In early 2012, while Team India was busy discovering new ways to crash and burn Down Under, a land that has been particularly kind to them over the last decade, another Indian team began to sow the seeds of a campaign that would turn history on its head.
The Indian U19 team, led by a boy named Unmukt Chand (A Delhi Daredevil in IPL 2012), traveled to Australia for the first time for a quadrangular series. Townsville was the venue, and the team hadn’t been in spectacular form leading into this series. The other 3 teams were ranked higher than India, and as any traveling Indian team, the boys crashed to defeat after defeat in the group stages. They found it extremely difficult to adjust to these alien conditions- with Australia and England mercilessly ripping them apart in their games.
Miraculously, though, they found themselves in the semi-final, thanks to a ridiculous format. The boy, Chand, played the first significant Indian innings of the tournament. His unbeaten 80-odd saw India beat England in the semis. Chand then changed the whole definition of a ‘big-match player’, when he took on the entire Australian team single-handedly in the final. An unbeaten century, and suddenly, India had won the tournament at the same venue that was going to host the World Cup in a few months.
The Asia Cup followed, and Chand decided to change things forever. Another couple of centuries, again in the semis and the final, saw India TIE the final with Pakistan. Chand wasn’t done. He was hungry. He wanted much more.
The Moon is in the news
And so, when the U19 World Cup began in early August, Chand decided that he would be the third name after Kaif and Kohli, in Indian historybooks. Most knew it was coming, especially the Australian team. Chand didn’t play a significant hand throughout the tournament, with India crashing to defeat to a talented West Indian team in the group stages. Instead, it was the insanely gifted Baba Aparijith and bowlers like Sandeep Sharma and Singh that helped their team through the rounds.
As the colts reached the final, they looked more and more comfortable with every game. Suddenly, Australia felt like a home away from home. The bowlers were having the time of their lives in this low-scoring world cup, and the batsmen were really building character and learning the art of building an innings with their small insightful knocks.
Australia were favorites to win the final. Their captain Bosisto had been in lightning form throughout, and nothing changed in the final, as he guided his team from a hopeless position to a very challenging score of 225. It would have to be the highest total chased down at this ground. In 2011, Dhoni and co. had to chase down the highest ever total in a World Cup Final to earn the right to be called Champions of the World.
After a wonderful cameo but Baba once again, it was left to Unmukt Chand, and even the Australians couldn’t believe he was still at the crease. He never lasted more than 8-9 overs over the last 2 weeks, and the Aussies began to experience a very sick feeling of déjà vu. Surely, not again?
Lightning struck twice, indeed.
Chand was not to be dismissed. Along with Smit Patel, the gritty wicketkeeper batsman, Chand took his team from a very 1990-2000 India-Australia position to the 2011 Team India, over a period of 48 well-bowled overs. His 6 sixes showed that he was more than just a big-match player. He was an athlete that cherished an occasion. And it couldn’t have gotten any bigger than this.
Aiming for Chand
Another unbeaten century in the final. Another World Cup victory for the Indian Colts- putting them level with Australia with 3 World Cup Wins. Interestingly, there hasn’t been a more dominant ODI team than this in the U19 category, since 1998- when the U19 World Cups were brought back to Cricket.
Temperamentally, the Kohli of 2008 was so different from the Chand of 2012- yet, somehow, they seem so similar. The same Delhi fascination with everything flashy, the cool hairdos, buffed bodies, with tattoos to follow.
And somehow, you hope, for the sake of Indian Cricket, that Chand becomes Kohli in four years time, after Kohli becomes Dhoni.