Working his way back

Interview : With an impressive run this season, pacer Jaydev Unadkat has caught the attention of the selectors
Last Updated 27 February 2016, 18:26 IST

Jaydev Unadkat came into the Test team with much fanfare but his debut at Centurion in December 2010 ended in an absolute whimper, his figures reading zero for 101 for the match. The left-arm seamer since then has not played another Test for India though he played seven ODIs between July and November in 2013.

Having missed most of the last season due to stress fracture in his lower back, the Saurashtra paceman is back in the fold. He claimed 40 wickets at an impressive strike rate of 37.7 this Ranji Trophy and played a stellar role in Saurashtra reaching the final by bagging half of his season’s scalps in the quarterfinal and the semifinal alone.

While Unadkat appears to be on his way to an India call-up, the lessons learnt on his Test debut have been invaluable. As a vegetarian paceman he has worked that much harder to bulk up his muscles and has put in the hard yards in the nets as well; serving twin purpose of adding extra pace and making sure at the same that the rhythm isn’t lost. The 24-year-old reflects on his career, comeback and his future prospects. Excerpts.
You didn’t get to do much at the start because of turning tracks. How important was it to keep yourself motivated?

That was what was in my mind going into those (first) three or four matches. My role was more of a batsman for my team rather than of a bowler. I bowled about 16-18 games in those games combined. It was difficult for me. It was not that it happens regularly to a strike bowler of a team. But I took it as a blessing in a way that I started focusing on my batting. It has really helped me this season. That was probably the time when I took my batting seriously, and I started giving more time to batting, started spending time for batting in the nets.

What do you prefer, bowling just fast or bowling with some control?

Rather than controlling, you have to have the ability first to bowl fast. I am not saying I should bowl 140-145, I am saying I should be able to bowl fast at a consistent pace. It happens sometimes that I can bowl at 140 but I am not able to bowl consistently. That does not matter much. Once I gain strength, I would be able to do it consistently, which is really important. If you are able to survive a full spell and if you are bowling the third spell in the day, then it comes into the picture, if you can bowl with consistent pace throughout the day. That’s what is in my mind, to bowl with that pace throughout for the longer format. That was missing when I played for India earlier.

How do you reflect back at your career so far?

I played for India in one Test and in the ODIs as well. I have been talking to Cheteshwar (Pujara) as well regarding that, we have been friends for six-seven years, I know what it takes to play at the highest level. It is about putting in those extra yards in the nets and training that can help me get better with the competition that we have at present. Regarding my career, I’d say I have designed a path for myself and I am going on the right track. I had certain goals for this season and which I have almost completed.

What are your memories of the Centurion Test? Were you prepared for it?

I was prepared. I had gone to Sri Lanka as a net bowler before that. All the seniors in the team were impressed and telling me ‘ýou will get your chance soon, so be ready for it’. It was in the back of my mind that I will get a chance sooner than later. The fact that I was young and playing a lot of cricket at that time and in that year, probably, did not allow me to perform to the potential that I had. Probably I was a bit low on strength that time when I played and because of which I was not able to deliver like I was bowling in the India ‘A’ tours and the Under-19s as well.

Did the performance in your first Test affect you in any way?

It hurt my confidence a bit. It was for a brief period of time. It came in my mind whether we bowled badly or the conditions were not good enough for us. I thought about it for a while and after a period of time I thought just to take the positive out of it and to work on what aspects I could do better from there. Rather than doubts, it gave me that added sense of knowledge about how I should shape my bowling and my skills so that in the future when I get the chance again.

What has been Zaheer Khan’s influence on you?

He is a bowler who played the whole of his career with intelligence. He has been probably the most intelligent cricketer I have ever talked to or met. Yes, I have gained a lot of experience just by watching him on TV and when I worked with him in the nets together for Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils as well. Just those minor points where he has had a lot of injuries in his career, how to come out of those periods, how to get back to your best and at times when you are feeling down on confidence, or when you are not getting the rhythm which is important for a fast bowler, how to come out of it.

Ashish Nehra said recently that it’s easier to make debut than make a comeback. Do you subscribe to that view?

I have not really thought about how difficult it is to make a comeback. But I would say I am enjoying what I am doing at present. I won’t say it is a difficult phase. I am at a phase where I am enjoying my cricket. I have started to cherish and take these moments as ones that I can keep as memories for a long period of time. For me, it is just about enjoying and doing good for my team, whatever team I am playing for. If this is what it takes to make a comeback, I won’t say this is difficult. These are perhaps the happier times that I am passing through.

(Published 27 February 2016, 15:58 IST)

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