Jaydev Unadkat's Ranji Trophy 2019-20 season has re-ignited hopes of India comeback
- Jaydev Unadkat successfully captained Saurashtra to their maiden Ranji Trophy title.
- Unadkat picked up 67 wickets this Ranji Trophy season, one less than the all-time record.
After leading his team to their historic maiden Ranji Trophy title, Jaydev Unadkat has been extremely upbeat about his hopes of making a comeback to the Indian team. Unadkat's home ground, Saurashtra, is considered to be one of the flattest tracks in the country. Yet, he managed to end the Ranji Trophy season as the leading wicket-taker in the tournament, picking up 67 wickets at an amazing average of 13.73.
It all started back in 2010 when a lanky 18-year-old Unadkat made his international debut for India against South Africa in the Test match at Centurion. He had a disastrous debut, failing to pick up even a single wicket. It took three more years for him to get back into national reckoning.
In 2013, he made his limited-overs debut against Australia but really made the mark in the five-match ODI series against Zimbabwe. He managed to pick up eight wickets in that series, with best bowling figures of 4/41. But somehow, that is still the last ODI series that he has represented India in. The series in Zimbabwe was followed by a few seasons of mediocrity and Unadkat had to persist for four more years to finally get his breakthrough IPL season.
Playing for the Rising Pune Supergiant, Unadkat was the main man with the ball in their run to the final, picking up 24 wickets at an average of 13.41. He became famous for his variations and subtle change of pace, which helped him get into the Indian T20I team as well. Unadkat picked up seven wickets in the T20I series against Sri Lanka and was announced as the Player of the Series for his effective bowling performances. His last T20I appearance came in the Nidahas Trophy final against Bangladesh in March 2018.
Unadkat could not quite repeat the heroics of IPL 2017 in the next two seasons as he only managed to pick up eleven and ten wickets respectively, and gradually fell out of the radar of the national selectors. Focusing back on domestic cricket, Unadkat got a great opportunity to lead the Saurashtra side in the Ranji Trophy.
The 2019-20 season was about to begin and having made the final last year, team Saurashtra wished to go one step further this time around. Unadkat began the season with a bang, picking up nine wickets against Himachal Pradesh and ten wickets against Railways to give his domestic team a brilliant start to their Ranji Trophy campaign.
Unadkat personified the art of 'bending the back' as he toiled continuously to help his team get through tough phases. His figures of 6/34 and 6/72 against Baroda helped them get a crucial win. They got past their quarter-final opponents, Andhra Pradesh, to set up a clash with Gujarat.
The Parthiv Patel-led side had topped the table during the league phase. However, with a seven-wicket haul in the second innings by Unadkat, aided by a brilliant hundred by Arpit Vasavada, Saurashtra were able to reach their second successive Ranji Trophy final.
Buoyed by Cheteshwar Pujara's half-century and Arpit Vasavada's hundred, they were able to put on a massive first innings score of 425. Bengal were jolted in the beginning but were able to consolidate their innings on the back of Anustup Majumdar's valiant innings.
Bengal had just started getting back into the game when skipper Unadkat stepped up and produced a moment of magic, getting one to curl in and trapped Majumdar in front. Saurashtra eventually bowled out Bengal for 381 and were able to take a lead of 44 runs, which helped them lift their maiden Ranji Trophy title.
Unadkat himself was very happy with the achievement and felt that he had the same hunger in him to play red-ball cricket for India as he had ten years ago on his debut (perhaps even more).
“I still have that hunger to make a comeback. The hunger has never been stronger than this and that actually kept me going throughout the season. To be honest, it was challenging physically surviving the season. Bowling those long spells as a fast bowler in almost every game,” he said.
Cheteshwar Pujara was convinced that Unadkat had done enough to get his name in the Indian Test squad. With India's next Test tour lined up towards the end of the year, it will be interesting to see whether Unadkat gets the deserved recognition for his achievement.Published 17 Mar 2020, 19:50 IST