Indian Premier League may be the best league in the world in terms of popularity and revenue, but Big Bash League has been in action earlier than IPL. 2008 saw the first edition of KFC Big Bash. Since the inaugural edition of the league, no Indian has been a part of the men's version of this league. Women in Blue have been a part of WBBL, but due to prohibition by BCCI, no men's cricketer from India could play the league till the last edition. In this edition, however, Unmukt Chand got the chance to be a part of playing eleven for Melbourne Renegades, making him the first Indian to do so.
For any Indian to be a part of the league, the player either needs to get a NOC from the board (which is impossible to get ) or has to retire from the BCCI contract cutting off all the ties with the board and anything organized by it. And Unmukt did the latter. He retired from Indian cricket in 2021, when he got to play for the Minor cricket league in the US. Almost after 8-9 years, he made it to the headlines, but for the reason of his retirement.
The captain of the U-19 world cup winning team, and the only captain in U-19 to hit a century in the world cup final, Unmukt Chand was considered as the next big thing in Indian cricket. With one seeing the rise of Virat Kohli after winning the U-19 world cup 2008, everyone expected him to follow in Virat's footsteps. But fate was supposed to take him elsewhere.
He was selected for Delhi Daredevils in 2013 IPL, and pm the very first ball of the season, he was bowled by an unplayable delivery by Brett Lee. In the second match against Mumbai Indians too, he was dismissed on the very first ball, when in an attempt to defend the ball off Harbhajan Singh's bowling, he edged it and Ricky Ponting took a blinder at short mid-off. Dismissed on golden duck in his first two matches might have damaged his confidence. He was not selected in playing eleven for Delhi that year.
He did get a few chances in the next few IPL seasons. While playing for Mumbai Indians, he also hit a half-century. But that was not sufficient for him to earn a name. Furthermore, his performance in Delhi in the domestic circuit was not up to the mark in the years to come. He did lead Delhi well in the tournaments, but his bat didn't show his true potential. Therefore, a player who was considered as the next big thing in Indian cricket was hardly into the headlines related to cricket.
With increasing competition in Indian cricket and a few other factors, Unmukt sensed that he might not get the opportunity that he once deserved to get. Fortunately for him, the United States had plans of promoting the sport in their country. And they came up with Minor League Cricket, where they approached players from the cricket playing nations to play for them, starting to help them play for Unites Nations too in the days to come. Unmukt was approached by Silicon Valley Strikers with a multi-year deal. With not many hopes left for him in Indian cricket, he accepted the Strikers' offer and played for them in Minor League Cricket.
Since the board in the US had no obligations to players from participating in foreign leagues, Unmukt was approached by Melbourne Renegades to play for their team. After waiting for a long time in the entire season, finally against the Hobart Hurricanes, Unmukt got a chance to be in the playing eleven. Although he didn't make a mark in the first match, by scoring just 6 runs, he did play a cameo in the match against Sydney Thunders scoring 29 off 22 deliveries, hitting 2 towering sixes in the innings.
For India, he is currently the only player to have played in the league. Maybe in future, there will be many more players like him who opt to play for other countries and eventually end up playing BBL and other leagues. But a transition of a match-winner for India in U-19, to next star of India, to a star who never played for India, is not much pleasing to see, considering the talent he had. Nevertheless, we hope this youngster makes it big at the highest level of the game, whenever he gets to play it for the US, or any other country. And whenever he gets the chance to play, Indians will still proudly rejoice in their very own Unmukt playing at the highest level.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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