Saurashtra’s pace spearhead has, in the last couple of years, proved his worth in the domestic circuit both with the new and old ball, bowling those penetrative spells to change the momentum of the game. It’s latest example was for everyone to see on Wednesday, when with an old ball and a lifeless day-five wicket, he pitched the ball just outside the off stump which moved ever so slightly to take the edge. The ‘zip from the pitch’ was his own doing.
Talking about his chances and comeback at the international stage, the 28-year-old seamer from Porbandar said, “It means a lot not because I have so many wickets, but because I have been able to win games for my side. If I have to be right up there in the bowling group we have in our country, then I need to do what no one else has done. I think I am there in terms of confidence, experience and fitness.”
This season, in the shorter formats as well his figures are noteworthy. In eight Vijay Hazare Trophy matches he grabbed 15 wickets at an economy of 4.94 and in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he effected 12 dismissals in seven games at an economy of 5.74.
Given the demanding international calendar, the wear and tear has become more recurrent and that also puts focus on the age of the players. With Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar running in their 30s and majority of the new crop have lacked consistency, 28-year-old Unadkat fits the bill well.
During the press conference in Christchurch, Kohli had alluded that the management is on a look out for new talents, “…we do need to recognise who are the next three-four guys that can keep the standard up because you don’t want to feel a void suddenly if a couple of guys miss out.”
National selector Sarandeep Singh who was present at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot for all the five days of the Ranji Trophy semifinal match, witnessed Saurashtra captain’s heroics live, and will find it hard to ignore him.
With 65 wickets to his name so far in this season, Unadkat has surpassed Dodda Ganesh, who topped the bowling charts with 62 wickets in the 1998-99 season. And, he is only four wickets away from going past spinner Ashutosh Aman’s tally of 68 scalps in 2018-19 season. The man in charge of Saurashtra’s outfit believes he has done substantially well and is hopeful of his India comeback, “I believe my chance will come and I will wait for it. Also, the age is on my side, I am 28. The way I have performed this season can be the benchmark I can probably set for myself for the rest of my career.”
During the previous domestic outing as well the fast bowler did reasonably well – scalping 39 wickets from eight matches at an economy of 2.57 in Ranji Trophy, 16 scalps from eight games at an economy of 4.27 in Vijay Hazare and 12 wickets from six matches at an economy of 6.54 in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Unadkat made his international debut a decade ago in the Test against South Africa in Centurion where he went wicketless and bowled at an economy of 3.88 in a drawn game.