Unmukt Chand is clearly a jack of many trades © Getty Images
Unmukt Chand is clearly a jack of many trades © Getty Images

This flamboyant cricketer from Delhi came into limelight back in 2012 when he led India Under-19s team to a World Cup win in Australia. After that success, both as a batsman and as a leader, he has been tagged as the ‘next Virat Kohli’. Apart from being a cricketer, he is a brilliant student, a national level swimmer and an avid writer, who already has a published book to his name. A jack of many trades, Unmukt Chand is currently leading India A in the ongoing tri-series at Chennai. From his busy schedule, he gave an exclusive interview to Sandipan Banerjee on his career, and more.

If you want to know, how to handle pressure, both on and off the field, Unmukt Chand‘s life can be a classic case study. After the glorious day at Townsville, life changed drastically for this boy. He was recognised as one of Indian cricket’s budding superstars. But personally, Unmukt, who is an alumni of the St.Stephen’s College, Delhi [India’s No. 1 ranked Arts College], wanted to keep his educational career going simultaneously. To maintain this dual career he has to take ample amount of pressure. There were days, when after tiring days of cricket, he used to spend sleepless nights for the preparations of his exams. This stress had an effect on Unmukt’s game and he had couple of lean seasons in domestic cricket.

However, after completing his graduation last year, his cricketing career seems to be coming back on track. The 2014-15 domestic season was productive for this stylish right-hander and now he is chosen to lead a talented India A side. Ahead of their crucial game against South Africa A, Unmukt spoke to CricketCounty and talks about his team’s performances and his career. READ: Focus on Unmukt Chand as he leads India A against Australia A and South Africa A in tri-series

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

CricketCountry (CC): Though you have done well personally, as a team it has been an average tournament for India A so far. What is going wrong?

Unmukt Chand (UC): Well, we hardly got time ahead of the series. Just two days prior the tournament the players got together in Chennai. We didn’t play any practice games. I feel lack of proper acclimatisation has had an effect in our showing so far. If you look at our performances closely you will find we have played some decent cricket, but in patches.

After being outplayed against Australia A in the first game the team bounced back pretty well against South Africa A. It was a good all-round performance from us. But once again we faltered against the Australians. This time we were 20-30 runs short but our bowlers fought well. The match could have gone either way. A dropped chance at the crucial juncture of the game didn’t help our cause either.

We have a game left against the South Africa A. We will try to win that and qualify for the final.

[So far Unmukt Chand has scored 147 runs in the 3 matches at an average of 49.00 in this Tri series]

Lack of proper acclimatisation has had an effect in our showing so far

CC: Talking about your career, this series is huge for you as India will be playing a lot of limited-overs cricket in the upcoming season. How have you planned to approach it?

UC: Frankly, at this moment I am not thinking of the schedule of the senior team. Being selected is not in my control. I am just focusing on what I can control, which is to keep doing well in whatever opportunity that comes across my way. These ‘A’ games and the upcoming domestic season are in my priority list at this moment. But there are no specific plans.

CC: After the glorious day at Townsville, as a cricketer, things didn’t go as you had planned…

UC: Not everything goes as we plan, do they? I don’t worry about whatever has happened. Trying to improve your future is a better option.

CC: You had an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract before Under-19 World Cup 2012. But so far you have only played 20 IPL matches. Don’t you feel a talented cricketer like you has been allowed too few opportunities?

UC: Well, you can say so. I am still in my early days in IPL. I got only 2-3 games per season, which is not enough. But it is not in my hand. I feel rather than focusing on IPL, concentrating more on domestic cricket is a better option for me at this stage of my career.

Rather than focusing on IPL, concentrating more on domestic cricket is a better option for me

CC: As a teenager, you made your Ranji Debut in 2010-11 season. Your 151 on a seaming Roshanara track that season is among the finest top-class innings in Indian domestic cricket this decade. Take us through that knock.

UC: Great memory. It was one of my best knocks. The secret behind it was I was on control of myself. It was a difficult track. Batting was really hard. The Railways team had experienced bowlers like Sanjay Bangar, JP Yadav in their ranks. I just applied myself and tried to stay at the crease as long as possible. Wickets were tumbling around me but I didn’t throw my wicket away.

[Chand’s innings was a classic by any standards. His 151 came out of a total of 290 where no teammate of his reached 40.]

CC: Have you considered about quitting professional cricket and concentrate on your studies?

UC: (Laughs) Not at all. I am only 22 and starting my career. So no way can I think about these things.

CC: How important is academics for a student aspiring to be a sportsperson? How does one maintain balance between these two?

UC: Education is undoubtedly a very important aspect. It helps in the overall development of a sportsperson. The academic knowledge also helps one to understand the game as well.

CC: You had your best domestic season last year, with three First-Class and one List A hundreds. Do you feel things are turning around for you?

UC: I had some good scores last season. I have spent quite a few years in domestic circuit now. That experience helped me to get mature as a cricketer.

CC: Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid you have had close associations with these three stalwarts of the game. Tell us three things which you have learnt from them.

UC: I am lucky that I have the access of these great cricketers. Ricky talks about aggression and inspires to go for the kill. Dravid, on the other hand, focuses on working hard. There is always a sense of calmness with him. Sachin speaks about learning. He says there is no end to learning. I have learnt how simplest of things significantly matter in cricket. READ: Unmukt Chand all-praise for Mumbai Indians coach Ricky Ponting

CC: Time to time Delhi cricket has produced some prolific batsmen like Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan and you. What is the secret?

UC: Delhi cricket has a lot to do with aggression. Though we don’t have good 2-day or 3-day format, we play a lot of 40- or 30-overs cricket. This really helps us to play belligerently. All top-class cricketers, whenever they are free, play these club games.

Delhi cricket has a lot to do with aggression

CC: Indian fans love comparisons. They and the media always tagged you as the next ‘Virat Kohli‘ for obvious reasons. How do you look at such comparisons?

UC: People compare, and it feels nice to be compared with a great cricketer like him. However, I love being myself. Virat is a good friend. By observing him closely, I have learnt a lot from him, but our paths are different.

It feels nice to be compared with a great cricketer like Virat

CC: Finally, Unmukt, how to describe yourself a brilliant student, an author, a champion swimmer or a successful cricketer? What else we can expect from you, a Booker prize?

UC: I just want to concentrate on my cricket. That’s where my future lies.

(Sandipan Banerjee is a reporter at CricketCountry. Cricket has been the biggest passion for him since his childhood. So, when it came to choosing his career, he chose to turn his passion into his profession. Apart from cricket he likes mountain trekking, river rafting, and photography. His twitter handle is @im_sandipan)