Saurashtra skipper Unadkat lauds Pujara, hails “special” win
Jaydev Unadkat. (Image: Saurashtra Cricket Twitter account)

Captain Jaydev Unadkat lauded Saurashtra’s historic chase that saw them make it to the semi-finals of the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. Finalists of the 2015-16 season, Saurashtra chased down 372 runs against Uttar Pradesh courtesy a maiden century from youngster Harvik Desai and unbeaten fifties from Cheteshwar Pujara and Sheldon Jackson, to set up their semi-final clash against Karnataka starting January 27.

“I think this is one of the biggest victories in the history of Saurashtra,” Unadkat told ESPNcricinfo. “The way we fought back in the game made it more special. So probably one of the best, if not the best, victory for Saurashtra. I have been told it’s the highest run-chase in the Ranji Trophy. So nothing can be more special than this.”

As per Unadkat, what worked in their favour was the fact that unlike the league games, this was a five-day match and the presence of Pujara in their ranks. With 144 runs away from victory, Pujara and Jackson came together to stitch an unbeaten century-plus stand to see the Saurashtra through.

“No one was thinking that we were out of the game,” Unadkat said. “The thing that we talked about before the game was that it’s a five-day game, and not the usual four-day game we play in the Ranji Trophy. The talk in the team was it will be a two-innings game. Although we didn’t do well in the first innings, even if we had, we still would have been on our toes.

“The great plus was that we had Cheteshwar as well. Actually, he was the one who took the initiative in between the innings and told us, ‘guys, it’s a five-day game and we can come back in this game’. And we all believed it.

Coming off a stellar Test series against Australia, Pujara was dismissed cheaply for 11 in the first innings. In the second innings, Saurashtra needed him to play the anchor role. And the Test specialist did not disappoint. He remained unbeaten on 67 with nine boundaries having faced 110 balls.

“The whole thing about that was we wanted our batting to revolve around him [Pujara],” Unadkat said. “Like if he bats at No. 4, then there can be two guys around him who can bat with him and then he can carry the innings forward. If the side is already 150 for 2 and Cheteshwar is still to come, things would be very different for the opposition. That was the whole idea and I think that turned out pretty good in the second innings.”

Equally important was Desai, who bettered his first-innings score of 84 by stroking a maiden First-Class century. Unbeaten 17 short of a century at stumps on Day 4, Unadkat revealed that the youngster was slightly tense thinking of the milestone that awaited him, but it was his resilience that allowed him to finally convert a start into his first three-figure score of his FC career.

“I think he [Desai] has been waiting for his century like no one else. He had got six fifties but didn’t get a hundred. So he was a bit nervous about being 83 not out at stumps [on Day 4]. Also, I haven’t seen a better slip catcher for Saurashtra than him. He has taken 15-16 catches without dropping even one. He is still very young, he is still learning but I think he has a bright career ahead of him,” said Unadkat.