India’s 2012 Under-19 WC-winning captain reveals that lack of opportunities at home prompted him to go to the US
But what made him take such a drastic step?
Speaking over the phone from San Francisco’s Bay Area, Chand told ESPNcricinfo, “These last few years have been tough. But I wasn’t going to give up on cricket completely. If I wasn’t getting enough opportunities to play in India, where were the next four or five crucial years of my career going to go? I still get emotional imagining that I will never get to play for India again. But I have made some special memories while playing in India.”
Chand made his IPL debut at just 18 years and 15 days, and comparisons with Kohli, a fellow U-19 World Cup-winning captain, were inevitable. “Playing the IPL was a massive experience for me, but I wasn’t very lucky during my stint in it,” Chand, who struck his first IPL fifty for Mumbai Indians against Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2015, said. In the match that followed, the openers had a long partnership, and eventually, Kieron Pollard was sent up the order, with Chand missing out. He was benched from the playing eleven soon after and faded away from the IPL.
Chand now looks back at that time without any regrets. His IPL opportunities might be behind him, but he is now preparing to extend his career in T20 leagues around the world which will now be open to him.
“Just the shade of blue is not the one I had initially dreamt of.”
Unmukt Chand on playing in the US
The players from the U-19 World Cup-winning Indian team are sometimes called an unlucky batch. Much was expected of names like Chand, Baba Aparajith, Harmeet Singh, Vijay Zol, Sandeep Sharma, Akshdeep Nath, Hanuma Vihari and Patel. Of them, only Sharma and Vihari have graduated to senior honours.
“I too dreamt of playing for India one day,” Chand said. “I did realise some of those dreams with my time at India U-19 and India A. I have been abroad for the past two months, but it doesn’t feel too different from home. I am playing with and against new people. There are plenty of Indians in the cricket system here, and the game is being taken quite seriously. Just the shade of blue is not the one I had initially dreamt of.”
Chand will turn out for the Silicon Valley Strikers in the Minor Cricket League in Bay Area – he will make his debut against the Socal Lashings on Saturday – and his long-term contract with them will also include coaching future generations of young cricketers. The Minor League Cricket Championship’s National T20 Tournament that starts soon will pit teams from 27 cities across the United States. Over 400 players will compete in 200 matches across 26 venues.
His IPL clause prevents him from playing any professional cricket over the next three years, but who knows what new heights Chand’s cricket career could go to in the land he will now consider his new home.
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