Ranji hero Jaydev Unadkat 'disappointed' over selection snub

Even after picking 67 wickets in Saurashtra's triumphant Ranji Trophy campaign in 2019-20 - the most by any pacer in a season - Jaydev Unadkat didn't make it to the Indian Test side.

Rajasthan Royals pacer Jaydev Unadkat in action at the IPL.   -  SPORTZPICS

Jaydev Unadkat had a contrasting year amid a Ranji Trophy title, marriage on the personal front and a good start in the Indian Premier League despite his side, Rajasthan Royals, not performing up to its potential.

He picked up a record 67 wickets in Ranji – the most by a pacer in a red-ball season – during Saurashtra’s triumphant campaign but remained ignored by the national selectors.

In a chat with Sportstar from Rajkot, Unadkat minces no words in expressing his disappointment.

What have you been up to since the IPL’s suspension?

I rested for a week. We went home (to Porbandar). Both of us were travelling together for the domestic season and then the IPL, so we didn’t really spend enough time with our parents. Even here in Rajkot, we haven’t been stepping out of the house.

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Would you say the last year was a mixed bag for you?

It has been a mixed bag but IPL 2021 was good. I started off well and was bowling well as well. But yes, it’s been a confusing season or a year anyway with all that’s been going on. The domestic tournaments were good. We did well as a team and I also did well.

Confusing in what sense?

In the sense, you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know what tournament is coming up and what to prepare for. I was hoping there’ll be an India A series, which was supposed to happen before the England tour. I was hoping to get a chance there and at least add some more wickets to the tally. But that didn’t happen.

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If 67 wickets in Ranji Trophy is not enough to be picked either for Australia or England, how do you handle it?

Like you said, even I expect that when I am at my peak now, when I have performed the way I have, I was hoping I’ll get the call somewhere down the line. The opportunities have become… one, they have reduced because of lesser tournaments but that has resulted in them creating a bigger pool for every series. That way it has become an opportunity in itself. And not being selected in that sense has been disappointing for sure but having said that, I’ve got to keep doing what I’ve been doing. I am not going to allow my prime to pass just like that. Now that I’ve not got that chance despite the kind of season I had, it’s up to me how to continue the same form and keep myself motivated. It’s a fact that I was the highest wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy. Nothing has really happened after that.

Unadkat with the Ranji Trophy.   -  VIJAY SONEJI

Which has been a more difficult pill to swallow - being omitted for the tour to Australia or England?

Even during the Australia tour, with the amount of injuries that were happening, it became disappointing afterwards. To start with, maybe because I didn’t have a great IPL (2020) - and what they look for is current form. It was T20 cricket in IPL but it was going to be red-ball cricket Down Under, but nowadays they look at current form more than the format. Since there wasn’t much cricket happening back then, there was no Ranji Trophy this season, that way to start with, I felt (exclusion from) Australia tour was fine because everyone was fit in the main squad. But later on, (looking at) those who got chances, I felt I deserved one. Now for the England tour, I was hoping for it. As simple as that. I have been honest in the past when I have said that the guys who are at the top are doing well so I have to wait for my chance. This time around, I have been honestly disappointed. I’ll still take the disappointment positively to motivate myself to do better. That’s all I can do.

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Do you feel that Ranji Trophy performances don’t really matter as much as they should?

I hope it does matter to the guys who are looking at it, the seniors who are carrying the baton forward. I think it does matter because everyone who has reached the highest ranks of cricket in India has come through the Ranji Trophy. IPL, yes, it has given an opportunity to a lot of people. It has given me an opportunity in the past, so there’s nothing to be blamed. Which tournament is the best, or why is Ranji Trophy not highlighted, these things don’t really matter. I still believe that for those who have followed the Ranji Trophy closely in the last two-three seasons, I think the standard has been world-class. If it has lost the essence or importance, I am sure it’ll regain because there’s no point in losing the essence of the most important tournament in the country.

Do you think the IPL form is misleading at times and is given undue importance?

I don’t want to believe that. If guys like you and I know that IPL form shouldn’t be given too much importance for international cricket, those sitting up there who have played so much of international cricket, they would know that. I am sure that won’t be the reason. It must be down to other aspects like who is better and what they want in the team. I don’t think the IPL performance is overpowering other tournaments in domestic cricket. If it is that way, then I would not be happy with it.

Have you been tempted at any point over the last year to actually call a selector and ask him what more should you achieve?

Not really. I haven’t reached that level of frustration for sure. As I look at it, it’s not now or never for me. When I say I am at my peak, it’s still four or five years more to remain at my peak. I am 29 and because I made my debut so early, people regard me that I am older than I am. I was a teenager when I made my Test debut a decade ago so I still have a lot of time, so I am not that frustrated for sure.

What's up on the personal front? You got married this year...

We’ve been missing holidaying. We haven’t really had a proper vacation since we met. The lockdown came straight after our engagement (early in 2020) and even after the wedding (in January), it’s the same. But it’s helped quite a lot. Rinny is travelling with me throughout, I’ve been sharing my disappointments with her, I’ve been explaining everything about how it works. She is someone who doesn’t know a lot about cricket but has a unique viewpoint and she feels what I feel. It has helped me immensely. Even in the bubble, when it was difficult, we spent the quarantine time together and it’s been great. I think the bubble has helped us bind together well.

What's next?

I don’t know to be honest. Had the Saurashtra Premier League gone ahead, there was some cricket to be played. If the Sri Lanka tour comes up for me, it’ll be nice.

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