attempt to win the title for MP as a player and he had to live with that.
But it was in the 2020-21 season, that he got a chance to become the coach of Madhya Pradesh and finally win the title for the side as a coach. But the tournament could not take place because of Covid-19.
The current generation of Madhya Pradesh cricketers kept making their head coach proud with their brand of cricket, notably players like Rajat Patidar, Yash Dubey, Shubham Sharma, Kumar Kartikeya and Gaurav Yadav. Batters accumulated runs, bowlers consistently took wickets and it helped the team’s cause of winning their maiden title, with Patidar getting the honour of hitting the winning runs against 41-time champions Mumbai.
A teary-eyed Pandit, proud of his boys, could not help but run to the field. When his boys lifted him on his shoulders, they also lifted away that burden that he could have had to live with forever, of not winning MP their maiden Ranji title. The life had come full circle for Pandit, as the stadium he left in tears years back was now the venue where the next generation of Madhya Pradesh cricket had won for Pandit the title that he could have won years back as a player for the same side.
At the post-match, Pandit termed the win as emotional, saying, “It is a great memory that I had left 23 years back (he lost the Ranji Trophy final as MP captain in 1998-99) and it is a blessing that I come back here, and winning this trophy was fabulous. It is emotional because I missed out as captain on the same ground.”
Highlighting his challenge-loving nature and his lengthy association with MP, he added, “There is no particular reason but I look for a challenging job where the teams are not doing well, there also should be youngsters and to develop that particular state. I used to play for MP and played for them for six years, I knew the culture and when the offer came to me in March, I did not hesitate. There were a couple of offers but I chose MP because I had left something 23 years back and God willingly brought me back to the same state. Sometimes the talent is there but you need to develop the culture and whatever the game demands I try to inculcate them.”
Pandit lauded captain Aditya Shrivastava saying, “Aditya has been an outstanding captain, the plans and strategies we discuss, he was not afraid to implement them on the field. The captain makes the team win 50 per cent of the time and he did a fantastic job even though he wasn’t getting runs. I owe this trophy to Madhya Pradesh. I would like to thank all the well wishers, the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association and Madhavrao Scindia.”
Coming to the match, Mumbai started day five at 113/2. With efforts from Suved Parkar (51), Sarfaraz Khan (45) and Prithvi Shaw, they reached 269/10, giving MP a target of 108 to win.
MP did lose some wickets in their pursuit of 108, but won the game by six wickets with Patidar (30*) and skipper Shrivastava (1*) taking the team home.
Earlier batting first, Mumbai put up 374/10 on the board. Sarfaraz Khan (134), Yashasvi Jaiswal (78) and Prithvi Shaw (47) played crucial knocks for Mumbai. Pacer Gaurav Yadav was the star for MP with the ball, taking 4/106 while his pace partner Anubhav Agarwal took 3/81.
In the second innings of the match, Madhya Pradesh were absolutely dominant with the bat, putting on a massive 536/10 on the board and gaining a 162-run lead. Yash Dubey (133), Shubham Sharma (116) and Rajat Patidar (122) were the key stars for MP with their centuries.
Shams Mulani was the key bowler for Mumbai, taking 5/173 while medium-pacer Tushar Deshpande took 3/116.