After the bout, the bonding
The Indian players were dancing on the pavement outside the Jewel of India restaurant on Flinders Street. They had been world champions for four hours and were celebrating deservedly, with their team management and fans, who'd created a homely atmosphere so far away from home, and just regular punters who wandered over to see what the party was about. There was Bollywood music in the air and at some point other people showed up with a dhol and began to beat out tunes. Most of the players looked absolutely knackered but found plenty of energy to break out into some smooth moves. They were enjoying the greatest night of their young lives and their celebration was inclusive of anyone who wanted in.
They were well into their merry-making when some of the Australian players were walking to another restaurant on the other side of the street. Townsville shuts so early on Sundays that these two establishments were among the few that were open. The Indians spotted the Australians and shouted in their direction, asking them to come over too. They did not, and understandably so. They had just lost the World Cup final and, as good sports as they are, they could be forgiven for not wanting to be in the thick of an Indian celebration.
It did not take long for India's captain Unmukt Chand to leave his party, cross Flinders Street, and go over to where the Australians were. Some of the Aussies were shooting pool by the tables near the entrance, and Unmukt, after greeting most of them, began a conversation and a game of pool with Kurtis Patterson and Gurinder Sandhu at the tables further inside the restaurant.
Shortly afterwards, the tables near the front were empty as most of the Australians went over to those at the back, mixing with Unmukt. There have been several memorable sights on and off the field during this U-19 World Cup but nothing surpassed the Australian captain William Bosisto and Unmukt having a conversation and playing some pool on the side after such a hard-fought final. These boys were getting started on the good habits early. Unmukt spent more than half an hour with the Australians, before heading back to his team's celebrations.
Not too long ago, Bosisto and Unmukt had been sat next to each other at the press conference after the World Cup final. They were exhausted. Bosisto had been on the field for 88 overs in the most high-pressure match of his life; Unmukt likewise for 97.4. In warm and humid conditions, and without the cool breeze that had been present at previous matches at Tony Ireland Stadium, they had played giant innings. Bosisto rescuing his team, like he has done so often in this World Cup, from the depths of 38 for 4 through sheer hard work; Unmukt choosing the greatest stage to put into practice all that he had talked about through the tournament, and playing one of the great U-19 innings. Bosisto was shattered at having lost, and at having dropped Unmukt when India needed 49 off 41 balls - his only blemish in the whole tournament. Unmukt was savouring his greatest triumph to date, but was emotionally drained too.
And yet there was grace then as well. "India are a great side, I think they played better than us on the day and they deserved it," Bosisto said, while answering a dissection of an excruciating defeat. "Getting an early wicket, we thought that put us right in the contest. Unmukt's innings was just a freak innings and sometimes you are going to get that in cricket against such talented opposition."
Unmukt spoke with empathy, and patted his counterpart on the back, when he said: "I would like to wish them [Australia] luck and feel really sorry for him because he played a great knock but just couldn't pull it off at the last moment. Bosisto played a very mature innings and he got them a good target."
They had come into the function room in the grandstand of Tony Ireland Stadium for the press conference shortly after the presentation ceremony, where Unmukt had won the Player-of-the-Match award for his unbeaten 111 that delivered India their third U-19 title. Bosisto, who scored 87, remained not out in five out of six innings, and ended the World Cup with an average of 276, had been named Player of the Tournament.
"I knew a big score was required. Today was the day I said to myself that I need to stay there, I need to be there, and if I am there we can get to the target," Unmukt said. "I'm really happy I was able to achieve it."
Bosisto was asked if his award was any consolation in defeat. "Not at all," he said. "I'm pretty devastated."
Their lead-ups to the final had been different. While Unmukt had not made the scores he had been expected to in the group stages and the knockouts, Bosisto had steered his team through tough chases repeatedly. India needed a powerful performance from Unmukt to challenge Australia and he proved his big-match temperament once again, having scored hundreds in the finals of the Asia Cup and a quadrangular series in Townsville earlier this year. Australia needed their captain to drag them out of trouble once again and he responded unfailingly with 87, his best innings of the tournament.
Two days ahead of the final, when asked what kind of a captain he was, Bosisto said he was still discovering that. He said he would love to be able to lead by example. He has certainly done that, leading Australia with distinction, proving he has the coolest of heads in a crisis - be it a batting collapse or a controversial incident. He could not speak highly enough of his team-mates and said he felt privileged to be in the company of such talent.
Unmukt spoke in a similar tone. Though he's undoubtedly the batting star of this India U-19 side, Unmukt heaped praise on everyone else, including the team management. "Our team has been really good throughout the tournament. It's not been a one-man show or a two-man show," he said. "Everyone has chipped in with batting and bowling, the fielding has been amazing. That's what has taken us so far." His list of people to thank at the presentation ceremony was extremely long.
They are very different cricketers, Unmukt and Bosisto. One is a dashing stroke-maker who revels on a big occasion, the other a reliable run-scorer who rarely lets his team down. They are both match-winners. They were worthy captains on the U-19's grandest stage and perhaps they'll meet again, when India play Australia, and one will cross the street to greet the other.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo