Unmukt Chand is basking in the glory of having led India to the under-19 World Cup triumph. He has overnight become a national celebrity and former greats like Ian Chappell have showered praise on him, many declaring that he is ready to play for India.
Life appears set to drastically change for the youngster, who was used to taking the metro or borrowing his father's car to go to his cricket academy.
But Unmukt is determined the sudden stardom does not affect him. He feels this is just the beginning and much work needs to be done. He already seems a bit tired of the intense spotlight that has been turned on him in the last few days and wants to focus on the game. Here to collect the Castrol young cricketer of the year award, Unmukt spoke to HT. Excerpts:
There was criticism you play too many shots and you had vowed to change that image. But your start at the World Cup wasn't that good.
Well, it is not that I didn't try to bat through. I had been trying to do that the entire tournament. But somehow it didn't happen. I could succeed in the final, and I am happy I clicked when it mattered most. It was a good team effort, and I built good partnerships.
How tough was it recovering from 97/4 in the final?
You know the Australians, they try to unnerve you. When Smit (Patel) walked into bat at the fall of the fourth wicket, they started to say a lot of things to him. He was a little concerned. I went up to him after almost every other delivery and spoke to him. We just stayed there and concentrated hard.
You practice at the academy as Gautam Gambhir. Has he been of help?
I remember when I got into the Ranji squad I took his advice. With players like him, you pick up a lot of things just by watching their game and applying it to your batting. We have had chats and I have picked valuable inputs on how to play a patient game.
Winning the U-19 World Cup brings a lot of pressure due to expectations. We have seen players like Virat, Md Kaif and Yuvraj face that.
Not at all. If anything, it is inspiring to see all these players go on to make the grade from India U-19. I too am hoping to make it. But after all the praise, I know I have to keep performing..
Ian Chappell said you are ready to play at the highest level. Does it put pressure on you?
No, I think it is just inspiring. I want to stay focused on the game at the moment.
Last season, you struggled to get big runs in Ranji Trophy after a promising start the previous season.
I was getting starts but wasn't able to convert them. I lost confidence. You can't get hundreds after you lose confidence. It all depends on your mental make-up. This season, I am determined to get runs.
There is currently a debate when you guys will be ready for the India cap. What do you think?
I really don't want to think about that. At the moment, it is the runs I score in whatever game I play that matters. The first big test will be India A tour to New Zealand.