"I am someone who loves taking on leadership roles. I've loved it since I was quite young. I am fortunate that I'm playing for a team like Saurashtra. It's not a team with lots of 'big' players, it's a well-knit unit, and it's always good to captain a side like that."
Jaydev Unadkat recently revealed in an interview. His words couldn't have held truer after he produced a sensational spell against Gujarat in the semi-finals to bowl Saurashtra to the finals of the 2020 Ranji Trophy. The left-arm pacer has had an outrageous Ranji season where he has led the side exceptionally well and produced wickets to lead by example.
In the semi-finals of the season, Unadkat was in top form. He dismissed big guns like Priyank Panchal, Dhruv Raval and top-scorer Rujul Bhatt in the first innings of the match. With a less than convincing total to defend in the final innings, Unadkat was at it again, producing a seven-wicket haul as he single-handedly led the team to the finals.
Saurashtra had their backs against the wall after Parthiv Patel and Chirag Gandhi put on 158 for the sixth wicket. Unadkat, who had led the early top-order demolition, returned to prize out Parthiv and dismissed Axar Patel next ball and Chirag Gandhi soon after to seal the match for Saurashtra.
This was Unadkat's seventh five-wicket haul in the season in 15 innings, a rate of one nearly every second innings or one every game.
Unadkat in RanjiTrophy 2019-20:
The Saurashtra skipper has picked up 65 wickets from his 15 innings, the most in the season so far by 10 wickets. His seven five-fers is also the most in the season by any bowler.
Most wickets by a pacer in a Ranji Trophy season:-— Kausthub (@kaustats) March 4, 2020
63* - JAYDEV UNADKAT for Saurashtra in 2019-20
62 - Dodda Ganesh for Karnataka in 1998-99
57 - Ranadeb Bose for Bengal in 2006-07
52 - Harshal Patel for Haryana in 2019-20
51 - Ishwar Chaudhary for Sikkim in 2018-19#SAUvGUJ
What makes Unadkat's feat stands out is where he has picked his wickets. Since the 2013-14 Ranji season, Unadkat has the second-best average and the best strike rate in the Indian domestic scene. Most of this has come at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot where fast bowlers have the worst record in this period on any ground in India.
Key to this has been reverse swing in Rajkot and conventional swing and angles on helpful wickets. Unadkat has a good blend of all these skills.
"I got a couple of fifers in Rajkot on flat wickets where I really bowled my heart out. The only plan there was to reverse the ball. If you're playing in Rajkot, it's bound to reverse, and if you have the skills it can reverse in 15-20 overs," he said in the same interview.
A lot of focus has gone into Unadkat's dip in form in the limited-overs formats - in the Indian Premier League and for team India in the past three years. But the left-armer has been thriving in red ball cricket with a unique skill set, one which India might be eyeing given that he adds a different dimension as well to the attack with his left-arm angle. His leadership qualities will also add to the present Test bowling attack. An ability to snuff out wickets when the going gets tough is a great character to have and Unadkat oozes that in plenty.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / Sportsgriduk