Unmukt Chand is on the verge of becoming the first-ever Indian cricketer to play in the Australian Big Bash League. Here’s what you need to know about the man who’s signed for the Melbourne Renegades, is hoping to represent the USA in the future and is good friends with Virat Kohli!
What sort of player is Unmukt Chand?
Chand is a 28-year old top order batter who opens or bats at three. He’s also a very occasional off-spin bowler but has only ever taken seven wickets at a professional level. He’s had some success in the different formats with an eye-catching average of 41.33 in List A cricket (40 or 50 over cricket at domestic level).
His stats are pretty decent away from that with eight first-class centuries, seven List A hundreds and three in T20 cricket.
In doing so, he became only the third Indian player to score three T20 centuries but none of them were in the IPL.
In T20 cricket he averages 22.35 with a strike rate of 116.
Has he played for India?
Not at senior level. But he was the captain of the Indian U-19 side that beat Australia in the final, in Australia. He scored a calm and composed 111 in a tough chase where he remained unbeaten, his third consecutive century in the Under 19 side in finals.
He then captained India A sides against New Zealand and Bangladesh, winning both Series.
But he never got a chance to play for India.
Has he played in the IPL?
Yes, over the years he represented the Delhi Daredevils, Rajasthan Royals and the Mumbai Indians. He actually won the IPL with Mumbai in 2015, though he didn’t play any games that season.
In 21 IPL games he scored exactly 300 runs with just the one fifty, striking 58 against RCB. His IPL strike rate is exactly 100.
How come he’s eligible to play in the Big Bash?
Rules drawn up by the BCCI state that no Indian player currently playing for India at international level or in any Indian-based domestic tournament are allowed to play other T20 tournaments in other countries.
So that doesn’t include the likes of Chet Puajra or Ravi Ashwin who have played First Class county cricket, usually in preparation for playing Test matches in England.
But Chand has turned his back on Indian domestic cricket, somewhat frustrated with the lack of opportunities he’s had (or hasn’t had) over the last couple of years.
That’s why he decided to go and play cricket in the USA. He recently led the New Jersey Stallions to victory in the inaugural Minor Cricket League and was named player of the tournament.
After completing 36 months of living in the USA, he will be eligible to represent them at an international level, something former England man and 2019 World Cup winner Liam Plunkett, is also keen to do.
But because he has no ties to Indian cricket, he’s free to play anywhere he likes. Having said that, this is the only tournament he’ll be playing outside the USA for the foreseeable future because of his commitments to playing in the USA where he only has two months off to pursue other opportunities.
Not the first Indian to play Big Bash cricket…
As an aside, that doesn’t mean he’s the first Indian player full stop to play in the Big Bash. Rather, if he does play this season, he’ll be the first MALE Indian player to feature in it.
The rules are different for female players, partly because at present there’s no women’s IPL.
So a few of the Indian female stars have played in the Big Bash already, including Harmanpreet Kaur, Poonam Yadav, Shafali Verma and Jemimah Rodrigues, who have all had BBL contracts in the past.
Which Big Bash team will he play for?
Chand has signed up to play for the Melbourne Renegades.
The Renegades won the 2018-19 edition of the Bash with an against-the-odds win over rivals the Melbourne Stars in the final but finished rock bottom in the next two editions, so have really struggled.
But that’s not the only issue for Chand on a personal level.
BBL teams can only field three overseas players per match and right now they have fast bowler Reece Topley from England, spin bowler Zaheer Khan from Afghanistan and veteran all-rounder Mohammad Nabi in their squad.
All three of those were picked ahead of Chand for their two opening games, both against the Adelaide Strikers.
So when will he play?
Good question! The fact he hasn’t been picked so far is a bit of a worry. For their two opening games none of Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh or new skipper Nic Maddinson featured.
That was as a result of injury in the case of the first two and playing for Australia A in the case of Maddinson.
Given he’s a top order batsman and that the trio just mentioned are as well, suggests he may have missed out on the opportunity to get a game when the side was missing such important top-order players.
So he’ll have to bide his time and wait for an opportunity. That may come in the form of an injury, loss of form or a poor run of results that causes the Renegades management to make a change. There are no other overseas players currently in the squad.
Either way, we’ll have to wait for Chand to make his Big Bash debut.