Didn’t feel pressure of replacing Kuldeep, domestic grind helped me perform: Jaydev Unadkat | Cricket News

NEW DELHI: Jaydev Unadkat got his long-awaited chance with the red ball and he delivered on his ‘promise’ with a spirited effort in his first test for India after 12 years.
His love for the long version of the game became more evident than ever in January when he typed out a tweet that went viral.
“Dear red ball, please give me one more chance. I’ll make you proud, I promise!” the left arm pacemaker had displayed.

“Everyone thought I was referring to a national comeback. I just missed red ball cricket in general because Ranji Trophy has been postponed a second time (due to COVID)”, Unadkat said PTI in an interview after arriving from Bangladesh.
The 31-year-old, who played his first and only Test in 2010 with the great Sachin Tendulkar and current head coach Rahul Dravid being his famous teammates, entered his second outing last week in remarkable circumstances.
Having not been on the radar of the selectors despite a record performance in the 2020 Ranji Trophy, a national recall came for Unadkat when he least expected it.

He wasn’t even part of the Indian A team that toured Bangladesh ahead of the Test series, so he couldn’t be faulted for keeping his hopes to a bare minimum.
Eventually, his patience and perseverance prevailed as he was airlifted to Bangladesh as a backup pace option, with Mohammad Shami not having returned to full fitness for the series.
Visa delays meant he couldn’t reach Chattogram until after the first test had started, but unexpectedly substitute skipper KL Rahul gave Unadkat the big break he was waiting for as he worked the circuit nationally for years.
Opportunity came at the expense of spinner Kuldeep Yadavwhose dismissal after an eight-wicket haul in the series opener sparked a selection controversy.
The scoreboard would show that Unadkat took three wickets in their comeback test, but their impact was greater in the game.
With years of first-class experience under his belt since his test debut in South Africa, Unadkat relished the pressure. Making the most of Rajkot’s flat tracks is something Unadkat had been doing for years and the Porbandar-born cricketer found himself in similar territory to Mirpur.
It didn’t take long for him to make his presence felt by knocking out previous game centurion Zakir Hasan with a ball that jumped the right length. It was his first wicket in Tests and Unadkat says that moment will go down as the most special of his career.
“I was trying to extract length from the rebound and I felt I could do it. The feeling (when it happened) will go down as one of the most special memories of my cricketing career. Getting a Test wicket is something I’ve viewed 1000 times,” Unadkat said.
Did he feel the pressure to replace Kuldeep?
“Absolutely not. When you don’t expect things and they happen, I take it in my stride. I just wanted to contribute. If you don’t take a wicket, create pressure on the other side. was the thought.
“National cricket has helped me tremendously in that way. You still have a part to play as a bowler even when you don’t get the wickets. You can create pressure and challenge the batter and the other bowlers can take advantage of it.”
What worked for Unadkat was his ability to cast long spells on flat decks. 12 years after his debut, he was also a much wiser man having captained Saurashtra to unprecedented success.
“I had my chance because the management felt that I was suitable for the pitch. As you said, the conditions were similar (in Rajkot), not much rhythm at the wicket and you will have to extract everything you can by hitting hard on the length.
“I knew if I stuck to my strengths, something would happen to me and that’s how I got that extra bounce.”
There were times when Unadkat felt bad about not being chosen for India despite his resounding success at the Ranji Trophy, but he was also busy building a champion team at national level.
“I always believed that I would get another chance. I didn’t know how to be honest as the Indian pacemakers were doing well for the last three four years. I was getting inspired watching them to be honest.
“Leader Saurashtra has helped me focus on my game and not be distracted by other things. It has helped me see the future. Captain Saurashtra, I don’t just care about my own performance but also others and team goals. It kept me going,” he said.
The return made him more humble because it was the only thing he was working towards.
“It was very emotional for my family, my wife who wasn’t there in 2010 when I debuted. He believed in me more than me. And when I found out I was playing, I felt the same goosebumps I had 12 years ago,” he fondly recalls.
Unadkat could be the next left arm enhancer that India has been looking for for years, but it hasn’t thought about it. When Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami are back, finding a place in the XI will be much more difficult.
“I was quite young when I debuted. All these years (at Ranji’s level) I never felt like a veteran. I’m still 31 and in my prime. Those four to five years would be the peak of my career and I want to continue as much as I can.”
Does he see himself keeping his place for the Border Gavaskar Trophy from next month?
“I don’t want to expect things because it helped me honestly. I’m looking forward to Ranji’s next round (against Delhi), and that’s all I can think about. If it’s going to happen, it will happen.
“I hope India will dominate Australia. It will be a great series,” he said.
It was special to play alongside Pujara
Unadkat’s return also meant he could finally play alongside his friend and Saurashtra teammate Cheteshwar Pujara.
When Unadkat wore jersey number 267 after landing late in Bangladesh, it was no surprise that Pujara got a little emotional.
“I wasn’t playing in the first game but I was wearing the shirt for the first time. He said ‘you look good’. It came straight from the heart and I could see how happy he was for me.
“It was special to play with him. He told me to keep pushing myself all these years to get this chance. He’s been in the team for over 10 years now, I look up to him in a way. that I also want to be part of the team as he was.
“With all the ups and downs he has faced in his career and still playing 98 Tests has been hugely motivating for me,” added Unadkat.


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