Red-hot Unadkat deploying accuracy & angles to torment batters

After helping West Zone clinch Duleep Trophy, pacer eager to put up strong show in Irani Trophy
Picture credit: S Senbagapandiyan
Picture credit: S Senbagapandiyan

CHENNAI: When Jaydev Unadkat landed in Chennai for the Duleep Trophy, he knew what was at stake. It was a level above the Ranji Trophy and performing well here was key for him to move one step closer towards an India or at least an India A call-up.

But he wasn't thinking about a comeback or selection. For him, it was an opportunity to show his red-ball form something that has been prolific for over five years and prepare for the long domestic season ahead. He said as much before the match against North East Zone.

Over the next 20 days, he went on to do everything he wanted, finishing Duleep Trophy as the player of the tournament with 13 wickets and 50 runs in three matches. If all the wickets were not enough, his unbeaten 47 in the first innings of the final was crucial in helping West Zone recover from 167/8 to 270. In hindsight, that innings ensured his team remained in the game and he had some total to bowl to.

As far as the bowling itself, very little has changed. He did what he does best. With the new ball, he tried to swing the ball in and away from the right-hander. As it got a little old, he came around the wicket to angle it in and take it away. He challenged every South Zone batter, often beating them with the movement and bounce he was able to generate. "Just to create that doubt I do try to bowl that inswingers from around the wicket time and again. Today (Saturday) because it was keeping that low, I wanted to hit the wickets as much as I could. That was the plan," he had said after Day four.

There were other factors, too. Unlike the pitch in Salem, the one in Coimbatore wasn't offering a lot of support for the spinners in the first three days. And, the tournament was played with the Kookaburra meant there was not much reverse swing either. Unadkat had to rely on creating angles, sometimes bringing the ball into a right-hander from around the wicket or hitting the hard lengths into the body of the left-handers with the same angle. "Once it (the ball) becomes old, it is about how much effort you can put in. Shorter spells, but intensity has to be right up there. Lengths have to be accurate as well, you can't bowl short and can't really plan bouncers and stuff like that in this ball,” he said.

With four wickets in the first innings and two in the second — Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey Unadkat led the bowling attack remarkably well, with the help of captain Ajinkya Rahane. His consistency through the tournament was crucial in West Zone winning their first Duleep Trophy title since 2009.

For Unadkat, the next stop will be the Irani Trophy. Which will be even more special as it is happening in Rajkot. The last time he played a red-ball game there, Unadkat led Saurashtra to their first-ever Ranji title in 2019. Having proven his consistency in the Duleep Trophy, the 30-year-old is keen on continuing the same in his home ground as well. After all, as he said when he landed in Chennai, it is just the start of a long season and flatter pitches only motivate him to do well.

Jaydev Unadkat picked up 13 wickets in 3 matches for West Zone to win the player of the tournament award

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The New Indian Express