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In Virat's steps, Unmukt ready to rock IPL

With the U-19 World Cup and Indian Premier League getting wide media coverage, young Indians are getting a taste of the limelight even before making it to the national team. It was Virat Kohli who opened the doors for others. Kohli’s Delhi teammate Unmukt Chand is the latest to join the club. Chand, who led India to victory in the just-concluded U-19 four-nation event in Townsville, is already a star. Back in the country, Chand joins the Delhi Daredevils camp today. He spoke to MiD DAY.


In virat’s steps: India U-19 skipper Unmukt Chand celebrates his century against Australia in Townsville recently. Pic/Getty Images

Excerpts from an interview:

You are a star even before playing international cricket for India. Does that add extra pressure on you?
Honestly, I haven’t thought about it like that. It’s a long way to go. I am just getting started. I want to take things as they come. The ultimate dream is to play for India. I just want to focus on whatever I am playing. Whether it’s for the U-19 team, Delhi Ranji team or Delhi Daredevils, I want focus only at the task in hand. Now, my focus shifts to IPL. I get an opportunity to impress some great cricketers. I’ve been taught well – the main thing is to follow the process. I just don’t want my focus to drift to anything else.

Four years ago, Virat Kohli was in a similar spot. Is there pressure on you since people are now expecting the same things from you?
It’s a motivational thing. When people say I can follow in his footsteps, I get very excited. I am already visualising batting alongside him for India. It will be awesome. I have been watching him for the last five years. I saw him when he won the U-19 World Cup. I have seen his progression after that. If people expect me to do what he has done, it gives me a kick. I also tell myself sometimes, ‘If Virat can do it, so can I’.

Do you talk to Virat a lot?
He’s been a really great friend. When he came back from Australia, he came to our Delhi dressing room and had a long chat with me as I was getting out in 30s and 40s. I asked how ‘do you go with the flow?’ ‘how do you plan an innings?’ etc. He really wants me to succeed, so we have a great relationship.

Which batsman did you idolise while growing up?
When I go out to bat, I don’t want to think I am this, or that. Sachin (Tendulkar) is the ultimate idol. I love watching him bat. I idolise Sachin for the way he carries himself off the field. Lately, Virat has been a motivational factor. The knocks he played at Hobart and Dhaka recently motivated me — the way he maintained his temper, the way he carried himself. When I go into bat now, and if I have to take the match till the end, I try to visualise how Virat played in those two innings.

What do you intend to learn from IPL teammates Virender Sehwag, Mahela Jayawardene and Kevin Pietersen?
I will be meeting Jayawardene and KP for the first time. Let’s see how it goes. I am excited. Jayawardene is very wristy, a classy player, and KP is so aggressive. I like wristy shots myself. Both are so exciting to watch. I will try to pick up whatever I can. They are such pros. There are some good local seniors too that I can learn from.

There’s one thing common in your fellow Delhi mates — Sehwag, Gambhir and Kohli — and that’s aggression. Are you cut from the same cloth?
I’m a very naturally aggressive batsman. I can’t compare myself with them. They are at a level where they are proven players. I too know only one way to play — aggressively. I realise that to be successful in modern day cricket, you have to play big shots, but with sound basics.  

Chand’s statistics
>> First-class: 11 matches, 738 Runs, Avg: 44. 100: 1
>> U-19 career: 12 matches, 617 Runs, Avg: 68, 100: 2

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