Jaydev Unadkat: Working with Wasim Akram at KKR one of the brightest moments of my career so far

Jaydev Unadkat has picked up eight wickets in five One-Day International appearances for India © AFP

The 21-year-old Jaydev Unadkat, who picked up eight wickets in five matches on India’s tour of Zimbabwe and had good outing in this year’s Indian Premier League has been selected for India’s home series against Australia. CricketCountry’s Prakash Govindasreenivasan caught up with the youngster.

Jaydev Unadkat, at the young age of 21, comes across as a calm and composed cricketer with his head firmly placed on his shoulders. With a constant urge to learn and improve at every opportunity, Unadkat has come a long way after an early Test debut against South Africa in 2010. Unadkat did not let that disappointing performance impact his confidence and put his head down to work hard in a bid to get into the national side again. The Indian Premier League (IPL) proved to be a great learning curve for the youngster who had the opportunity to soak up as much knowledge of the game from the likes of Wasim Akram and Zaheer Khan.
 With age by his side, the upcoming tour of Australia could well be the break he has been looking for.
CricketCountry (CC): Jaydev, tell us something about your initial days in cricket. When and why did you take it up seriously?
Jaydev Unadkat (JU): I grew up aspiring to be a cricketer since I was four-five years old. I loved cricket so it was something natural. My father took me to the Duleep School of Cricket when I was 11 and I started to get professional coaching from then on.

CC: Left-arm fast bowlers have been crucial to the Indian setup in the last couple of decades. Zaheer Khan had a successful career and even Irfan Pathan started off as a great prospect for the future. The current team doesn’t have a left-armer. In that sense, do you believe it works to your advantage and gives you a chance to cement your place in the side?
JU:  Ofcourse yes. Being a left-armer can be an advantage to the team in the sense of adding versatility to the bowling attack. So that works in my favour. Having said that, I am here in the shadow of someone as big as Zaheerbhai [Zaheer Khan], so the expectations are high. I need to work hard and believe in myself and keep doing well consistently to cement my place. Just being a left arm bowler doesn’t give me my place in the team for granted in that way.

CC: Your Test debut came too soon in 2010, given that you had started playing First-Class cricket for Saurashtra only a few months ago. It wasn’t the kind of start you would have anticipated. How did you cope with that?

JU: Yes, the Test debut came right at the start of my career, which in a way has given me the confidence that I have the ability to be at the top. It didn’t go the way I wanted it to but that’s how it goes. I got to know what I need to improve to be back right up there, worked on it for the next couple of years and spent some time with myself and yes, God gave me the rewards at the right time.

CC: In the 2011-12 domestic season, you made some changes to your bowling action to suit your style of bowling. Can you shed some light on that?
JU: Before the season, I felt I was getting stronger with my workouts, but not getting the necessary results in my bowling. So I thought to myself and decided to increase a few yards in run up, to gain more momentum before getting in the delivery stride. I tried it out in the nets and felt good and added it to my bowling. The fact that I was stronger than before reflected in the way I bowled. This change added a few extra yards of pace and I got better rhythm with it.

CC: How was the experience of playing in South Africa with the A side? What was your takeaway from that series?
JU:  They were typical South African wickets, the ones we played on. What I learnt from the tour was that I had to be consistent rather than rely on the wicket to get rewards.

CC: The IPL has been very good for you. While playing for KKR, you had a chance to interact with Wasim Akram and at RCB you had Zaheer for guidance. How did these two experience help? Where do you think you have improved because of these two?
JU: Being in KKR with Wasim bhai [Wasim Akram] was indeed one of the brightest moments of my career. I was 18 then, learning the basics of bowling. And he helped me understand the wrist position while swinging the ball both ways. Slowly, I developed my own style from it, but the basics were very important then for me to learn.
In RCB, it was more strategy related talks I had with Zaheerbhai and Venky sir [Venkatesh Prasad]. Like, how to read a batsman’s mind in a T20 game and likewise.  Both these chances came at the right junctures of my career and helped me mature as a fast bowler.

CC: The wickets used in the domestic circuit are mostly batsmen friendly. There is often nothing for the bowlers, more so for the pacers. In such cases, how do you plan before a game. Which aspect of the game do you focus on to get maximum out of such tracks? Plus, does a wicket like that demotivate a quick bowler?

JU: Having played cricket in India since the beginning, we can’t keep complaining about the pitches all the time. We need to find solutions to it and get over it. That’s what I believe is the right way. Yes, you need to bend your back on most of the tracks and work really hard for rewards, focusing more on accuracy and consistency of line and length rather than trying too many things.

CC: At 21, you were a crucial part of RCB’s bowling attack in IPL 2013. How does a youngster handle such pressure in today’s game?

JU:  I feel pressure is omnipresent on everyone, from something or another. It can bring the best out of you in crucial situations or can restrict it if you become over conscious about it. I first had things such as not reading newspapers before matches but now, I have come up above all that and it doesn’t really affect me in a negative way. I have started to enjoy doing well under pressure, which is the result of experience and maturity.

CC:  Now, you’ve been picked to play against Australia. Do you have any targets set in mind regarding the number of wickets you would like to end the series with or the particular batsmen you’d like to target?

JU: It [Australa] is a very good team I would play against. It would be nice to win a match or two for our team with impressive performances. To be in the best form and shape and to give my best shot when the chance comes will be my target for the series.

CC: The current selection committee has put form over reputation when it comes to selection. Another youngster, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was provided the opportunity towards the end of last year and he grabbed it with both hands. Today, he is one of the most important bowlers in the setup. Does that kind of faith in a youngster instill confidence in someone like you?

JU:  Yes it does. To see Bhuvi [Bhuvneshwar Kumar] do well in India A and Ranji [Trophy] and then in the senior team is a thing I have been looking up to since the last year. I would give it all to do what he has done in the last year and live up to the faith that people have it me.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)