‘I hope I’ll have my feet on the ground and not fly off’ - A Telegraph Special - A tête-à-tête with Unmukt Chand

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  • Published 31.08.12
Unmukt Chand, in New Delhi, on Thursday. Picture by Rajesh Kumar

Bangalore: India’s U-19 World Cup-winning captain, Unmukt Chand, a Rajput from Pithoragarh, spoke to The Telegraph before flying off to New Delhi on Thursday morning. Articulate, Unmukt has a sense of humour.

The following are excerpts

Q You’d threatened to create a nuisance in Townsville, after winning the World Cup. What did you and your teammates actually do?

A (Laughs) It was a Sunday and the town was rather quiet... We went to an Indian restaurant, Jewel of India, and let our hair down. There was an open area in front and we danced. Members of the Indian community joined us, with somebody even arranging for dhols. We returned to the hotel before midnight.

Has life changed in the last four-five days?

It’s not that my life has changed, but people now know us... Being away from India, we didn’t really know how our performances were being received, but it’s obvious that everybody rejoiced when we won. It’s good to be noticed... Today, there’s so much of media attention, which is something new for us U-19 players.

Despite wickets going down without many on the board, you were exceedingly calm in the final. It was quite an extraordinary unbeaten 111 from you...

I’d slept well and had woken up with positive thoughts... I was able to control the pressure, didn’t allow it to get the better of me. I must compliment (’keeper) Smit Patel for the wonderful partnership.

Was it an advantage that the World Cup was in Australia, far away from home?

There are advantages and disadvantages, but it helped that we played where there weren’t distractions.

Ian Chappell, an icon, has praised you very highly. Did you interact with him during the World Cup?

Not much... I did talk to him briefly a few times, before the day’s play. Chappell said I’ve got a “bright future.” He also advised that I continue to play the way I’ve been doing.

Are you now impatient for the Team India cap?

Oh no... There’s a time for things to happen. Right now, I’m focusing on India A’s tour of New Zealand... I have a few days off and, then, have to come back here for a camp before we leave. It’s for the first time that I’ve been selected for India A and I’d like to make a contribution.

There’s this fear that too much of adulation could change the attitude of some... That success may go to their head... What’s your take?

I hope I’ll have my feet on the ground and not fly off. I have heard of such stories, but my job is to stay focused, to make the most of opportunities. The future depends on how one handles the present.

Have you always opened?

Most of the time, but I’ve batted at No.3 as well.

Over the years, have you idolised any cricketer?

Sachin Tendulkar... He’s amazing and the team felt privileged when he spoke to us for 40-45 minutes before we left for the World Cup. It was a confidence-building lecture from him and there were suggestions on how to cope with pressure. It was a great experience for us... In recent times, I’ve begun admiring Virat Kohli... He’s been getting runs under pressure, scoring big despite the target being stiff. There’s something to learn from him.

What did Sachin tell you last (Wednesday) evening, at an awards function?

He praised me and wished me (more) luck.

Where captaincy is concerned, have you admired somebody at the helm?

I haven’t tried to copy anybody, but I’ve noted the calm manner in which (Mahendra Singh, a fellow-Rajput) Dhoni leads the team... He’s good to watch... Communication is vital and a rapport with the players essential.

Have you had a word with Dhoni?

Not yet, but I hope to speak to him soon.

You’ve played Pakistan a few times... Have you felt the pressure which the Big Boys feel? Gautam Gambhir, for example, can’t sleep the night before a face-off against Pakistan...

Instead of looking at the opposition being Pakistan or being Australia, I and my team just took it one match at a time. I wouldn’t say one faced more pressure.

According to your family, you've been maintaining diaries... Do you get the time to make entries?

Yes, I’ve filled up a couple of them! It’s not that I write every single day. It’s a hobby. I also like reading.

Did you get the time to write on Sunday?

Not that night, but I did jot down a few things on the long flight from Brisbane to Dubai on the way home.

How did you get the idea of keeping a diary?

My parents (Bharat Chand Thakur, an economics teacher, and former teacher Rajeshwari) encouraged me to start a diary. That has stayed.

Are you a movie buff by any chance?

I do watch movies... Everybody in Hollywood is cool... In Hindi cinema, my favourites are Shah Rukh Khan and Chitrangada Singh.

You must have met Shah Rukh during your two seasons (with the Delhi DareDevils) in the IPL...

Well, I’ve just shaken hands with him once, this year... Shah Rukh’s a self-made man and handles things very well... I admire the way he interacts with the media.

Having become a World Cup-winning captain, I guess things will be different the next time you meet Shah Rukh. What do you feel?

That would be nice.

Cricket is a passion, but have you been interested in any other sport?

Swimming... I’m in awe of Michael Phelps and watched the live telecast of some of his races in the recent Olympics... He’s a legend.

You’re the lone child. Have your parents pampered you?

Yes and no!

The final one... How will you be handling the attention from your female fans?

(Laughs) Let’s see.