Unmukt Chand savours 'great journey'
India's captain Unmukt Chand has said winning the World Cup in Townsville was a fitting end for an Under-19 side that began its journey over a year ago and has enjoyed so much success along the way. The World Cup was the fourth tournament Chand's team has won, after two quadrangular titles and a shared Asia Cup trophy.
"It has been a great journey and a great finish I can say," Chand said after scoring an unbeaten century in India's chase of 226. "We don't know when we will play again [as a team], probably we won't play again together, so that's a bit of an emotional thing as well. Really happy that we could pull it off and finish it on a high."
India's World Cup campaign was not entirely smooth: they lost the first game against West Indies and it wasn't until the semi-final that their batting began to show collective promise. "That's the good part," Chand said of the challenges India had overcome. "Initially we have had a few jitters but we carried on really well and that's what matters the most. We peaked at the right times and that's a quality of good teams."
In the final, the bowlers, after reducing Australia to 38 for 4, had a rare off day and India's batsmen needed to achieve the highest successful chase of the tournament at Tony Ireland Stadium to win the World Cup. Chand, however, praised his bowlers for keeping Australia to a total as low as 225 for 8.
"It happens at times. Our bowlers have done really well in all the previous matches and I guess they bowled really well today as well," Chand said. "You can't expect a bowling side to restrict the opposition to 150 all the time. 225, we have restricted them to a very low target I feel."
India's chase got off to a poor start, when Prashant Chopra was caught down the leg side in the second over. That changed quickly, though, when Baba Aparajith joined Chand and gave a masterclass in driving on the off side. They added 73 in quick time and gave India a buffer in case they lost quick wickets, which they did.
"It's only a matter of one partnership. One good partnership on this wicket, it was a dream wicket to bat on," Chand said. "We knew that we would pull it off if we had one good partnership and that's what I was telling the other batsmen with me. To back yourself, believe yourself and keep communicating."
India went from 75 for 1 to 97 for 4, though, but Chand found another steady partner in Smit Patel, who had scored a fighting half-century in difficult conditions against West Indies in the opening group game. Both were dropped, when Chand was on 38 and Smit on 2. India needed 91 off 90 balls when the batting Powerplay had to be taken but Chand and Smit did not change their approach much, scoring only 18 off the first four overs during the restrictions.
"What I was thinking inside, and I had heard Dhoni speak of this before, that in the 38th over I won't take a risk because the bowler is not under as much pressure as he is in the 46th or the 47th over. I was just thinking that I should take it to the last moment, because you know six, seven or eight runs, you can get anytime in an over. The important thing was to save wickets. If you have wickets in hand, even eight or nine [per over] on this track was not a difficult task."
As it so happened, Chand carted Ashton Turner's off-spin over the midwicket boundary in the last over of batting Powerplay, the 40th. After three more overs of accumulation, India needed 49 off 42 when Chand chipped Alex Gregory to midwicket, where William Bosisto dropped the chance. Chand hit a six down the ground two balls later.
"I was not thinking anything at the time," he said about the drop and the following six. "I was just thinking to get to 226. I was talking to Smit, I didn't look at the score ... I didn't know I had scored a century until the crowd shouted and that's when I took out my bat and all. I was in ... what do people call it? The zone? I was trying to stop Smit from hitting unnecessary shots, I was going and speaking to him and telling him to play within his limits."
The boundaries came quickly after that as India made a dash for the target, Smit achieving it with a pull to the midwicket boundary in the 48th over. India's coach Bharat Arun said their success was in part due to the manner in which his team approached the final. The Indians had appeared remarkably relaxed on the field in the lead-up to the toss. Arun, Chand and Kamal Passi were in conversation while sitting on the grass, and a few of the others were having low intensity warm-ups and drills.
"We felt we needed to be absolutely relaxed. We've been insisting right from the beginning," Arun said. "You cannot ask the boys to relax and then be intense with these guys, so you'll have to be cool. Unless they are relaxed they won't focus on the process, if they are pressurised the process goes kaput.
"We said today's game was just another game for us. There was a big tag attached to it, added pressure, I guess we played by what we decided we would."
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo