Saurashtra and Rajasthan Royals’ left-arm medium-pacer Jaydev Unadkat is relieved that he is back home in Rajkot with his family. It has been challenging times for a cricketer to focus on their game when almost everything around them is grim because of the pandemic.
Though the players feel safe inside the bio-bubble created for the Indian Premier League, the positive cases in four IPL teams – Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Delhi Capitals – have made them to take even more precautions. And before the cases rose, IPL was suspended for the time being.
The 29-year-old Unadkat, who played in four of the seven matches for Royals this year, returned figures of 3/15 in four overs. His man-of-the-match performance helped his team win against Delhi Capitals by three wickets – he was not out 11 in the run chase. However, he managed only one wicket in his next three matches. Unadkat, who played the last of his 10 T20Is – he has also appeared in one Test and seven ODIs – in the Nidahas T20 tri-series in Colombo, also captained Saurashtra to their maiden Ranji Trophy title in 2019-20.
Unadkat was acquired in the 2018 IPL auction by RR for ₹11.50 crore, was sold back to the Jaipur franchise for ₹8.40 Cr the next year. In 2020, it came to ₹3 Cr and was retained by RR ahead of this year’s auction.
Unadkat, who has taken 85 wickets in 84 IPL matches, talks exclusively to news18.com on the experiences of a bio-bubble life. Excerpts:
You must be glad and relieved to be back home in Rajkot, aren’t you?
To be honest, it felt safe there in the Rajasthan Royals bio-bubble. The way the things were going outside the bubble, and because it is difficult to travel and maintain those kinds of bubbles, the cases that came were obviously unfortunate. I still feel it was fair on their (IPL governing body) part to try to work it out. As players, we were in that together (IPL being suspended indefinitely). Everyone was on board with it. We also felt it was the only option they had at that point and that was all that they could explore. The way things were going, we felt quite safe and they were trying their best.
With whatever was happening in the country, it must have been tough to concentrate on cricket. How challenging was it?
It can be frustrating at times, especially when, at this point, almost everyone in the team had someone or the other in their families’ or friends’ circle getting infected or being hospitalised. It was frustrating. It was challenging at some point for everyone. Having said that, everyone was looking at the positives. Playing cricket was something that kept us intact. In the bubble, it was challenging not to get out of the room, not to go out anywhere except to the ground. We were all looking at the positives. That’s what I was doing at Rajasthan Royals.
What were the positives that you looked at? How did you keep out the negativity?
The RR management tried their best to keep us in a positive frame of mind. They kept sending us messages all the time that they were there for us in case we needed anything. RR even hired some sports psychologists with whom we could talk online for any problem. The management said that option was available, in case the players needed. I did not need to talk to any psychologist. Since I was travelling with my wife, it made life easier for me as I had company in my room. Being in the room together was always better than being alone. Other players were keeping each other company and trying to stay sane. There was not much to talk about apart from what’s happening outside the bubble, but it was challenging. We were looking at the positives.
Now that you are back home, you could be physically present for help whenever your close ones needed, which otherwise you could not do while in the bubble?
That’s true. Having said that, since we (players) have come back home, we still do not go out of the houses. It is still not safe to go outside. We do have our families to look after. We are in the family bubble now. We are planning to do that for a few more days – not go out as much as possible. It does feel a little safe that we are in the family. Mentally, you feel safe and secure because everyone that you love closely is around you.
Were you able to meet players from the opposition during the IPL?
We were not allowed to meet each other at all. The teams had different practice times. Only during the matches were we able to catch up with friends and players from the opposition camp. That was the only time we could meet.
How different was IPL 2020 in UAE (Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi)?
The bubble in the UAE was similar to what we had just now. Just because there were less cases outside the bubble in the UAE, the bubble was even more intact. Here, we had more cases outside the bubble, which made it difficult for them. It cannot be 100 per cent foolproof anywhere. It was the same in the UAE. It is the same here as well. Am not an expert as to how the cases happened in the four IPL teams or what went wrong. In the UAE, we were told to follow the restrictions. Here also, we were told to follow the same restrictions. We were following the restrictions there and we followed them here as well. In hindsight, they say travelling by air may have been the cause for the cases. One can never be sure. All the travelling we did in the UAE was by road.
You announced donating 10 per cent of your IPL salary to help people in these tough times. Were you contemplating it for a long time?
There’s nothing really special about it. Whatever we can contribute in these times is going to help the ones in need. We, as a family, had been doing it since the start. We did it last year as well. It is just that in these times, it was important to come and say in the public. A lot of people are doing it. It is just something I don’t want to boast about. It is a small contribution in whatever way I could.
Cricket wise, how did it go? You played in four matches out of the team’s seven.
Whatever game time I got, I was bowling well. Maybe I would have loved a couple of more games but that is how it is, that’s how the team combination is. I think I am in a good head space as well. The couple of games I played well will definitely boost my confidence and help me take it forward.
We saw your Saurashtra team-mate and fellow left-arm medium-pacer Chetan Sakariya emerge in this IPL. What makes him special?
He is a special cricketer. Being a fast bowler, all you want is for your bowler to have his heart up his sleeves and bowl with aggression all the time. He is naturally aggressive and that is something helping him in his game. I have seen him grow as a cricketer. He is maturing as a cricketer. I am really happy for the way he has come up this IPL.
How was Sanju Samson as captain? He was leading for the first time in IPL.
Obviously, captaining an IPL team is not easy. He was finding his way out. He’s good on the field. As a bowler, you need clarity, and he was able to give that to the bowler. Still, it’s early days in his captaincy and he was finding his way out.
How keen are you to getting back to playing, defending the Ranji Trophy title for Saurashtra?
All we can do for the next couple of months is to hope that the situation gets better so that the domestic calendar takes place the way it is supposed to. These couple of months will all be about staying as safe as possible, and waiting and watching. We can do nothing in the next couple of months. Hopefully, the tournaments that are coming up will go on and we also get a full IPL at some point as well.