Unmukt Chand: From a Future Star to a Faded Star

“Farq ye hai, mai aplog ke team mai abhi aa sakta hun, lekin ap sablog meri team m kabhi nhi aa sakte” (The difference is that I can enter your team but you all can never enter my team)

Unmukt Chand in the Pepsi Ad

This Pepsi advertisement was probably the closest Unmukt Chand came to being in the same room as the senior Indian players.

He was touted to be the next Kohli. He had mesmerized everyone with his elegant strokeplay and match-winning abilities and this reached its zenith when Unmukt captained India to U19 World Cup glory in 2012, performing exceptionally well as a batsman. In 2012, he was the center of attention and people were sure that he would go on to make it big but fast forward to now, the young prodigious talent has faded away and is no where to be heard about. What happened to him?

The Rise to U19 World Cup glory

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On 26 March 1993, the future U19 World Cup winning-captain was born in Delhi. He started to play the sport when he was six years old and was coached by Sanjay Bhardwaj, who was also the one who coached Gautam Gambhir.

During a promotional event at the school he studied, he even got to face Brett Lee and who knew that he would face Brett Lee in the IPL a couple of years later?

From 2002, at the age of nine, Unmukt developed a habit to maintain a diary, a habit which continues even now. He is an avid reader and even has his own book titled, ‘The Sky Is The Limit:- My Journey To The World Cup.’

His first acquaintance with failure started when he wasn’t selected for the U15 despite scoring well in the trials. He entered into the arena of first-class cricket, a year after getting into the U16 team. He kept on scoring runs and continued to perform well for the Delhi U19 team too and his performances led him to enter the Delhi senior team.

In 2011, he was bought by DD in the IPL but he couldn’t do anything noteworthy in the 2 matches he played. The same continued in the next year when he was bought by RR for 65 lakhs.

On September 2011, he was selected as the captain of the U19 team and his best year was about to come.

2012

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4 months before the U19 World Cup, India was playing a Quadrangular series with the opponents being Australia, England and New Zealand. The series was played in Australia and the conditions were completely alien to the Indian team. This was visible when they lost all the three league matches. In the semis, India was facing England and things changed this time as India went on to win the match by 63 runs with Unmukt leading from the front with the bat as well, scoring 94. In the final, India played the host nation itself and it was Unmukt who lead from the front again. He remained unbeaten and scored an explosive 112 and India won the match by 7 wickets and won the series. Unmukt finished as the second-highest run-scorer of the series.

In June, the U19 team was playing the U19 Asia Cup. Unmukt again shone brilliantly and his big match abilities came to the forefront when he scored centuries and won the man of the match awards in both the semis and the finals. The final against Pakistan ended in a thrilling tie and Unmukt finished as the tournament’s highest run-scorer. Trivia Time! Do you know who was the captain of the Pakistan U19 Team? Babar Azam!

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Now it was time for the big event- the U19 World Cup in Australia. India started the tournament with a loss to WI by 4 wickets but won the rest two and finished 2nd in the group. They defeated Pakistan in the Quarter Finals and then New Zealand in the Semi-Finals.

Now India had to play Australia in Australia itself, but India had the momentum of winning the Quadrangular series and even the Asia Cup and the whole India had hopes that the juniors in blue could deliver and they did. Unmukt Chand delivered again, like he always did in big matches and scored an unbeaten 111* which was nearly half of the runs India scored and India won the finals by 6 wickets and tasted the U19 World Cup glory, the absolute summit of success for any junior cricketer.

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The Year Afterward

Even Ian Chappell appreciated Unmukt both as a captain and as a batsman and was of the opinion that instead of playing at a junior level, he should now be playing at a higher level or else he would stagnate. Was he predicting the future?

Unmukt Chand was now the hotshot for all the advertisers after winning the U19 World Cup. He had six brands at that time which included the Pepsi ad with Dhoni, Kohli and Raina which was mentioned at the start.

In 2013, Unmukt participated in the Vijay Hazare trophy. His big match abilities shone again as he scripted a fine century in the finals against Assam and Delhi won the title.

He was later included in the 30 men probable list of the India’s squad for the 2013 Champions Trophy and the 2014 T20 World Cup but Unmukt might never have anticipated what was about to come.

The Fall

Indian U19 WC winning captains go on to play for India, isn’t that the case? Virat Kohli was a U19 WC winning captain and we all know where he is now. Mohammad Kaif won the U19 World Cup in 2000 and gone on to play 138 matches for India. Prithvi Shaw is the latest addition to the list and he has gone on to play 4 Test Matches and 3 ODI’s for India but what happened to Unmukt Chand after all the talent and potential the whole cricket fraternity had seen in him?

It all started when he was axed from Delhi in 2016. At that time, Unmukt was the captain of the India A team and news came that he had been dropped from the ODI team of Delhi and later from the Ranji side as well. Who knows why? Later, he had the plan to let himself be released from Mumbai Indians because he wasn’t getting many matches to play and he wanted to go to a team where he could at least play irrespective of the money. Unfortunately, probably due to his axing from the Delhi team, he wasn’t picked by any team in the IPL auction and all of a sudden, Unmukt was neither in the Delhi team and not even in the IPL.

Things were about to turn sourer. He got to play two matches for Delhi after Delhi lost four matches and he won man of the match awards in both but as he had not played many matches, he was then dropped from the India A side too. Imagine being a captain of the India A team a few months ago and then getting dropped from the team. This is how Unmukt described feeling at that time:-

I felt like my clothes were ripped apart

Unmukt Chand to Aakash Chopra during an interview

From winning the U19 Asia Cup and the U19 World Cup to then being dropped from the Delhi and the India A team and not being picked in the IPL- who could’ve expected that? It was a series of shocks after shocks for Unmukt.

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His stats in the IPL are underwhelming with a batting average of 15 and a strike rate of 100 which doesn’t make him an exciting prospect for the IPL teams. He never played in the IPL after 2016. In IPL 2018, no team picked him even after having a base price of 20 lakhs.

In 2019, Unmukt decided to have a fresh start and he obtained a NOC from Delhi and decided to play for Uttrakhand. He was even appointed as the captain of the Uttrakhand side but after a string of defeats, he was removed as a captain and his form lately by the bat has not been noteworthy having scored 0,5,17,20,26,10,6,41,6 and 13 in his last 10 innings with Uttrakhand.

People say that Unmukt couldn’t handle the fame he got after he won the U19 World Cup. If that is totally false or a part of the story, only Unmukt can tell. An interesting incident happened in 2012 after the U19 World Cup. Unmukt was participating in India Today’s Youth Summit but Kapil Dev criticized him for being there openly.

“What are you doing here? Why you have come here? If I were his coach or manager, I would not have let him come here even if I was given a million dollars. I would have kicked on his backside for coming here. I would have made him work hard for the next three years so that he could live life like a king in the next 20 years.”

Kapil Dev to Unmukt Chand during the Youth Summit in 2012

With Prithvi Shaw, Shubhman Gill, Mayank Aggrawal, KL Rahul and more as the openers India are trying right now and Unmukt’s dip in form with Uttrakhand indicates Unmukt’s chance to play for the senior side is slim but he is optimistic that he can still get into the side and we hope the best for him. Was Ian Chappell right when he had mentioned that he should be playing at a higher level or else he would stagnate?

Credits:-

Featured Image:- Dee03 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

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