Former India Under-19 World Cup winning captain Unmukt Chand has revealed that it was a gentle gesture from legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar that inspired him to work harder and dream bigger.
Talking about his recent meeting with Tendulkar, Unmukt, who tasted U-19 World Cup glory in 2012 as captain, said, "That will be an unforgettable day in my life."
Eleven young cricketers associated with a corporate sports initiative were given the opportunity to be mentored by the recently-retired batsman and Unmukt was "humbled" by his icon's encouraging words.
"Sir came to me, shook my hand, handed me a bat, patted my back and said, 'Unmukt, you have always been a special talent. I see you doing well for the country in years to come. All the best and keep working hard'," Unmukt wrote in a blog on sport social network 'Sportlobster'.
"I grew up in an era where Sachin Tendulkar ruled the world of cricket. Who can forget the desert storm in Sharjah or that pull to Andrew Caddick in the 2003 World Cup, which went out of the park!" he added.
Unmukt, who was bought by Rajasthan Royals at the recent players' auction for the seventh edition of the IPL, said it was a step forward in realising his dream of playing for India in future.
"A dream for every cricketer playing in this country is to walk across the field in that blue jersey and cling onto it for as long as possible. I would be lying if I said this wasn't my dream growing up - it still is."
"The only difference between then and now is I have been lucky enough to represent my country in what I would like to call the 'lighter' shade of blue. The dream is and has always been to play for the India senior team in the 'perfect' shade of blue," Unmukt wrote.
However, the youngster is under no illusions about the enormous pressure that comes with the honour of representing one's country.
"Though the dream is to play for the country in all formats, wearing the 'perfect' shade of blue would mean carrying the hopes of a billion people on these two shoulders," the 20-year-old batsman wrote.
"As easy as it is to write about playing for the nation, the responsibility is huge, but I believe the feeling of serving the country and being the reason to extend that smile on a billion faces weighs heavier than being afraid of taking up that responsibility."
"Each cricketer begins his journey with the lighter shades of blue and gradually reaches his dream. I embarked on this journey a long while ago and as time passes I would love to look into the mirror wearing that perfect shade of blue with a billion smiles resting upon my shoulders," he added.
Unmukt backed Twenty20 cricket, saying the shortest format of the game 'tests a player's decision-making skills'. "Twenty20 cricket is scrutinised around the world for over-shadowing the importance and essence of Test cricket, therefore at the international level the format is given less attention than it deserves."
"A one-off T20 match after a long series is similar to a consolation prize. T20, for a brief amount of time, takes the attention away from the other two formats at international level. T20, according to me, is as important as the other formats and, though fast paced, it tests a player's decision-making skills in an urgent situation," he explained.
"The beauty of the game lies in its pace. One wrong decision can cost you a whole match and it is exciting when that element of risk is involved in the game. To grow as a cricketer, one must learn how to switch between the three formats when required," he concluded.