What do people tell themselves before the biggest test of their lives? An overwhelming majority would say ‘I will do my best and try and not think too much about the outcome’. It takes a brave heart to proclaim he’s there to win it.
Unmukt Chand, the triumphant U-19 India skipper, belongs
to that rare breed. Even as his form was scratchy leading to the final, where mighty Australia awaited them, the opening batsman had the temerity to have his Blackberry messenger (BBM) status as: ‘U-19 World Cup, nothing else matters. I can already feel the Cup in my hands’.
Unmukt Chand celebrates after scoring a century against Australia in the 2012 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup final in Townsville, Australia. (AP Photo/International Cricket Council, Ian Hitchcock)
“He had this status three days before the final. That’s his character, he does what he says. Pressure brings out the best in him, he has done a lot of hard work over the years to handle it,” said Unmukt’s beaming father, Bharat Chand Thakur.
Walking his talk, the young skipper struck a match-winning unbeaten hundred, which is incidentally his third in the last three finals. Coming good in big finals is a trait that few have, and it speaks volumes of Unmukt’s determination and mental strength.
That’s precisely the reason why neither the team nor he bothered about his form.
“We never talked about his form. He was happy the team was winning even if he wasn’t making big contributions. We knew he wouldn’t let us down when we needed him the most, and that’s what happened today,” said Prashant Chopra, his opening partner, who struck three half-centuries in the tournament.
Apart from batting, Unmukt’s team-mates are all praise for his leadership abilities. This group has been together for almost two years now and the Delhi youngster, with his mature handling, turned it into a ‘family’.
“He’s very mature as a skipper. In the lead-up to the World Cup, there would be little fights and ego issues in the team. But he handled all that really well and turned the team into one family. That’s one of the main reasons why this team did so well,” said Manan Vohra, Unmukt’s regular opening partner, who missed the World Cup because of a thumb injury.
It was the realisation that he needed to shoulder more responsibility as captain that made him curb his aggression and strokes. “Now he tries to stay in the middle for as long as possible and finish off the game, and that’s exactly what he did today,” said Vohra.
The road from here could lead him to the senior India team, like Virat Kohli. All he needs is to do what he’s been doing.