This is rock bottom, but there is only way in which my career would progress, says Unmukt Chand
With unbridled talent and ability, Unmukt Chand should have been a star, but he is now without an IPL team. Here is his take on his career.
The date was August 26, 2012, the venue was the picturesque Townsville, Australia and the stage was set for the finale of the Under-19 World Cup.
India, which was ranked seven before the tournament started would face off against Australia, the number one ranked team, in their own backyard and on a pitch which had offered assistance to seam bowlers and where run scoring had been an ardent task.
The hosts enjoyed the good pace and bounce on the surface and a put up a challenging total of 225 in their first innings. While the target was not a colossal one, it was certainly daunting considering the run-scoring pattern in the tournament and the in-form Australian bowlers.
Enter Indian captain, Unmukt Chand, who decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and displayed an array of breathtaking strokes all around the ground to not only get to his century, but also to take his side home. India had been crowned World Champions and in the land of batting superstars, another young prodigy had seen the light of the day.
"Well, yeah the journey had been superb for all of us. I got into the team after I had done well in U-16 NCA camp and eventually next year I got to play in the Under-19 team. Did well there, got picked up for the Delhi U-19 team and scored runs and finally, the India call-up came.
“We played a lot at the NCA, had a quadrangular tournament before the World Cup and I was made the captain there. We won that series and I scored a century in the final. So, yes, the team looked fairly settled and we were very confident going into the World Cup," Unmukt said in an exclusive interview to Sportskeeda.
Extra Cover: India U-19 Class of 2012: Where are they now?
Ever since the historic win the bunch of young promising boys came under immense scrutiny and as usual, they were led by the captain. Unmukt who was still finding his feet in the game was striding ahead rapidly and as is the norm in India comparisons with Virat Kohli were made.
The nation had found another potential batting great and there was no way we could have allowed him to live in peace.
"Ahh, it was a dream come true for all of us, winning the trophy for our country, nothing could have been bigger for us at that moment. When we landed in Mumbai after the win, I remember the frenzy around the airport. We were taken aback by the crowd, everything felt surreal.
“It was different, to say the least. All of us had become a household name and the amount of coverage we got was something we never thought of. I was not complaining one bit, we worked hard for the triumph and all this attention was because our hard work paid dividends," Unmukt further added.
His career is still meandering along and he has slipped down in the pecking order to a great extent. For a young man who forced everyone to sit up and take notice of his potential, Unmukt Chand has not yet taken that decisive step as far as his cricketing career is concerned.
The talent was so evident, it still is, but what has prevented him from taking that leap of faith?
"Look there are no mistakes, sometimes you learn from your experiences and look to improve in the future. We always aim high, put plans into place, but then things will happen when they are about to happen. I would not want to rectify anything.
“Over the years I have been working a lot on my game and have no qualms in accepting the fact that while certain things have gone my way, there are plenty more which have not gone my way. It is part and parcel of life," the Delhi-boy said.
"See perhaps things happened with me at a very young age, the expectations were quite high. I am still 23 and I believe that what matters is what you do when you get the opportunity rather than when you get the opportunity. I have my ups and downs, see my life changed for the better and then for something else after the world cup, I have had my learnings.
“A big positive is that I have witnessed everything at a young age and have learnt so much which is bound to help me in the future. I have become strong as a cricketer and as a person, and although you cannot guarantee success in cricket, you have to be in the right space at all times," he further added.
"Today I can say that after the world cup I got a bit carried away and wanted to get into the Indian team desperately. This had an adverse impact on my game as I missed out on a couple of crucial innings in which I could have done better. It happens, and this is where experience helps.
“I have realised it is so important to be at peace with yourself, and things will fall into place. There is no rocket science in making it to the team, one good season and you are right there," the right-hander expressed.
The Delhi boy is the modern age player who is not shy of playing his strokes and his languid style and free-flowing approach is a riveting watch when in full flow. Having said all this, he is without any IPL team this season and some might say this is a proper summation of his career so far.
"Personally IPL has not been very kind to me and of course I was very young (18 years) when I played for Delhi for the first time. Maybe I was not well prepared and I did not get runs. The external factors are at play during an IPL match. I remember back when I played for Daredevils, my entire school was present at the stadium.
“It is disappointing to not be picked in any team, but then I was not getting enough matches even when I was a part of the teams. No excuses, but I could well use this time to hone my skills further in the longer format of the game," he added.
"I could never establish myself in the IPL and this could be because I never got enough games at a stretch. In Rajasthan, I got a game very late in the season and the same happened last season with Mumbai when I played the 11th or 12th match and was immediately dropped.
“This is no excuse as in the IPL you will have to cash in on the limited opportunities you get and unfortunately, I could not do it, but I am sure things will change in the future.
“Ranji season is more important than the IPL and this is my focus. I have to work on my game, improve few technical aspects and look to score big in the next Ranji season. If I do well in the longer format, eventually I will be a good T20 player.
“I have to work on improving my longer form cricket and keep a strong base and will take it from there next season," Chand said.
There is a quote which says great things are accomplished by talented people who believe they can go ahead and accomplish them. Chand agrees as he places a lot of emphasis on belief and metal space.
"It is unfortunate, you can say I have hit rock bottom and there is only one way where my career could progress now. This motivates me and I am sure this season could well define me as a player and as a person. I have the belief that my career will go to the next stage," Unmukt exudes.
Although his memories of the IPL are not entirely positive, Unmukt has been under the influence of stalwarts like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar at different times and when the going gets tough for him, like it is right now, he falls back to the advice of these two legends.
"There is so much to learn from them. With Sachin Sir I got to know about the insights of the game. He specifically spoke to me about on how to prepare before any game and placed a lot of importance on preparation.
“The preparation started well before the game, the way they studied and devised strategies according to different bowlers was a great learning experience for me. Rahul sir's clarity amazed me and although it sounds cliched it is paramount," Unmukt revealed.
Right through the conversation, the right-hander spoke a lot about mental space and mental toughness. Is it an overused term or does it have any relevance in today's cricket?
"Well, it could be a term but for me, it forms the crux of my game. Cricket is no rocket science and yet there are so many factors which dictate the proceedings. It is what I have learnt over the years, I have taken the spiritual path as well to focus and improve your mental aspect. It could differ according to the individuals and one has to learn what works best for them," Chand quipped.
The young man believes in fate and believes in backing one’s ability to the hit the ball. He says that one should never be in conflict with the self. Right through the conversation, what seeped through was the love and respect he had for the game.
Back in the time when a young Unmukt Chand was still learning how to hold the bat things were fairly simple. He enjoyed the game and loved batting. There was no sense of failure which brought out the best in him and those faltering footsteps found solace in the cricket bat.
The batsman who is looking to stage a comeback maintains a diary also and says he pours out all his emotions into the pages.
"My father and uncle were my initial inspirations. No role models as such, I just loved the game, loved to bat and this was enough to drive me along. I got enrolled into an academy, watched and followed the game and this is how the journey started. What mattered was that I wanted to keep on playing and batting, no complexities...," Unmukt said.
"See the diary always comes up, it is no big deal to be very honest. I love writing, pour out my emotions there and it is a very normal practice," he further said.
Perhaps along the way, the love for the game slips away as complexities creep in. For this young potential to take the decisive step he just needs to turn the pages of his diary back to the childhood days and remember how a young Turk loved holding the bat and tonking balls to all parts of the field without a care in the world.
As W. Clement Stone so aptly puts it: “Like success, failure is many things to many people. With positive mental attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, and a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order to prepare to try again.”