Aashaayen khile dil ki ummeedein hase dil ki, ab mushkil nahi kutch bhi nahi kutch bhi (Let your heart’s desires blossom and your hopes smile. Nothing is difficult now).
You are greeted with this song from ‘Iqbal’ — an inspiring celluloid tale of a deaf-mute young villager who conquers various obstacles to become an India cricketer — when you call Jaydev Unadkat on his mobile phone.
Although his story doesn’t bear much resemblance to that of the film’s protagonist, the lyrics quite reflect Unadkat’s approach to life these days. Dropping off the National team’s radar following a forgettable Test debut in South Africa in 2010 as a callow fast-bowler, he has resurfaced with a cluster of weighty performances.
Now, 21, the Saurashtra left-armer refuses to attribute the turnaround to any earth-shattering moment. “I was pretty young and lean at that time. There’s no particular reason that I have done well now. By playing a Test match then, I figured out what I needed to do at the highest level,” he told The Hindu recently on the sidelines of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal between South Zone and West Zone.
Despite his reluctance to zero in on any particular tournament, a tour of New Zealand with the India ‘A’ side last year proved crucial. He was the highest wicket-taker on either side with nine scalps from three unofficial ODIs. Then, Unadkat was purchased by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) ahead of IPL-VI for $525,000 – a move that raised eyebrows. He nevertheless proved to be a worthy investment, finishing joint second-highest in his side’s wickets chart.
What’s apparent, even to the casual observer, is that Unadkat is stronger and quicker these days. “I have spent a lot of time in the gym developing my core strength. That has helped me bowl consistently at a good pace and stay injury-free throughout the season.” He admitted “interactions with the right people” had made a difference. “When I was with Kolkata Knight Riders, Wasim (Akram) bhai helped me in perfecting the basics, like the wrist position. At RCB, I learnt how to strategise from Zak bhai (Zaheer Khan).”
Unadkat isn’t big on an extensive pre-match routine. “I do visualise (game situations) like most players, but the most important thing is to have a good mindset. I do meditate, even if not regularly.”
The “state of harmony”, he said, stemmed from his personal life. “I have always idolised my parents who have taught me to be honest. I am not a cricket-person off the field and spend time reading books,” said Unadkat, who hails from Porbandar, a city best-known for being Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace.
Unadkat is happy that, apart from him, two players from his home State — Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja — are part of the India set-up. “It’s a very good period for Saurashtra. There’s a lot of natural talent not only in my State, but also in many other parts of India. We have been lucky to get the right break.”
Making his ODI debut in Zimbabwe recently, Unadkat bagged eight wickets in five games. “I got an opportunity after two-and-a-half years and I was thoroughly motivated. My immediate goal is to do well in the coming series against Australia and cement my place in the team.”