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'My stars are aligned at the moment'

March 23, 2020 19:22 IST

'I am confident of my skills more than ever.'

Jaydev Unadkat

IMAGE: Jaydev Unadkat was the top wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy this season with 67 wickets from 10 matches. Photograph: Jaydev Unadkat/Instagram

Jaydev Unadkat became the first captain to guide Saurashtra to the Ranji Trophy title.

The left-arm pacer's haul of 67 wickets from 10 matches -- the best this season -- was integral in his team's triumph.

Unadkat's bowling has improved by leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, but the 28 year old says his performances in domestic cricket hardly get noticed and people are only interested in talking about why he gets so paid so much in the IPL.

In the final part of the interview with Rediff.com's Harish Kotian, Unadkat revals why trolls don't bother him anymore.

You led the way with 67 wickets at an average of 13 in Saurashtra's winning campaign. How much of hard work went into your dream performance this season with the ball because it isn't easy for a pace bowler to consistently deliver in Indian conditions throughout the full season?

I guess it is both the physical and the mental aspect as well.

The seasons I have had last the last couple of years have been challenging because a lot was spoken about me and about my off the field records rather than my exploits on the field.

And even though I had a great domestic season last year -- we reached the finals as well last year -- but no one actually noticed that because there were people who wanted to speak a lot about why I wasn't doing well in the IPL and why I was paid so much and all that.

All of those things helped me to grow as a player, it helped me to become stronger.

And that was one thing that I wanted to do before this season, not to allow anything to affect me mentally and be as strong as I can.

Obviously, the physical part is important, so I went to the UK to train with with Steffan Jones for 10 days who was our fast bowling coach at the Rajasthan Royals. He helped me change my fitness routine,

I made it specific to my bowling, which helped me remain fit throughout the season. That helped me a lot during the season, changing the fitness routine, making it specific to my bowling.

But it's not just the skills, it was the mental part that I had to communicate and I think with everything in place I was able to go through the grinds of the season.

You were a lot more aggressive this season and also added a lot of variation to your bowling, like bowling from round the wicket when things are not working or trying the odd yorker.
Has that added a new dimension to your bowling?

I think that has always been my style. I was always comfortable bowling from over the wicket and round the wicket.

If I can have more angles to bowl from, it's always going be that much more difficult for the batsmen.

So that was always one of the things I wanted to do, but this year I was more consistent doing it.

I was more accurate and that is why I got the rewards as well.

That obviously comes with practice. If you have the right mindset in practice, if you practice the right things, then you are able to execute it out there in the middle.

I think I am going through a phase where I know what I want to do. As a player, I know I am backing my skills to the fullest, and I am confident about my skills.

I am not really uncomfortable about things that I am not able to do. I am just focusing on what I can do and what I am really good at.

So I think those are the things that are helping me to actually grow my skills.

You have been a very consistent bowler in domestic cricket for Saurashtra over the years and have also done well in the IPL for all your franchises. No wonder you have been in demand at all IPL auctions.
But one bad performance and people bring up things like 'He has been paid so much, but he is not worth it' and all that on social media.
How do you deal with such criticism?

As a player I cannot do a lot on that front because it is down to the people to judge it, it is down to what people want to see.

If people are still focusing more on the IPL even after the season that I have had, then I can't really blame them because it's everyone's own liking that they have.

I just feel that the people who actually study the game, who know the game, are obviously judging it in the right way.

I know that I shouldn't be worried about how people look at it or what people speak about because that's not in your control.

And at times, you should not be the right judge or you should not really judge it that way as well.

It's not right to judge people because they love the IPL more than the Ranji Trophy, I think. At the end of the day, it's everyone's own liking and it's good for the game whatever people do follow because they are following cricket at the end.

So I don't really blame anyone for not noticing the Ranji Trophy performances and just noticing the IPL, it is just how it is.

The IPL has given a lot to this game, it has actually helped the game to grow more than ever before, so you cannot take the credit away from it.

I am sure that you know, whenever or wherever it should matter, the performances of Ranji Trophy will matter and you should just be hopeful about it, you should just feel good about it rather than cursing or feeling bad about it.

And how do you deal with the trolls on social media who are ready to pounce at every opportunity?

I have made a habit to ignore them now.

In the past I used to read a lot of trolls and I used to feel bad about it or used to feel like I should reply to all of them. But that's like a couple of years ago.

Now I have developed a habit that I don't want to see all of them. I don't want them to affect me mentally.

I'm active on social media, but I'm active in a positive way. I don't really see all those messages from trolls now.

This was a complete team effort by Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy this year. But one player whose gritty performance I would like to point out is Cheteshwar Pujara, who turned out for Saurashtra immediately after returning from New Zealand.
He was not feeling well in the final when he was forced to retire due to fever and a throat infection, but came back on the second day and scored a vital half-century and was involved in a match-defining partnership of 148 runs for the sixth wicket with Arpit Vasavada.
How vital was Pujara's contribution in the final?

He was as hungry as anyone else in the team, in fact more hungrier than all of us because it was a dream for everyone in this region to win the Ranji Trophy once.

For someone like Pujara, having come back from New Zealand not feeling well, he was still determined enough to do it for the team. I know how he was feeling, he did come and talk to me, it was difficult for me, he did black out as well, but he still wanted to do it for the team.

He took the medicines and came back the next day to bat. I think it was all down to how much he actually wanted to do this for the team.

He was not there physically, but he was there for the team when it was required the most. He didn't get a century or he didn't score big runs, but his knock would rank as one of the most important knocks in the history of Saurashtra cricket along with Arpit's century.

There is talk about you getting a chance for Team India. Cheteshwar Pujara says he would be surprised if you don't get selected for India.
You played just one Test for India aged just 18, around 10 years ago, but never got another chance.
How disappointing was that experience?

That was long back and that was really early in my career. So that was disappointing, but I never had the thought 'What if I don't get a second chance?' I was 18 at that point. I had my whole career to look forward to.

I have always been motivated. When I think about about my Test debut, that I was able to make it at that age, in that era when all the greats of the game were playing.

So I think that has only motivated me, that has never disappointed at all. Whenever people talk about when will I get my second chance or if I will get it, what will I be able to do or stuff like that, the mindset that I am in now, I just want to keep doing the things that I am doing.

I want to extend this phase when I say I am in a great mental space. I am confident of my skills more than ever so I just want to extend that phase. And whenever I get my opportunity I will regard it as just as just another game and try to contribute towards the team's success.

How different is this Jaydev Unadkat of today from the Jaydev Unadkat of 10 years ago when you played your first Test way in 2010?

Obviously, a lot more mature as a person, a lot more experienced as a player.

Going through the season, every year in and year out, you get to learn a lot as a player, you develop your skills, you get to know your game a lot better.

You know your strengths, you know when to push yourself, you know when to actually change something if required and stuff like that, so all of that obviously comes down to the experience that I went from, playing through the years.

As a person you tend to be restless when you are young, in your teens, but now I think I am a lot more settled as a person and in a good space at the moment.

I think the balance is just right between the professional and personal front. I just want to keep going because this is a phase which is the peak of my career and I want to extend it as much as I can.

That was a kind of double celebration for you, getting engaged a couple of days after winning the Ranji Trophy. So things are falling nicely in place for you.

I got engaged recently, but the decision was made before the season. I got in touch with her (fiancée Rinny) 3-4 months ago. She did support me a lot during the season. It was hard for her because she is new to cricket.

It cannot get better than this to have the biggest moments of my life in the space of one week.

I think my stars are aligned at the moment and I just want to be as grateful as I can.

At the same time I regard everything as an opportunity, to improve myself, learn as a player and keep growing.

HARISH KOTIAN