Come 2024, when the USA hosts its maiden major cricket tournament — the ICC Twenty20 World Cup — Unmukt Chand will be aiming to make a mark on the country’s nascent cricket team. Chand is best remembered as the Man of the Match for his unbeaten 111 against Australia in the final of the U-19 World Cup 2012 while captaining the India side. However, disappointed with not getting enough chances to play for Team India, he retired from Indian cricket last year. With a no-objection certificate (NOC) in hand from BCCI to play cricket anywhere in the world now, he immigrated to the USA to train and play for the American cricket team for the upcoming World Cup.
“I had the offer to play for the USA Major Cricket League for a long time. It’s only now that I accepted it. After being in America for three months, I planned to fully shift my base there as I was convinced that they (American cricket) are going in the right direction… that they will reach somewhere,” shares Chand in an interview with India Currents.
Interestingly, in January 2022, Chand became the first-ever player from India to have played for the prestigious Australian Big Bash League. “It’s only for a limited time that I can leave America; so I have to maximize that time to play other leagues. When I took the decision of leaving Indian cricket, the leagues opened up… Big Bash also approached me to play for them and that’s how it happened.”
Chand played for Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League under the explosive Australian captain Aaron Finch. Chand notes, “I got a chance late in the tournament, playing only two matches. But I had played with him when I was with Delhi Daredevils too. He is a good leader… we had a very young side here. He was helping the boys out… the way he gels with boys is good and something to learn from.”
What does Chand see as the biggest difference between cricket in India and cricket in America?
“Cricket between the two countries cannot be compared! No other country plays as much cricket as India or has so much passion (for the game). In every nook and corner of India, so many are playing cricket. There is a huge Indian population in America and now growing numbers are playing this sport in America too. Even in Australia, the game is not played as much as in India. It is not as crazy anywhere else in fact.”
Does that affect the game?
“It is a change of perspective, to say the least. The game becomes different, since we get to practice a lot in India, but not so much here – simply because you don’t have as many bowlers or players. Too many people want to be a part of the game back at home,” says Chand.
The 29-year-old cricketer has chosen quality over quantity he says. His focus is to play international cricket for the next 10 years. “Outside India, except for the shield games, cricket is played mostly on weekends. The numbers are a different thing. But cricket is the same. There is less pressure here.”
Settled in the San Francisco Bay Area with his spouse Simran Khosla, the one thing he does miss is the Indian community. “After living in India, it is difficult to go anywhere! The whole vibe is different. For example, though we get great Indian food in Bay Area too, the street food vibe is missing! On the professional front, the practice facility is missing… turf cricket, bowlers’ availability – these are easily available in India.”
Suruchi Tulsyan is a freelance journalist based in Kolkata, India.