Playing against the Aussies in a World Cup final is no cakewalk, and scoring a ton against them after having a poor tournament is something which distinguishes an individual from others. But India’s Under-19 World Cup skipper rose to the occasion against the defending champions and proved why he is being considered an apt choice to represent India at the international level.
India had entered the final a little low on confidence as their batsmen, including the skipper himself, hadn’t performed to their abilities. The Australians were seeking a fourth U-19 World Cup victory and were led by in-form skipper, William Bosisto, who once again played a formidable knock off an unbeaten 87 runs after his side were reduced to 38/4 at one stage. But the innings was overshadowed by his Indian counterpart, who had saved his best for the crucial encounter.
Unmukt Chand played one of those innings which makes an immediate impact on the minds of the viewers and cricket experts. With almost all kinds of shots in his kitty, the right-hander opened the innings and even after losing opener Prashant Chopra for a duck, his concentration didn’t deteriorate as he continued to frustrate the Aussies with fine shots and a determined attitude.
Like most of the matches in the tournament, the Indian skipper began the innings on a careful note, edging a few deliveries initially but there was a rise in his confidence and strokes began flowing freely once Baba Aparajith came in to bat.
Baba Aparajith, who had a great all-round tournament, didn’t show any signs of nervousness and hit some great strokes on the off-side. He took the pressure off his skipper, who too joined the party. Chand went after Sandhu in the ninth over where he played a cut shot for a boundary followed by a massive six over long off. Australia tried to hamper Chand’s concentration with Sandhu’s pace and the skipper gladly accepted the challenge as he smashed him for another six later in the innings. By the time Smit Patel arrived at the crease, Chand was back in the rhythm as both of them scripted another emphatic win for India.
Many might not know that Unmukt Chand is not new to batting under pressure. It was not for the first time that Chand proved his mettle in a final match. Just like his idol Virat Kohli, the U-19 skipper relishes batting under pressure. In the last three tournaments, he hit centuries in the final after having an average series. Keeping this record in mind, everyone knew that a big one was due from him and the 19-year-old once again came up with a spectacular knock when it mattered the most.
While MS Dhoni played a pivotal knock in the ICC 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka, Chand played a similar knock batting second in the Under-19 final. He showed nerves of steel against the Aussies and the youngster should be lauded for the manner in which he shaped his innings. His body language might not be as aggressive as Virat Kohli’s, but after his ton, he has certainly become one of India’s better future prospects.
Chand has had a habit of maintaining notes in his diary since the age of 9. The Under-19 victory will go down as the most special moment of his cricketing career. Following the victory, cricket pundits are predicting that the right-hander is ready for the next level. Let’s hope he is another batsman in making from India’s national capital who is all set to set the international stage ablaze.