Jaydev Unadkat has witnessed numerous highs and lows in his cricketing career so far. From being part of the Indian team as a teenager to dealing with inconsistencies, the left-arm pacer's journey has been nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
While leading Saurashtra to their maiden Ranji Trophy triumph in 2019-20 remains one of his biggest achievements, Jaydev Unadkat still has a burning desire to stage a comeback for Team India across all three formats.
Excerpts from Jaydev Unadkat's exclusive interview with Sportskeeda:
Currently preparing for the knockouts of the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, Jaydev Unadkat was kind enough to spare some time for an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda on Wednesday. The 29-year-old spoke about his Test debut, the ups and downs he has faced in the IPL, the Ranji Trophy triumph and much more.
Jaydev Unadkat opens up on his Test debut
Q: Tell us about the experience of making your Test debut in South Africa a decade ago, when you were just a teenager. Would you say that you were not ready for the international level? What emotions did you go through?
Jaydev Unadkat: See, I don't feel I wasn't ready, to be honest. I did really well that year, I made my first-class debut and was in great form. That's why I was picked in the side.
I didn't do well. That is another thing, but I don't think I wasn't ready. Maybe physically I wasn't up to what I am now. I played a lot of cricket in that one-and-a-half years before the Test match, which could have worn me down by the time I made my debut.
Otherwise, it was just one game that didn't go my way. None of the other bowlers did well either. It was a placid track and they just got the runs.
Just because it was my debut game and I didn't get an opportunity later, people still remember it. I am waiting for another opportunity to prove that I belong to that level.
Q: Was there any special spell or moment in your early playing days where you felt you belonged to the highest level? Who was your role model when growing up?
Jaydev Unadkat: I think my first-class debut in England against West Indies A in 2010, I picked up 13 wickets in that game. That is when I realized I had the qualities required at the highest level. For me, that was the turning point of my career.
In bowling, I didn't have any particular role models, I used to enjoy fast bowling in general. Apart from that, Rahul Dravid was my idol when I was growing up. I used to admire Rahul bhai a lot.
Jaydev Unadkat's successful stint with RPS
Q: The IPL journey had been a bit up and down for you in your early years. But it was really at Rising Pune Supergiant that you came of age. Did you do anything different that season which gave you the reputation of being a T20 specialist?
Jaydev Unadkat: That particular year, I started believing that I had my strengths as a bowler, I had my weaknesses as well. I started identifying my strengths and I started trusting them to the fullest.
That was the year when it all started, and I was doing well in the following years too. But because of the hype, it was not highlighted. That season gave me the confidence to become a versatile T20 bowler.
Q: Talking about the hype, Dale Steyn recently said in an interview that IPL is more about money, while cricket takes a backseat. You yourself have been in the spotlight because of the hefty pricetag of ₹11.5 crore at the IPL 2018 Auction. What are your thoughts on it?
Jaydev Unadkat: I think people are now getting over the fact that someone is going for "X" amount of money. Because now if you look at it, the auction dynamics are something which no one can really understand. You can't really measure what the player has done previously.
Those things don't define a player and this is something not many people understood 2-3 years ago. There is surely added pressure because people love to talk about it on social media or in the news. As a player, it is very important to not allow your focus to shift.
On the other hand, IPL is such a tournament which has given a lot of opportunities to a lot of players. That is why Indian cricket has grown, and you cannot take that away from the game.
Jaydev Unadkat - The Saurashtra captain
Q: Let's talk about probably the highest point in your career so far, the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy in which you led your team to glory. You took 67 wickets throughout the season and perhaps it was fitting that you made the difference in the final against Bengal. What were your emotions during that time? What would be the one spell you felt defined the tournament for you?
Jaydev Unadkat: It is definitely the highest point of my career. As a player when I look back at that, I feel really proud. Another thing that I am proud of is the trust that I was able to build in the team, and that is really very important if you want to win a tournament like Ranji Trophy.
Winning it for the first time is obviously special as it will remain in the history books forever. It is still fresh in our minds and we keep talking about it - lifting the trophy on our home ground.
The spell in the semi-finals (seven-wicket haul) was probably the one that turned it our way. The wicket of Parthiv Patel on the final day was probably the ball of the tournament for me because they looked set and all of us started getting a bit nervous. The wicket was flat, it was an old ball and I had to really push myself.
Q: Cheteshwar Pujara had said in an interview post that historic season that Jaydev Unadkat has done enough to earn an India call-up. Was it frustrating to see the likes of T Natarajan, Mohammed Siraj, and Shardul Thakur get picked ahead of you, despite you performing consistently in domestic cricket? Do you feel hard done by?
Jaydev Unadkat: See, I can say that I should have been given the first opportunity, but to be honest, that is just not me. I believe my chance will come like it came previously when I did well.
Right after the 2019-20 season, I also picked up 40 wickets, so I have 100 wickets in the last two seasons. I am probably in the best phase of my life in red-ball cricket. I really don't want to see it that way that they picked someone else ahead of me.
Maybe they saw something in them that I was lacking. I just want to keep doing what I have been doing for the past 2-3 years, and be ready to grab the opportunity when it comes my way.
Q: Now that you have become a senior stalwart of Saurashtra Cricket, who are the future stars to watch out for, if you would like to name a few?
Jaydev Unadkat: One name that comes straight to mind is Prerak Mankad. He has been doing really well for us since the last three seasons. He is one of the two all-rounders who have given stability to our team. So yes, Prerak and Chetan Sakariya are the two players to watch out for, according to me.
Jaydev Unadkat on RR and their chances in IPL 2021
Q: Despite managing just seven appearances last season, Rajasthan Royals (RR) still backed and retained you. What would you like to say about their team culture?
Jaydev Unadkat: The franchise retaining me surely suggests that I have been doing something right. I had that one bad game (against RCB), but in the other games that I played, I didn't do that badly.
These guys have supported me really well. I am thankful to them for sticking with me and showing that they trust my abilities. That's the one thing I love about RR and hopefully, I will be able to stand by the belief they have shown in me.
Jaydev Unadkat: I think apart from Jofra Archer, they wanted a bowler to take care of the death bowling. RR does look like a really good side now. Hopefully there will be lesser injuries this time and we will be able to play with a settled team.
Sanju is a really good guy and that is what you need to have to be a captain. You need to have the belief of your teammates. He was in the leadership group for the last 2-3 years. So yes, I think he will do really well as a captain. I do see many good things in him as a player and also as a human.
Q: Have you given special attention to your batting, given your stunning 39 (24) that won Saurashtra a thrilling game against Haryana in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy?
Jaydev Unadkat: I think I have been batting really well for the past few years. Sometimes I look really good and sometimes I look like a proper tailender. At the moment, I am striking the ball really well and I believe I can finish games. We were not doing that well in finishing games in white-ball cricket. But this year, I think we are right up there.
Q: You will be facing a formidable Mumbai team in the quarter-finals. What would you say about Saurashtra's chances?
Jaydev Unadkat: Whoever have reached the knockouts is here because they played good cricket. I'm looking forward to playing against a quality side like Mumbai. Hopefully we will do well and try and get on top of them.
My IPL performance will be crucial for India call-up : Jaydev Unadkat
Q: You are the second-highest wicket-taker in the history of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Do you see yourself receiving an India call-up soon, especially with the T20 World Cup round the corner?
Jaydev Unadkat: There is still room in the bowling department in our Indian team. But I will have to have a great IPL to get my chance and return to the team. So that will be my first priority, these knockouts, and then the IPL.
If I do well, the opportunity will be there. I really hope I win matches for my team which will help me receive those chances.