Unmukt Chand’s ton steers India to their third Under-19 World Cup victory

The victorious India Under-19 team pose with the World Cup trophy during a felicitation ceremony by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Mumbai © AFP

On August 26, 2012, Unmukt Chand’s unbeaten ton helped India lift their third Under-19 World Cup. Taking on Australia at Townsville, Chand took centrestage and left nothing to chance as India romped home comfortably by six wickets. Such was the quality of victory that the youngsters were praised by some of the most cerebral minds in cricket. Nishad Pai Vaidya looks back at that day.
There is always great hype when an Under-19 World Cup is played. The tournament has traditionally been a cradle of young talent and many players who emerged on that front went on to become successful internationals for their respective countries. Thus, when Unmukt Chand and his Indian brigade lifted the Under-19 World Cup by beating Australia in their own den, talks about their possible bright future was a natural conclusion. It wasn’t only about the fact that they had won, but the manner in which the clinched victory is what caught the eye.

India had prepared extensively for this big tournament. They had played two quadrangular tournaments — winning both — one of which was at the very venue where the World Cup final was played. Then, they were also joint winners of the Asia Cup. All those outings prepared them for the big event. Bharat Arun, the coach of that team, told CricketCountry in an interview, “In the tournaments we played in the lead-up to the World Cup, we faced all the countries with the exception of South Africa. We did extremely well and, in fact, won all the three tournaments which gave us a big boost and self belief. It stems from what we had done in the past and we had beaten most of the teams. We believed [that] if we play well, we have a good chance of winning the World Cup.”

India commenced their campaign with a defeat to the West Indies. They bounced back by beating Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea to seal a spot in the quarter-finals. In the quarter-final, they got past arch-rivals Pakistan in a see-saw encounter. A berth in the finals was bagged after beating New Zealand in the semi-finals. It was a largely low-scoring tournament and the conditions favoured the bowlers tremendously. India’s bowlers — Sandeep Sharma, Kamal Passi and Ravikant Singh — used the conditions well and were supported by the miserly Harmeet Singh and Baba Aparajith. Prashant Chopra had been India’s most consistent batsman with three fifties leading up to the final. Chand, arguably the best player in the side, had scored only one fifty in the tournament and the big stage was set for him to steal the limelight.

The Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville saw Indian expatriates throng its stands on the big day. Back home in India, people switched on their television sets in wee hours of a Sunday — August 26, 2012. The victories under the leadership of Mohammad Kaif (2000) and Virat Kohli (2008) were still fresh in memory and the country hoped for success. The senior team had endured a tough run in the preceding 12 months; Indian cricket needed a shot in the arm. All eyes were on a group of boys taking on Australia in their own backyard. India were quietly confident as they had beaten the same side in a quadrangular early in 2012.

Backing their strength, India won the toss and put Australia in to bat. Sandeep Sharma had used swing to trouble the top-order and Chand handed him the ball with that trust. The very first ball moved into the Australian opener Cameron Bancroft — Sandeep’s strength was on show. Jimmy Pierson came on strike after a few balls to tackle the prodigious movement. Off his second ball, he shouldered arms to a ball that was moving in and was slightly over-pitched. The ball pegged the off-stump back as India celebrated its early breakthrough.

In the third over, Sandeep pitched one in line and it trapped Bancroft in front to send him on his way. Australia’s most consistent batsmen of the tournament were back in the hut with only eight on the board. Speaking about those early breakthroughs, Sandeep told CricketCountry, “The strategy against the Australian top-order was the same as it was against Pakistan. Just pitch the ball up and expect the batsman commit error, which happened. The plan worked for us, again.”

Kurtis Patterson and Meyrick Buchanan were involved in a short stand until Aparajith broke through the defence of the former. Buchanan soon followed as he edged Ravikant to the wicketkeeper Smit Patel. It was left to captain William Bosisto to pick up the pieces at 38 for four. In the company of Travis Head, Bosisto took charge and calmly dealt with the Indian bowling. The duo took Australia past 100, when a mix-up saw Head fall-short of the crease.

Ashton Turner and Bosisto now put up a 93-run stand that saw Australia inch towards 200. Turner was more aggressive — he even cleared the mid-wicket boundary with a massive six. Bosisto was sedate and only struck the occasional boundary; dropping anchor for a major part of the innings. The partnership finally ended in the 46th over when Turner scooped Sandeep into the hands of cover. That knock of 43 had injected some much-needed life into the Australian batting. Australia kept losing wickets towards the end, but Bosisto held on to take them to 225 for eight in their fifty overs. The captain remained unbeaten on 87.

Going by the trends in the tournament, Australia knew that 225 was a competitive score. The key was early wickets and using the new ball to good effect. To counter that, Chopra and Chand walked out to open India’s challenge. Australia got the early breakthrough they desired as Chopra fiddled at one down the leg-side and got a thin edge to the wicketkeeper. India’s leading batsman in the tournament was heading back to the pavilion in only the second over. Skipper Chand knew it had to be his day. In an interview to CricketCountry, he said, “I was really confident from the start of my innings. Hitherto, I hadn’t scored much in the tournament. So, I knew my innings was due. At that point of time, I was in a so-called zone.”

Aparajith and Chand added stability to the innings and scored at a decent rate. Aparajith got going with a square-drive for four. He then essayed a similar stroke to blood in more confidence. Seeing his partner at the other end, Chand got into the act. With the typical back-lift and a hint of swagger, he lofted Gurinder Sandhu over mid-off for his first six. That took India past 50 in the ninth over; a start that helped them overcome the testing spell. The duo was making it look easy and Aparajith in particular was driving with confidence. However, that was to plot his downfall as he lofted a drive into the hands of cover to break a good 73-run partnership. Sandhu celebrated his first breakthrough.

That wicket sparked a small wobble. Hanuma Vihari tried to work the off-spinner Turner through the leg-side, but only offered a return catch. Chand was undeterred. He was a little lucky though as a tough chance off Sandhu was put down. But, as he said, he was “in the zone.” Sandhu was carted over his head for a six yet again as the ball fell just short off the sightscreen. He couldn’t have hit it straighter. Chand then got to his fifty with a cut for four through backward point. The job was only half-done.

At the other end, Vijay Zol struggled to score and his painstaking stay came to an end when he poked at one outside the off-stump to the wicketkeeper. At 97 for four, the game was in the balance when Patel entered the field of play. Patel and Chand now took a conservative approach of consolidating their partnership. From the 25th to the 30th over, they scored only 19 runs, most of them in singles and twos.

Having taken their time to rebuild, Chand and Patel now mixed it up with a few boundaries. Chand’s bat was flowing. He was picking the ball early and playing it on the rise. Be it through the off-side on the leg, he was in total control. The asking rate was gradually rising, but India seemed to be in control. Chand in particular was warming up for an assault.  As the 40th over commenced, India needed 73. Off the third ball, Chand advanced down the track and lofted Turner over mid-wicket for a massive six. The singles and twos continued until Chand lofted Alex Gregory straight for another maximum. That shot took him in the 90s and India were now on course with only 40 needed off 36 balls.

The 100-run partnership came up when Patel walked across his stumps and scooped Gregory over fine-leg for four. Chand was on 97 when 27 were required off 25 balls. Greogy bowled it full outside the off-stump and Chand gave it everything as it sailed over the covers and landed on the grass banks past the ropes. The brilliant century was welcomed by the large Indian contingent in the crowd. There was no celebration as Chand only waved his bat to acknowledge the applause. He knew he had to see it through. Patel then got to his fifty with a guide through third-man for a single.

By then, Chand was in total control. Mark Sketetee over-pitched again and was punched for six straight down the ground. That shot had become Chand’s trademark that day. Patel then got a top edge over the ‘keeper’s head for a four. Now, India needed only six off the last 18 balls. There was only going to be one winner.

Unmukt Chand’s ton steers India to their third Under-19 World Cup victory

Skipper Unmukt Chand’s (right) effort had helped India clinch their third Under-19 World Cup © Getty Images

The big moment came when Patel slog-swept Turner over mid-wicket for four as the Indian players ran on the park to celebrate. The time to rejoice was now. Chand’s effort had helped India clinch their third Under-19 World Cup. He said, “I knew it was my day. Though it was the World Cup final, I wasn’t thinking of anything. I was just focused on winning the match for India. I didn’t even realise when I reached my fifty or scored a hundred.” It was no surprise that he was handed the man-of-the-match award. The Indian team knew it was a day they would never forget.

The accolades

Most of the players of the victorious team were heaped with praises from some of the most cerebral minds in the game. This was Chand’s third ton in three Under-19 finals. Arun said, “The bigger the game – the better the player gets. And that is the hallmark of a true champion. Unmukt has done that on three consecutive occasions. A striking feature of his batting is that he rallies the others around him. At such a young age, he showed the maturity and that was a big bonus for the team. It was exactly the role of a captain — something he fit in to perfection.”

Chand was then heading to New Zealand with the India A team. Harmeet was picked for the Rest of India side for the Irani Trophy. Sandeep Sharma and Baba Aparajith were handed call-ups to the Challenger Trophy — a tournament that features the best domestic players in the country.

Ian Chappell even went on to compare Harmeet to Bishan Singh Bedi. The Australian said that India shouldn’t restrict Harmeet and Chand to the age-group levels. Wasim Akram even suggested that Chand was ready for the highest level. That was the essence of the triumph. It isn’t easy to impress someone like Chappell, but these boys had done it.

However, bigger challenges awaited them. Arun summed it up perfectly, “They got a good platform here and showcased their talent and potential. Having done that, the biggest challenge is to perform and be more consistent at the next level — that is First-class cricket. It will be a lot tougher. They have to be consistent there as well and then move on to the next level.”

Brief scores:

Australia Under-19s 225 for 8 (William Bosisto 87, Ashton Turner 43; Sandeep Sharma 4 for 54) lost to India Under-19s 227 for 4 in 47.4 overs (Unmukt Chand 111*, Smit Patel 62*) by 6 wickets.

Man of the Match: Unmukt Chand

Man of the Series: William Bosisto

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)