Jaydev Unadkat returned with figures of 2/15 in 4 overs against Sri Lanka in 3rd T20I. (Source: AP)
JAYDEV UNADKAT perhaps will never be able to play down the queerness surrounding his Test debut. It’s been seven years since the time he ambled in, fresh-faced, nervous and looking rather out of depth, against a mighty South African batting line-up on a hard Centurion wicket. But the left-arm seamer from Saurashtra might be taking steps towards redemption, finally, at the highest level. And they’ve been rapid steps of late. On Sunday at the Wankhede Stadium with the Indian team all set to depart for yet another South African tour, the 26-year-old displayed just how far he’s grown as a bowler, in the shorter formats anyway, with a spell of incisive deception and figures of 2/15 in 4 overs. It ensured that he finished the T20 series against Sri Lanka with remarkable numbers — 4 wickets at 11 and an extraordinary T20 economy rate of 4.88.
But the resurrection of Unadkat’s bowling isn’t that recent. It’s only now that he’s been able to show it at the highest level. The new-and-improved Unadkat surfaced for the first time four years ago in the IPL when he bowled himself into one of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s (RCB) key weapons with the new and old ball. And since, he’s only grown from strength to strength.
“I get asked this question a lot about my Test debut, was I too young or was I drafted in too early. I would just say that I was performing really well when I made my Test debut. And the only thing probably which made me become a better bowler or to gain some more skills in my armoury is that I have become a lot stronger than what I was then,” he said when asked to recall his only Test appearance and the improvements he’s made ever since. Unadkat also put it down to going back to the grind of domestic cricket with the knowledge of what he thought he’d lacked during his foray in international cricket as a teenager.
“Any player who goes through the Indian domestic circuit, playing the T20s, one-dayers and Ranji Trophy, that too on flat tracks that we play on in Saurashtra, will mature quicker. So after making my Test debut, going back into domestic cricket knowing already what needs to be done at the highest level, did help me in that part of my career,” he said.
The standout feature of Unadkat’s bowling during that 2013 IPL was how he’d added significant yards of pace to his bowling. But he still didn’t quite have the control that he now possesses, especially with his variations. That aspect of his bowling has taken a little longer to develop, and it came to the fore during this year’s IPL when he was by far the most impressive Indian fast bowler for Rising Pune Supergiant, finishing with 24 wickets at 13.41 and an economy rate of 7.02. He was also his team’s go-to bowler, invariably giving captain Steve Smith a wicket regardless of whether he was bowling at the top or brought in for his later spells. And Unadkat put that new-found confidence with using his variations in high-pressure situations to how he’s started backing himself more.
“Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) does it extremely well in pressure situations. We see Jasprit (Bumrah) do that for India as well. Seeing those guys, I try to learn it myself, that be it any situation, pressure or otherwise, I need to back my strengths. Earlier, I would say I wasn’t completely backing myself to go for those variations in pressure situations. I just thought that this is the need of the hour, so I shouldn’t think of my strengths. But then I realised it’s not about what others tell me is a good ball to bowl at a particular time. It’s about what I think is my strength,” he explained.
Unadkat, though, is aware that he still has a long way to go before becoming a certainty for India in the limited-over formats, considering the glut of fast bowling talent at the team’s disposal presently. But he said that competition for spots has only made him realise that he’ll have to raise his own bar to come into the mix for a longer period.
“Seeing these guys do really well at the international level, I knew if I want to be a part of it, I really need to improve my standard. That’s the point of view that everyone has now that there’s such a stiff competition,” he said.