Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Unmukt Chand: To new and victorious beginnings. Silicon Valley Strikers with their trophy [Image: Minor League Cricket]
Silicon Valley Strikers with their trophy [Image: Minor League Cricket]
There was a sense of anticipation at the Morgan Hill Sports Complex in California as Unmukt Chand, days after his retirement from Indian cricket took guard to face his first delivery in a cricketing rebirth of sorts. The Minor League Cricket administration sensed the gravity of the occasion among California's cricketing fraternity and arranged an event titled the ‘Cricket for Community Day' around Chand's debut with added fanfare. Much to the crowd's dismay, Chand was clean bowled for a duck off his third delivery by a military medium pace bowler; a still that went viral and was duly amplified by trolls over cyberspace.
‘Ruk Jana Nahi Tu Kahi Haarke‘ (Don't stop midway feeling defeated), a Kishore Kumar melody from the 1970s was the song Unmukt Chand chose for the background score of his Instagram montage that announced his India retirement. Staying true to that emotional post, Chand moved from words to deeds to lead the Silicon Valley Strikers to the inaugural title of Minor League Cricket in the US. He also went on to be crowned the best batsman of the league, scoring 612 runs in 16 innings at an average of 51.
“I was very clear about one thing, that we want to play to win the season and not just for participation even though there were 27 teams and that's what I made it really clear to the owners as well, otherwise there is no point. We had a good bunch of local talent which makes a huge difference in a tournament like this” Chand told Cricbuzz after clinching the final.
Chand, who had captained the India U19s and the India A sides with distinction, knew he had to go back to the drawing board to get acclimatised to the local players and their psyche, instil synergies through professionalism and work ethics within the group to carry them through a gruelling two-month long campaign. In 2012, while sharing the dais with Kapil Dev and Mohammad Azharuddin at an India Today Mind Rocks Conclave, Chand once outlined his three guiding pillars in building a successful cricket team: self-belief, controlled aggression, and communication. Something which he still considers a cornerstone of his leadership.
Chand brought about openness within the group. Never shied away from giving a piece of his mind to make his disappointment felt. He made his players put their hand up and own up to their mistakes to be better players regardless of their virtue in the side.
“I made it very clear to the owners that I wanted to lead the side. That helps me engage with the players on a one-on-one basis. If I lead a side, I take it very personally and emotionally. It becomes like a family to me. Try to build an atmosphere where everyone enjoys each other's success” added Chand.
“It's a good boys team!” exclaimed Chand pointing at Arsh Buch and expressing his gratitude, after Buch, a working professional, decided to accompany the team on a five-hour flight with a broken foot and warming the bench for 13 off the 16 games.
Chand led with example when his team was in dire straits. In the quarterfinal clash against the Austin Athletics, with personal slurs from the opposing fans and players alike, Chand decided to take matters in his own hands. Such was the targeted abuse that a couple of spectators had to be escorted out of the stadium to maintain sanity. Chasing a mounting target of 185, Chand went into zen mode. After quipping ‘We are winning this', he decided to pad up immediately after returning back to the dressing room. He stayed motionless and went on to open the innings.
What followed was carnage. Chand went onto score a monumental 132* off 69 balls in a maddening final over run chase. Tempers flaring, there was a moment in the game where Chand was seen gesturing to the Athletics wicket keeper to fetch the ball after bludgeoning a massive six. As with the innings he played in Townsville almost a decade ago to take India U19 home in the World Cup final, there was a sense of inevitability to this knock too. Chand seemed like a man possessed, clearly shaken within by the drivel around but undeterred and unperturbed. A superhuman innings for the ‘Marvels' to marvel over.
Chand remains a box office commodity in the US. Just after the final presentation he was mobbed by a small crowd present on the ground. He gleefully obliged each soul with a selfie and an autograph. He gave away some of his gear to young cricketers. The statement victory meant a lot to Chand as he danced his way into the wee hours of morning and was one of the last ones to leave the dance floor. Still 28, the Chand saga continues.