Young and aspiring Unmukt Chand, a promising performer for the Delhi Daredevils, is in the news as he leads the India U-19 team.
India has always boasted of great young talent — Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli. Young aggressive batsmen have taken the game by storm. Similarly, Unmukt Chand is another who has grabbed the limelight. An attacking batsman, he caught the eye of the selectors with the Delhi Ranji Team and the India Under-19 team. This Delhi Daredevil player, the youngest to be selected, he also proved his mettle in Australia where he led the Under-19 team to victory.
Was cricket always on your mind?
I was four years old when I started playing cricket. And it has continued. I was really passionate about cricket from the beginning. My parents were very supportive so there were no hiccups.
How does it feel to be captaining the India U-19 side and playing for DD?
Really good. I've learnt a lot and I'm still learning. I've enjoyed it all the time. It's never been a burden; always a challenge. I've practiced regularly. It's a routine now and I love doing it. It's a good feeling to lead the under-19 side. The team is also doing very well and we've won both the tournaments till now. Being a part of Delhi Daredevils also helps because I got to learn a lot. I've been here for two years so all the experience, whatever you see here, whatever you learn here adds up when you go to the Ranji Trophy or the under 19 level.
Your best experience on the crease so far...
There's always something new when you go onto the field. I can never forget my 151 against the Railways two years ago in the Ranji Trophy. And it came to me at a time when my team needed it the most. I was the last one to get out into the field. So it was a very tough situation. The wicket was seaming a lot. Yet I could stay there till the end. I was really calm and composed. That was the best.
How important is IPL as a tournament?
At the IPL, other players are more accessible. You can talk to the players whom you cannot talk to otherwise like Jayawardene or Malinga. There are so many such players and you spend two months with them. That really helps. You see how they work and learn their work ethic as well. You don't learn directly but observing things like how they practice, how they prepare ... all this helps indirectly. This wouldn't happened without the IPL.
How do you deal with the pressure of mounting expectations?
I think expectations are more from within. As long as I'm satisfied with myself it doesn't matter what others think. I should give my best. If I've prepared well then I'll obviously do well. I'm not worried about others' expectations.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Obviously playing cricket but I don't know where. Let's see and hope for the best. I'd like to play for India as soon as possible.
If you are granted a wish of making your IPL team, which players would you choose for your dream team?
Viru and Chris Gayle as openers, and myself. Others will include Sachin, Jacques Kallis, A.B. De Villiers will be the keeper, Morne Morkel, Steyn, Narine, Malinga and Peterson.
With the Junior World Cup coming up in August, what are your plans?
Right now, I'm hopeful because the team is doing well and we gel well. After the IPL, we have a camp in Bangalore. Preparations are on; let's see how it goes. I'm really optimistic.
Besides Sachin, which cricketer inspires you the most and why?
These days Virat has been really inspiring, especially the two innings that he played in Dhaka. I saw the whole innings. The way he finished the match will always remain fresh in my memory. Whenever I go to bat in the second innings I remember the innings he played and challenge myself to finish the game like he did.
In IPL sometimes you get to play; at other times you don't. How do you as an individual react to this?
What's important is that you keep practising. Go there and hit the balls towards the nets. Just wait for your chance instead of getting restless. When you look around there are a million waiting in the benches for their chance. You can work more on your fielding; the foreign trainers are there and this amount of fielding cannot be done in an Indian setting. You can work on your technique and prepare for the next game.
Tell us about your locker room fun…
We carry a Herman Cardon with us for music. Whenever the music starts, it spreads positive vibrations and everyone becomes active. It usually happens before we go to the field, during lunch and after the match. This is the best part because that's when all of us end up dancing and all the fun happens. It is also the time when we get the chance to connect.
Favourite cricket team besides India: Australia
First aspiration: Software Engineer
Favourite sport, besides cricket: Pool
Favourite sportsperson: Roger Federer
Favourite food: American chopsuey; chicken in oyster sauce; Schezwan noodles