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Why India should give Jaydev Unadkat one more chance in Test cricket (Opinion)

  • The left-arm pace bowler led his team from the front by picking up 67 wickets in 16 innings in the Ranji Trophy.
  • His solitary Test appearance for India came way back in 2010.
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 19 Mar 2020, 22:19 IST

Jaydev Unadkat led from the front as Saurashtra secured their first Ranji Trophy title
Jaydev Unadkat led from the front as Saurashtra secured their first Ranji Trophy title

Saurashtra’s skipper Jaydev Unadkat has become the talk of the town after his incredible performances in the recently-concluded 2019-20 Ranji Trophy tournament. The left-arm pace bowler led his team from the front, as his 67 wickets in 16 innings helped Saurashtra win their maiden Ranji Trophy championship.

He finished the tournament as the leading wicket-taker and had he received one more opportunity to bowl in the tournament, he could have broken the record for the most wickets in a single Ranji Trophy season. The Rajasthan Royals star bowled 315 overs in the tournament, of which 79 were maidens, which shows that he created pressure on the opposition batsmen by keeping a check on the flow of runs.

It is not that the 28-year-old from Porbandar bowled against the B-teams of the tournament. In fact, on the route to the finale, Saurashtra battled with some top teams like Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Baroda, Karnataka and Railways. Unadkat achieved his best figures of 12/106 versus Baroda and he bowled a match-winning spell of 7/56 in the last innings of the semi-final match between Gujarat and Saurashtra.

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Unadkat, who made his first-class debut way back in 2010, has maintained this consistency over the last few years as he has been a vital cog for his home team. Playing 86 first-class matches, he has bowled over 15,000 deliveries, picking up 327 wickets, with his bowling strike rate being 47.2. His career economy rate is below 3, which shows how dominant he has been in this format.

Unfortunately, the Indian selectors have not given him an opportunity to showcase his talent in the red-ball arena. He played a solitary Test match for India way back in 2010.

India picked him for the away series against South Africa just six months after his first-class debut. The selectors knew he possessed special talent, but he did not have sufficient experience back then.

Jaydev Unadkat made his Test debut at the age of 18
Jaydev Unadkat made his Test debut at the age of 18

Having a left-arm fast bowler in the playing XI provides the captain with variety in the fast bowling attack. The left-arm pacers have a unique angle of bowling, and they can trouble the batsmen with the swing and bounce that they generate. All the top Test-playing nations except India have a prominent left-arm fast bowler in their team.

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Australia have Mitchell Starc, while their Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand use two left-arm bowlers, namely Neil Wagner and Trent Boult. England have Sam Curran while Pakistan have Usman Shinwari and Shaheen Afridi. This solidifies the aforementioned claim that left-arm fast bowlers bring something different to the table.

India, on the other hand, had Zaheer Khan as their premier left-arm fast bowler in the early 2010s. His injury issues allowed Unadkat to make his debut against South Africa. However, as he could not pick up a wicket in the match, he was dropped. It is noteworthy that not even a single left-arm fast bowler has played for India in Tests since Khan retired.

Zaheer Khan was the cornerstone of the Indian bowling attack
Zaheer Khan was the cornerstone of the Indian bowling attack

The Indian Test team’s overseas record was better when Khan was a part of the team. The team that won the Perth Test in Australia had RP Singh too. These things establish the fact that to succeed in pace-friendly conditions outside India, Virat Kohli and co. need a left-arm fast bowler.

The team management have only fielded right-arm fast bowlers in SENA countries. Talking about the recent tour of New Zealand, the home team crushed India in the ICC World Test Championship series. It was not that the Indian team entered the field without its star batsmen. Ajinkya Rahane, Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw formed the core of the batting lineup. All these players have an extraordinary record at home, but the reason as to why they could not bat well against New Zealand was due to Kane Williamson’s smart rotation of bowlers.

The Kiwi skipper bowled Tim Southee from one end and Trent Boult from the other. Because of their different bowling angles, the batsmen could not settle in the middle. Kyle Jamieson took advantage of the pressure created by the duo and picked up a majority of the wickets. Later, Williamson brought Neil Wagner into the team to launch an all-out attack on the Indian team.

On the other hand, India only had right-arm fast bowlers in their team. While all the three bowlers have different actions and bowling styles, you couldn't help but feel that there was an ‘X-factor’ that was lacking in the Indian team's bowling attack. Had a left-arm fast bowler been present in the Indian team, things could've panned out in a better manner for Kohli's side.

Looking at the options that are at the disposal of the Indian selection committee at the moment, Unadkat is the prime contender for a spot, courtesy of how experienced he is and the fact that he's been in terrific form. He has developed a hunger to win matches for his team and it would be great if the Indian team gives him one more chance to prove himself at the international level.

Published 19 Mar 2020, 13:32 IST
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