A test memory after 12 years, first test wicket, the first player to get a hat-trick in his first over in Ranji Trophy’s 88-year history, who recorded his career best numbers, Jaydev Unadkat can do no wrong at this point.
After missing Saurashtra’s first three Ranji Trophy matches due to his sudden Test recall, Saurashtra’s captain returned all guns as his 8 for 39 blew away an unlucky Delhi on 133 in their first innings.
On a surface, where both teams played three spinners and the captains wanted to hit first, it was Jaydev Unadkat’s left arm seam that did the talking.
After his impressive performance against Delhi, the 31-year-old attributes his newfound confidence to his Test memory. “The confidence I have gained from the Bangladesh series is something I would cherish in the matches I will play from now on,” Unadkat told reporters after the match.
Since making his Test debut against South Africa at Centurion in December 2010, and playing Bangladesh at Mirpur last month, the left arm had missed 118 Tests between his appearances. It is a record for India as he overtook Dinesh Karthik (87 Tests).
His performance with the ball will put him back on the selectors’ radar, but Unadkat is in no hurry as he wants to take it game by game. “I take it game by game. It has helped me in the past and will help me in the future,” he said. “A Ranji Trophy game is as important to me as any other game I play, so at this Right now I’m focused on the next few games.”
Undakat set the tone in the first over when he cleared Dhruv Shorey, the season’s highest run scorer (579 runs in seven innings), for a duck. Vaibhav Rawal shoved the next ball to the wicket-keeper Harvik Desai before Unadkat trapped Yash Dhull to complete his hat-trick.
He wasn’t ready yet. In the next over, he completed his 21st five-wicket haul when he got the wickets from Jonty Sidhu (4) and Lalit Yadav (0). Delhi was 5 for 6, with Unadkat’s numbers: 2-0-5-5. He made things even worse for Delhi as in his third place he sacked debutant Lakshya Thareja (1) to leave Delhi reeling 10 for 7.
“I had no idea about the record. I thought there must be one or two bowlers who had achieved this feat in history. It feels special and humble to be honest,” he said.
The previous fastest Ranji hat-trick, a split hat-trick, is credited to Karnataka’s Vinay Kumar who achieved this feat over two overs – first and third.
“All those three balls were special. I was planning those layoffs in my mind and I worked it out exactly the way I wanted it,” he added.
His favorite dismissal, however, was when he returned in his second spell to break the enterprising 80-run stand for the ninth wicket between Hrithik Shokeen (68 not out) and Shivank Vashisth (38).
“Shivank’s wicket was special. I took the gully to fourth slip and it went right there, that was much more satisfying,” he said.
Unadkat’s childhood memory of his hometown of Porbandar is a fence. Particularly the holes in it through which he would see children playing cricket at the famous Duleep Cricket School in Porbandar. Developed by the British, the site houses the oldest cricket academy in India. Jamnagar, which broke out Ranjitsinhji, and Rajkot are seen as centers of cricket in Saurashtra, but Porbander has had its historic encounters with cricket.
“I would watch those kids play and couldn’t wait for four years to go by.” One could not go to school until the age of 12. “It was the biggest dream I’ve ever had and I’m so proud of the fact that I grew up and achieved what little I did. To come from Porbandar and captain my national Ranji team and play for India – it’s a journey that I’m proud of,” he had once told this newspaper.
If Unadkat had a gala time, his counterpart Yash Dhull has had a nightmarish start to his stint as Ranji Trophy captain. Delhi has lost one, conceded the lead in the first innings in the next two games and faltered at one point in this game by 10 for 7.
Sweet red ball.. 😇❤️#RanjiTrophy pic.twitter.com/SkQyfeUQCn
— Jaydev Unadkat (@JUnadkat) January 3, 2023
In reply, Saurashtra has already taken the lead and crosses at 184 for 1 with Harvik Desai (104 not out) scoring his fourth first-class century. Saurashtra leads by 51 runs.
Unadkat said on the field that he wanted a surface to help their spinners and also wanted to hit first.
“Honestly, we wanted some help for the spinners as they did well here in the last game. We played three spinners and they played three as well. Chetan (Sarkariya) missed, just due to the fact that it could be a revolving orbit and it won’t have much help for the sailors. I also wanted to bat first on this course,” he said.
Saurashtra has done quite well without their two senior players Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaydev Unadkat. After taking the lead in the first innings in the first two matches against Assam and Maharashtra, they have stunned Mumbai with 48 runs in their last meeting.
Unadkat tipped his side as a “domestic powerhouse.” He said: Saurashtra is now a powerhouse. There are players who can win games for us in any situation. Mental belief in this unity is so strong that the boys do not lower their shoulders under any circumstances.”
Short Scores: Delhi 133 in 35 overs (Hrithik Shokeen 68 not out, Shivank Vashisht 38; Jaydev Unadkat 8/39) vs Saurashstra 184 for 1 in 46 overs (Harvik Desai 104 not out, Chirag Jani 44 not out)