Jaydev Unadkat had many reasons for feeling disappointed. Firstly, despite being at the peak of his bowling prowess in domestic cricket, he was overlooked for two big tours not making the Indian squad to either Australia or England. Then, to add salt to his wounds, a BCCI selector has reportedly stated that Unadkat will never play for India as he is too old to represent the country in international cricket.
Ok, first things first. What has Unadkat done to merit a place in the Indian team?
The Highest Wicket-taker in Ranji Trophy 2019-20
Unadkat bagged a whopping 67 wickets in just 10 matches at a stunning bowling average of 13.23 and strike rate of 28.2 with as many as 7 five-wicket hauls in an innings and 3 ten-wicket hauls in a match in the 2019-20 edition of the Ranji Trophy - India’s most prestigious first-class tournament. More significantly, he led Saurashtra playing the leading role in their historic maiden title win.
Unadkat returned with 10 wickets in the semi-final including seven in the second innings against Gujarat in the semi-finals at Rajkot. He had picked six in an innings against a strong Tamil Nadu side again in Rajkot in the group stages and was the star with the ball producing a Player of the Match performance against Railways at Visakhapatnam.
Unadkat’s special ability to strike with the new red cherry stood out in all these high impact performances. The left-armer’s 67 wickets set a new Ranji record for the maximum number of wickets for a fast bowler in a single season. Overall, only Ashutosh Aman had picked more in a season - the slow left-arm orthodox bagged 68 in the previous edition in 2018-19.
Unadkat was also in fine form with the ball in the 2018-19 edition picking 39 wickets in 8 matches at an average of 17.17. He played a pivotal role in taking Saurashtra to the final where they were beaten by Vidarbha.
Overall in his first-class career, which has spanned for 10 years from 2010 to 2020, Unadkat has picked 327 wickets in 89 matches at an average of 23.21 and strike rate of 47.2.
Unadkat had made a great debut in first-class cricket picking 13 wickets for India A against the West Indies A at Leicester in June 2010 and that fast-tracked him into the Indian Test side later in the year.
A Short International Career
Unadkat went wicket-less in the solitary Test of his career against a strong South African side at Centurion in December, 2010. And that was the end of him for India with the red cherry. With Zaheer Khan still operating for India in Test cricket (till 2014), Unadkat could not force himself into the Indian unit.
Unadkat gave decent returns in India in ODI cricket where he picked 8 wickets in 7 matches in 2013. He also played 10 T20Is for the country between 2016 and 2018 bagging 14 wickets.
The left-armer has bagged 141 List A wickets in 100 matches at a strike rate of 37.1 and 182 T20 wickets in 149 innings at a very impressive strike rate of 17.5 and good economy rate of 8.
Despite not making it big with the senior Indian team, Unadkat continued to perform at the domestic level and even in the most prestigious T20 league in the world.
The 2017 IPL
Unadkat produced a Player of the Match performance against the Delhi Capitals in the 2021 edition of the IPL getting rid of Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane before the end of the powerplay.
He was at his peak in the 2017 season where he returned as the second-highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets in 12 matches for the Rising Pune Supergiant at an average of 13.41, strike rate of 11.4 and economy rate of 7.02.
Why Wasn’t Unadkat Considered?
The question that needs to be asked then is that why was the highest wicket-taker of the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy not even considered good enough to be a part of the four stand-bye players for the tour of England?
Instead, an inexperienced and relatively new in the circuit, Arzan Nagwaswalla has been selected as the only left-armer in the squad of 24.
India boasts of a world-class pace attack but all in the quartet are right-arm fast and so are the reserves Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur.
With an experienced, in-form, at the peak of his prowess Unadkat in great form in the long format and with India needing variety in their attack, it was the perfect opportunity for India to give Unadkat a ticket to England - especially when T Natarajan - the young left-armer who impressed in Australia - was not part of the squad.
But they did not. There could be two reasons for this.
The 2020 IPL & The Age Factor
Unadkat had a poor season in IPL 2020 in the UAE returning with just 4 wickets in 7 matches and was also tonked around for aplenty going at 9.91 runs per over. But one bad season should not overshadow years of consistently being amongst the wickets across formats. Also, performances in T20 cricket cannot be used as a basis for selection for Test cricket.
The second factor, which is the more probable reason for Unadkat being snubbed, is the age factor. A BCCI selector told Karsan Ghavri - the former coach of Saurashtra - that the main reason for not considering the left-armer was him being over-age. According to the selector it is for this season that Unadkat will never again be considered for national duty.
However, the left-arm fast-medium bowler is just 29 and younger than three of the four fast bowlers who would be in action for India in England - Mohammed Shami (30), Ishant Sharma (32) and Umesh Yadav (33).
Yes, the BCCI want to invest in a younger crop of players but for a marquee Test series in England they could have surely considered an in-from seasoned veteran to add variety to their world class attack.
And since when did ’29’ become ‘too old’?