Jaydev Unadkat makes a strong case on Zimbabwe tour

Jaydev Unadkat finished with figures of four for 41 in the second One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe © Getty Images

The 21-year-old Jaydev Unadkat is making most of his opportunity in India’s ongoing tour of Zimbabwe. With five wickets in two One-Day Internationals so far, Unadkat is making a strong case for himself. Prakash Govindasreenivasan analyses what the future holds for the Saurashtra pacer.

The Indian tour of Zimbabwe is proving to be a perfect audition ground for the next-in-line players of India. It is an exciting phase for Indian cricket as a new set of players have taken over from the old guard and have done well in the limited-overs cricket. While they begin to settle into their respective roles, it seems that the next batch is ready to challenge them for a place in the side.

Jaydev Unadkat, who made his Test debut in 2010, has done well to use this tour to put out his best and make a strong case for himself.

His scrawny build is highly deceptive as he packs a punch each time he runs up to deliver. He has the fire in his belly to run in day in and day out, and the uncanny ability to up the intensity levels. Like most left-handed fast bowlers, Unadkat has the ball that darts back into the right hander. In the two matches so far, he has also shown variation by taking the odd ball away from the right hander and creating doubt in the minds of the batsmen.

His first wicket came off a very ordinary delivery in the first One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe, but he finished with figures of one for 39 from his 10 overs. For a raw bundle of talent, Unadkat has not shown signs of being erratic so far. His insatiable hunger for picking up wickets pushed him to work harder — and he did just that.

Unadkat finished with figures of four for 41 in the second ODI, picking up the first two and the last two wickets of the innings. He provided the most crucial breakthrough by dismissing Sikandar Raza in the 11th over. He bowled a short delivery and invited Raza to go for the pull shot. Ten overs later, he broke another partnership that was looking strong and set as Sibanda too miscued a short of length delivery and perished.

In the final over of the match, he bamboozled tail-ender Kyle Jarvis with a peach-of-a-delivery that was full and uprooted the off-stump. In the very next delivery, he cleaned up Brian Vittori to be on a hat-trick and one short of a fifer. The match was in India’s kitty long ago, but Unadkat’s urge for a wicket made him adjust his field to perfection and run in around the wicket to the last man in. He didn’t get that final wicket, but the positive intention to pick up a wicket at every given opportunity did not go unnoticed.

It is still early days to talk about his temperament, but the little that has been on display has been highly impressive. Life has come a full circle for Unadkat who had a forgettable Test debut in South Africa where he went wicketless and was subsequently dropped from the side. Following that, strong performances in the domestic circuit and a good showing in the Indian Premier League (IPL), brought him back into the fray for national selection.

Unadkat’s timing is perfect. He has grabbed the attention of the selectors at a time when veteran Zaheer Khan’s return to the side looks highly improbable. The likes of Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan have been too inconsistent to stake a permanent claim in the side. It is an ideal setting for Unadkat to showcase his skill and make it to the side as the only left-arm pacer.

Unadkat is young and raw and needs to be protected and honed into the kind of bowler who can fill in the big boots of Zaheer. If he finishes the five-match series with more wickets, he could soon be pushing the likes of Ishant Sharma for a spot when the full-strength team plays their next tournament. Unadkat sure has the talent and the skill to be earmarked for the future.

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)