From software degree in Scotland to engineering Zimbabwe's revival
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How Jaydev Unadkat got his groove back

Dropped after a fruitless Test debut in 2010,Unadkat credits return to maturity.

Few players in the ongoing one-day series in Zimbabwe will be looking forward to the second one-dayer in Harare on Friday like India’s Jaydev Unadkat. The fast bowler from Saurashtra,making his comeback into the Team India fold after a 31-month gap,has a couple of reasons for this eager anticipation.

For one,it will be the first time that Unadkat will play a second match for India in the same format,having been dropped after his solitary Test against South Africa in December 2010. Secondly,the new ball is known to do a bit in Harare and the ODI debutant from Wednesday will look to cash in on this second coming.

The Zimbabwe series has come at a perfect time for players looking for a toehold in the Indian squad,and no one appreciates this chance better than Saurashtra pacer Jaidev Unadkat. The second ODI on Friday will see Indians try increase their lead in the series,but in Unadkat’s case,it is also about proving a point that his one-Test appearance three years ago wasn’t a freak occurrence,and he has the wherewithal to last international cricket. That,the last time he made the team wasn’t merely luck by chance.

Freefall broken

Last year same time as clouds hovered in the skies and rains made cricketers miserable and restless,Unadkat was dealing with a gloom of his own. He had helplessly slipped into a zone where many domestic cricketers find themselves — an unbreakable freefall,after having found early success. He was not been picked for the India A side which was travelling to West Indies and New Zealand,whereas it struck him that he had hit a wall as far as improvements in his bowling went.

There was no coach he could turn to who would answer his endless questions. Clueless and craving guidance from anyone reliable,Unadkat went into a shell. For a youngster who had made his Test debut before going through the grind in domestic cricket,success had come too soon,and left his side even quicker. Unadkat was found out on the big stage at Centurion where he went wicketless.

“I played for India A in June 2010 and by that December I’d already made my international Test debut. Everything happened so fast. I was over-confident and thought nothing could go wrong,” he said.

So when picked for Zimbabwe,Unadkat sensed an opening. At Harare,India watched two debutants — Ambati Rayudu and Unadkat — give a decent account of themselves in the shorter format. Unadkat might have got only one wicket,Zimbabwe captain Brendon Taylor’s,but Sikandar Raza,who slammed 82,said the left-arm pacer had been tough to handle on Wednesday as Zimbabwe trundled to 228.

“He was getting the ball to move in and then following it up with one that was going away. So we had to be very cautious and keep our eye closely on the way he was bowling,” Raza had said post match.

So how did he get back into the groove? He never let go of his optimism. The 2011-12 domestic season saw him take 26 wickets but Saurashtra had played most of their games at home where wickets resembled a highway,and even single wickets carried a lot of weightage.

Unadkat recalls the Eureka moment when he decided to increase his strides from 24 to 28 yards and bring his shoulder closer to the head which would help him to get his line right. It took months of spot bowling in lonely nets to re-discover himself but the real challenge was to apply all his homework in upcoming domestic games.

self-help

“I didn’t ask anybody,there was no one who I could seek out. I myself decided if this small increase in my run-up length would help. And if this slight change would help with accuracy. I endlessly bowled in the nets where I was alone,” Unadkat recalls.

The domestic season didn’t yield much in wickets,but those who saw him bowling in empty stadiums of Khanderi in Rajkot,spoke how different he looked in his pace and length. There were many instances where his bowling saw slip fielders dropping catches and had those been taken,his last column would have had more to say.

Things changed in IPL-6 and Unadkat soon became the main bowler for Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore. He was the bowler the captain would run to in crunch moments and in T20s he became one of the more economical bowlers. He picked a five wicket haul against the Delhi Daredevils which made even coach Ray Jennings predict that the day was not far where the Saurashtra pacer would find himself back in the Indian team.

“Now I feel how different I was when I made my India debut in 2010. I was totally confused and couldn’t soak the pressure. It was Zaheer who played a big role in the IPL. He always devoted extra time on me during the nets. He always taught me how and when to use variations. How and when to use the slower ball was his idea,” the 22-year-old explains.

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