In normal circumstances,he should have been the most nervous member of the visiting Saurashtra team as they went through their practice routines at the Mumbai Cricket Associations (MCA) BKC ground on Sunday. Just 13 days past his 19 th birthday,Jaydev Unadkat was less than 24 hours away from making his highly anticipated Ranji Trophy debut and that too against no mean opponents but the two-time defending champions Mumbai. The lanky left-arm pacer,however,looked the most focused of the lot with a certain air of confidence around him as he prepared for probably the biggest match of his life so far.
The Porbandar lads still nascent cricket career,however,has been nothing short of exceptional till now. Not only did he pick up a 13-wicket match haul in his maiden first-class outing in England earlier this year,Unadkat has already experienced two stints with the Indian Test squadonce as a net-bowler in Sri Lanka and more recently as a regular member during the second Test against Australia at Bangalore.
Spare a thought then for his much senior teammate,Shitanshu Kotak,who has wheeled away defiantly for 18 years without ever being in the reckoning for a national berth. But when Saurashtra take on Mumbai in a Elite Group A game on Monday,Unadkat will be one of the key players for his side along with Kotak and the only India-cap bearer in the line-up,Ravindra Jadeja.
And Unadkat is well aware of the unique circumstances in which he will be playing his maiden Ranji match. There will be lot of expectation from me now,especially,since I been part of the national squad. A lot of hopes have been placed on me and I am looking forward to the challenge, he said.
While his 13 wickets against West Indies A at Grace Road,Leicester were no mean feat,Unadkat achieved those figures in swinging conditions,where the ball dominated the bat more often than not. And he is aware that bowling on the flat wickets in India against some of the most prolific batsmen in domestic cricket will be a much more difficult task
I was lucky to experience being part of the Indian camp so early on but the real challenge starts now. Bowling on these wickets will be an all-new ball game for me, he explained.
Unadkat does have reason to believe that the first full season often ends up being the easiest and at times the most productive for young fast bowlers; Mumbais Dhawal Kulkarni and Karnatakas Abhimanyu Mithun are prime examples of rookie pacers earning national call-ups based on remarkable returns in their maiden Ranji seasons.
Usually young pacers take wickets because opponents have no clue about them to start with. If you see there are so many bowlers working hard to get noticed and being a rookie might just work in my favour, added Unadkat.
The hosts,meanwhile,will be wary of Saurashtra,who have been their bogey team over the last few seasons.
And with the very consistent Ajinkya Rahane set to miss out due to an ankle injury,and Kulkarni serving a ban,Mumbais task of overcoming the resilient outfit led by Jaydev Shah,will only be that much tougher now. While skipper Wasim Jaffer has the option of going in with the experienced Aavishkar Salvi as Ajit Agarkars new-ball partner,new-comer Javed Khan is most likely to get the nod. But everyone involved,including Unadkat,will realise that it is the Saurashtra teenagers debut that will be the most dominant feature over the next four days.