Injury is almost always a serious impediment. But for Jaydev Unadkat, though, it is proving to be a blessing in disguise. In 2014, during India A’s tour in Australia, the left-arm seamer from Saurashtra had complained of lower-back pain. A few months down the line it had been diagnosed as stress fracture. “It forced Unadkat to change,” says head coach Sitanshu Kotak.
Before the injury, Unadkat had been a bit obstinate about not giving anything a major tweak, bowling-wise. “He enjoyed a smooth ride for the first four-five years in first-class cricket. Made his Test debut… So it was natural that he wanted to stick to his methods. But after the injury he realised that he needed to change to recover lost ground. Easier said than done; because for a great like Tendulkar it requires 12,000 to 14,000 repetitions to change the muscle memory. For lesser mortals, it requires 17,000 to 18,000 repetitions,” Kotak explains.
Unadkat was mentally strong enough to accept the challenge and a new process began under Kotak. He missed a domestic season alright, but came back stronger with 40 wickets from 11 matches last term. His show on Monday encapsulated his skill and variety. On a slow pitch, he produced an excellent display of medium-fast bowling . Rahul Hazarika, Amit Verma and Syed Mohammad were taken care of by the away movement. Sibsankar Roy was done in by a cutter – the batsman got a leading edge to mid-off. Abu Nechim was sent back by a snorter and Arup Das, was removed by a short ball. Unadkat chose the Club House end because he wanted to shape it away from the left-handers. He refreshingly looked Test-class with a few extra yards of pace.
After the day’s play, Unadkat gave a low-down of the change. “I started to analyse my game a lot more after the injury. Earlier, I wasn’t that meticulous. Now, every time I pick a fault during video analysis, I go to the nets and concentrate on correcting it. I’m working on my back leg positioning and loading. I’m getting there but it would take another couple of months to be spot on. I have added to my muscle strengths, which is a reason I’m bowling faster. I now have a lot more upper and lower body strength which is helping me bowling longer spells also.”
The best part of Unadkat’s bowling was the way he consistently landed the ball on the seam. “I always had this ability. But somehow I had lost it for a period. Practising throwdowns at the nets helped. I throw down about 20-25 balls and try to land it on the seam before I start bowling at the nets,” Unadkat says.
Kotak offers more technical inputs. “We have been working on his back leg positioning to get the right alignment. It’s the most important thing for a fast bowler. His bowling arm was also going sideways at the point of release, which needed to be rectified. Unadkat is a good student of the game, very hard working.”
The India A matches in Australia earlier this year went well for the 25-year-old. Today, after Saurashtra folded for 153 in their first innings, Unadkat almost singlehandedly made Assam teeter. But Assam captain KB Arun Karthik made a gritty 57 before getting out to a cross-batted heave. He added 52 runs with S Purkayastha for the sixth wicket, which was decisive in securing an 18-run first innings lead.
Brief scores: Saurashtra 153 (Arup Das 7/49) & 0/1 vs Assam 171 (Arun Karthik 57; Unadkat 6/48).