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Unmukt Chand and Virat Kohli: A tale of two talented Delhi cricketers

The careers of Unmukt Chand and Virat Kohli, two talented Delhi cricketers, have taken different routes after promising starts

cricket Updated: Aug 24, 2017 15:31 IST
Amrit Mathur
Amrit Mathur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Unmukt Chand,Virat Kohli,Indian cricket team
Unmukt Chand (L) has fallen off the radar after a promising start to his career, while Virat Kohli has enjoyed tremendous success in recent years.(HT Photo)

Almost to this day five years ago on August 26, 2012, India discovered a new cricket star in Unmukt Chand. Captain of the India under-19 team, Unmukt was man of the match for scoring an unbeaten century to beat Australia and win the World Cup.

Ian Chappell announced Unmukt Chand was ready for Test cricket and good enough to join Indian cricket’s swish set. Unmukt went on to captain Delhi, North Zone and India-A, speeding up the highway to fame. Stardom beckoned and the 19-year-old was on the celebrity circuit doing television debates, speaking at conferences and endorsing products. He even wrote a book.

Then the script changed. Unmukt Chand failed to score big, his bat went cold and mismatch between performance and potential triggered a backlash. Unmukt’s fall was as dramatic as his rise. Last season, he temporarily lost his place in Delhi’s Ranji side.

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But why is Unmukt, someone expected to fly, struggling even to jog? Some say it’s technical confusion where a young player is unable to adjust to different formats. They point to Unmukt’s repeated failures to convert good starts, ordinary shot selection and tendency to go hard at the bowling when patience is a wiser option.

Others feel Unmukt Chand is ‘distracted’ and lacks focus, an unfair charge considering his outstanding work ethic. Maybe, Delhi cricket’s pervasive negativity that erodes the confidence of young players is responsible.

Unmukt’s career is a reminder that cricket is cruel and success comes only when talent is aligned to taqdeer. Millions of kids play cricket in gullies/ grounds/maidaans and stadiums, yet, in 85 years, from 1932 to 2017 (from Col CK Nayudu to Hardik Pandya), only 289 players have represented India.

It is also difficult to ignore the similarity and irony surrounding the careers of Virat Kohli and Unmukt. Both are top-order batsmen who came through Delhi’s chaotic club cricket. Both stood out because of their raw talent. Both made the Ranji side when young. Both led India to wins in the under-19 World Cup.

READ | Why Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team is unhappy in Sri Lanka

The similarities end there and soon Virat Kohli and Unmukt’s career took different trajectories. Virat Kohli went straight up after the World Cup moment in 2008 like a Diwali rocket --- ODI debut 2008, Test debut 2011, captain of India 2016. Today, he is on a different planet: No 1 batsman in the world with 13,000 international runs and 45 hundreds. Unmukt Chand is not in the frame; Ranji place under threat and he is without an IPL contract.

One observer who tracked both players explains the continued rise of the Indian captain. Virat Kohli, he says, is a self-made champion who is sharp, intuitive and fiercely ambitious. Strongly self confident, he discarded all doubts, rejected tradition and broke all mounds. Raised fitness level to those of Novak Djokovic, defied convention about personal life and had multiple tattoos on his muscled arms.

Unmukt is less flamboyant but a precious cricket talent. Only 24, he still has time to optimise his gifts, make the second innings count and keep his tryst with cricketing destiny.

(Amrit Mathur is a former sports administrator who worked with the BCCI as media manager. Views expressed are personal.)

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 10:17 IST