Hello and welcome once again to DRS, my very own take on matters cricketing. Until a few days ago, very few in the country at heard of Unmukt Chand; but one incredible innings in the Under-19 World Cup final has transformed Unmukt from just another promising teenage cricket batsman into clearly the star of the future.
That’s perhaps what modern media does, that’s perhaps what Under-19 cricket does. You had Virat Kohli; you had Yuvraj Singh, who views Under-19 cricket as a platform to a greater success. And we are all hoping that Unmukt Chand does the same. Well almost all of us, because if you speak to the St Stephen’s College and its principal then they believe that what Unmukt has done in winning the World Cup is just another day in the office.
At the end of the day, says Principal Thampu of Stephen’s College, Unmukt must attend college if he has to appear for exams. It’s a classic case of a college principal believing there are no flexibilities in rules. There at the end of the day, the college knows best that cricket is part of that old saying “Kheloge koodoge to kya banoge?”.
The fact is that world has changed. Unmukt Chand doesn’t really need to go to St Stephen’s College any more to make a life for himself in the world of cricket. Don’t forget Sachin Tendulkar didn’t even do his 12th standard exams. He left Shardashram after 10th standard because by then he was already a Test player. Unmukt perhaps is never going to reach the heights of Sachin but is clearly in line for a wonderful Test career or a wonderful international career if he is able to keep his head. But St Stephen’s College seems to believe that playing cricket is secondary to academics.
Unmukt cannot have the best of both worlds. He can’t be a student aspiring to have a good education, a college degree and at the same time aspire to play for India. He must make a choice. This used to be the trend in the 1960s. Erapalli Prasanna, the great offspinner, actually took three years away from cricket to focus on his engineering degree and became an engineer. But in today’s world, three years is a life time. You can’t expect an Unmukt Chand to take three years out of his cricket to focus on academics. That’s no going to happen.
What you really need is a system that is more flexible. Instead of admonishing an Unmukt Chand, admire the fact that here is a young man who wants to be a college graduate; who doesn’t want to drop like a Sachin Tendulkar; who believes that he can play for India one day and at the same time wear the badge of St Stephen’s College. I would have thought that most colleges would give their right arm to have someone like an Unmukt Chand proudly represent St Stephen’s College in international cricket tournament.
Unfortunately, today’s administrator seem to feel that cricket is a distraction. That’s perhaps one reason why we will never be a great sporting nation. I refuse to believe that in a country like Australia you’d have a situation like Unmukt Chand’s. Once you get someone on sport scholarship or sports quota, you should be going out of your way to give that individual the opportunity to have his college day education and become a top sportsman. That opportunity is being denied to Unmukt Chand. And I fear somewhere down the line that an opportunity being denied to Unmukt Chand symbolizes why we will never be a sporting nation.
In fact, Unmukt Chand could be a symbol for youngsters that you can, even in the India of today with all the work pressure and all the pressures of becoming a professional sportsperson, combine sports with academics. That why if I were Principal Thampu, I would call Unmukt Chand to my room, have a long dialogue with him, tell him that the college will back you all the way as you become an international player. We will give you every support that you can. We will allow you to appear in every exam that you possibly can. If you fail the exams, well too bad, but you must get the opportunity.
I would expect now that Principal Thampu doesn’t stand on prestige, doesn’t stick by the rule, and looks at this as an opportunity for reviving the Stephenian tradition of sport. Or else an elite institution in this country will find that no sportsperson will want to come to the college or school. Let’s hope that Unmukt Chand becomes both an international player one day and also a first class graduate from St Stephen’s.