Ranji Trophy: Why Unadkat can cause selection headache

Left-arm pacer Jaydev Unadkat proved his brain behind his wickets as he rattled the Karnataka top-order with a set plan in the first innings of the Ranji Trophy semifinal.

Jaydev Unadkat got the ball to talk and was rewarded for his endeavour on the first morning of the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Karnataka.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Bowling in five-day games require solid planning. And if you are a left-arm pacer with strong deception skills, God save the opponent top order. Jaydev Unadkat looks a changed bowler from IPL 2018. He is the one of the costliest Indian players in the cash-rich league, and on field, this Unadkat has learnt to be less expensive and more accurate; courtesy, Ranji Trophy.

The 27-year-old’s average show with Rajasthan Royals had perhaps shut his chances of an entry into the India ODI side where he played six years ago. If going by the old school filter to identify an all-format talent for Team India, Unadkat’s domestic red-ball season — with 32 wickets and counting in seven innings — can cause a selection conundrum.

Unadkat's first-class record

Matches 74
Wickets 240
Best Bowling 7/41
Economy 2.98
Strike rate 52.6
Average 26.21

India is still looking for answers after Zaheer Khan. 

Khaleel Ahmed, the latest left-arm pacer from Rajasthan to don the India jersey in limited-overs, is low on experience with only three first-class appearances. Knowing that the vacancy is flexible, depending on current form and psychological strength, Unadkat unleashed the mental side of his skill-set on day one of the Ranji Trophy semifinal against Karnataka at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The Saurashtra skipper used his cricketing brain to create an off-stump, at times the fourth stump, halo around the batsmen’s head. The ploy pushed Karnataka on back foot in the first session as Unadkat trapped R. Samarth and Krishnamurthy Siddharth in front of their stumps, followed by Mayank Agarwal caught behind and finally, cleaning up the in-form Manish Pandey.

READ: Unadkat, Sakariya light up pacer-friendly day

“We thought the wicket was a bit damp. There was some bit of moisture and to take that advantage, it was necessary to bowl in the right areas on top of the off-stump,” he said. Unadkat also groomed youngster Chetan Sakariya, another left-arm pacer, to stick to the same line and length to test the batsmen’s patience. 

“That’s what we spoke about after the first couple of overs. I told Chetan we will keep the off-stump line and wait for them to commit errors. Looking at the pitch, that was the only plan in my mind. I am happy that the wickets came and the spinners also capitalised in the end,” added Unadkat, who finished with a four-for at stumps.

The duo bowled in partnership for the first 11 overs that toppled three top-order wickets for 19 runs. Sakariya’s 1/32 in 14 overs may not look threatening on paper but he could mix the stock balls well within the good length variations to instill that fear of edging. There was barely a delivery that pitched on the middle or leg. Rather, Unadkat generated a late movement — once in every seven balls or so — which fetched him wickets. He bowled round the wicket to angle the ball into the right-hander. Pandey and Siddharth were the victims. “I love bowling round the wicket, it gets difficult for the batsmen. I look to do that once the ball starts getting old.”

“After lunch, there was not much movement. He was beaten by an outswinger before, then I had a feeling if I could bowl the same ball up and get it to swing in, I could get him leg-before or bowled.”

Discussing big fish Agarwal’s wicket that moved away from the batsman, he said, “I had a set plan to bowl at the off-stump and fourth stump. There was movement happening that time. We were bowling in partnership and not giving him boundaries. That was the reason he didn’t get his shots and he pushed a good ball (behind).”

Khaleel has five wickets in three first-class games. In List-A, he has 43 scalps in 27 games. Unadkat is 116 wickets old in 84 games.