Chandrakant Pandit, the former India wicketkeeper, has been appointed as head coach of Kolkata Knight Riders. He takes over from Brendon McCullum, who quit after a three-year stint to take charge of England's Test team.
Pandit, who played five Tests and 36 ODIs for India between 1986 and 1992, is a highly regarded coach on the Indian domestic circuit. He won the Ranji Trophy, India's premier first-class competition, with Mumbai in 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2015-16, but perhaps his biggest claim to fame is the success he has achieved with lower-profile teams: his triumph with an unfancied Madhya Pradesh team last season came after similar results with Vidarbha - he took them to their maiden Ranji title in 2017-18, and then helped them defend it 2018-19. Pandit was also director of cricket at Rajasthan when they defended their Ranji title - again, only their second ever - in 2011-12.
Pandit's signing with KKR is not expected to come in the way of his commitments with MP at least for the upcoming 2022-23 domestic season. An MPCA official confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he will continue to helm the team across formats.
This will be Pandit's maiden stint at an IPL franchise. He will be KKR's first Indian head coach, and will team up with his one-time Mumbai protege Abhishek Nayar (assistant coach) and Bharat Arun (bowling coach).
Pandit will also reunite with KKR captain Shreyas Iyer, whom he helped transition from the Under-19s to the senior Mumbai team. Iyer's breakthrough Ranji season in 2015-16, during which he topped the tournament aggregates with 1321 runs including a match-winning century in the final against Saurashtra, came under Pandit. At the time, a young Iyer had spoken warmly about the lessons he had learned in discipline and patience from a tactician like Pandit.
"We are very excited that Chandu is joining the Knight Riders family to lead us through the next phase of our journey," Knight Riders CEO Venky Mysore said in a statement. "His deep commitment to what he does and his track record of success in domestic cricket is there for everyone to see. We are looking forward to his partnership with our skipper Shreyas Iyer which promises to be an exciting one."
Outside of his work at various domestic teams, Pandit has also been associated with the National Cricket Academy and the India Under-19s in the past. At the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, he was head coach of an India team that included players such as KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Harshal Patel, Mandeep Singh and Jaydev Unadkat, among others.
During his time with MP, Pandit has worked closely with KKR allrounder Venkatesh Iyer. Following MP's Ranji win, he detailed to ESPNcricinfo in an interview how he had worked on getting Venkatesh to move up the order to open, to telling effect.
Pandit, known to have a taskmaster-like approach to coaching, has spoken in the past about how his methods may not necessarily work in an IPL set-up. In a recent chat with ESPNcricinfo, he had suggested that the paucity of time to work with players, the cut-throat nature of the tournament, and a result-oriented mindset, may not always work to his advantage.
"I have heard from players and others who have been associated with the Knight Riders about the family culture as well as the tradition of success that has been created," Pandit said in a statement. "I am excited about the quality of the support staff and the players who are part of the set-up, and I am looking forward to this opportunity with all humility and positive expectations."
KKR have won two IPL titles, in 2012 and 2014. Since then, the closest they came was when they reached the final in 2021, when they lost to Chennai Super Kings. This year, a slew of indifferent results in the first half of the season pushed them out of contention for the playoffs, and they eventually finished seventh on the ten-team table with six wins and eight losses.