Young guns not at the party yet

Unmukt Chand of Delhi Daredevils is clean bowled by Sreesanth (BCCI)The bubble seems to have well and truly burst for Unmukt Chand.

India’s under-19 World Cup winning captain from last year has failed to build on the hype he generated after a century against hosts Australia in the final helped him emulate Mohammad Kaif and Virat Kohli’s earlier feats.

It’s not that Unmukt doesn’t possess talent – far from it. He is a prodigious strokemaker who can flay any bowling attack in any condition – be it his maiden Ranji Trophy century on a green-top at the Roshanara Club in the 2010-11 season or his back-to-back tons in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy this season.

But on the evidence of his struggles in the Indian Premier League this season, and the lacklustre showing in the preceding Ranji season, it is clear that Unmukt needs to get his focus on performing against quality attacks.

In the Ranji season gone by, Unmukt scored 445 runs in 13 innings at an average of 37.08, with a lone century. He rebounded rather well, contributing to Delhi’s Vijay Hazare Trophy victory with 271 in seven matches. It was in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy that he really came into his own, topping the charts with 321 runs in nine matches, with two tons in back- to- back games.

The expectation, therefore, was for him to be one of the cornerstones of the Delhi Daredevils batting, alongside stalwarts like Virender Sehwag, Mahela Jayawardene and David Warner.

But off the very first ball of the season, he was bowled by a Brett Lee scorcher, and since then, things have only gone downhill, with a 20 and another golden duck.

After being dropped for five games, Unmukt returned for the match against Pune Warriors India here on Sunday, and batted at three. But he only struggled to 17 off 19 balls before trying to up the ante and falling caught behind.

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Not that his teammates who did India proud Down Under are doing any better. Leftarm spinner Harmeet Singh impressed one and all at the U-19 World Cup, but in his only outing for the Rajasthan Royals so far, the teenager was carted around and got just one wicket.

Baba Aparajith and Sandeep Sharma, have not got a game yet.

Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Hanuma Vihari has contributed to two wins but has done precious little in the other seven games.

The advertisement where Unmukt is seen delivering smart lines to India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli is rather ironic, given his reputation as the next leading light of Delhi batting after Kohli.

Unmukt still looks very raw and is not able to convert starts into the big scores that one expects from a potential India player against domestic attacks. Against international class bowlers in the IPL, too, there ought to be some glimpses of his talent.

The Indian Premier League was supposed to help Indian youngsters by allowing them to rub shoulders with the best in the world. But they have either been warming the bench, or have done precious little when given opportunities.

It may perhaps be a better idea for these rookies to hone their skills in longer versions of the game before they play in the big arena.