Things have changed a lot for Jaydev Unadkat in the past one year. From a price tag of Rs 30 lakh price for which the Rising Pune Supergiant bought him in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year, his stocks skyrocketed to a gigantic figure of Rs 11.5 crore in the IPL auctions this year.
And this can be attributed to a stellar IPL 2017 season, during which he picked up 24 wickets in 12 matches for the Pune franchise at an average of 13.41 and economy of 7.02, thus playing a critical role in the team’s march to the final. This was followed by a superb comeback into the Indian team with some impressive T20I performances — four wickets in three matches at a tight economy rate of 4.88 and a superb average of 11 – against Sri Lanka at home.
Such performances have certainly given a new lease of life to his international career which had little chance of revival after he had failed to impress during his one-Test stint in South Africa back in 2010, a brief ODI stint back in 2013 and a one-T20I stint against Zimbabwe in 2016.
Little did anyone know that he would be here today with an enhanced reputation of being a specialist T20 bowler.
However, things haven't quite gone right for the Saurashtra pacer in the post-IPL 2018 auction period. Cheap economy rate and high wicket-taking ability were the attributes that made him such a coveted asset in T20Is. Although he has maintained his wicket-taking ability, claiming seven wickets in his past four T20Is, it is his economy rate that has suffered. He has leaked runs at a rate of 10.28 in these T20Is.
Suddenly, his bowling which seemed so effective and suited to the T20 format has looked pretty one-dimensional with the batsmen taking him for runs. The fact is that his bowling is indeed pretty much one-dimensional at the moment. The slower ones and cutters are his primary and probably only change-up deliveries.
That makes him very predictable as batsmen know what he is going to serve them with as variation. It worked until batsmen hadn't picked him up. But now, everyone has become accustomed to the way Unadkat bowls and uses those slower ones.
He picked up three wickets in the second T20I of the Nidahas Trophy against Bangladesh on Thursday. However, he leaked runs at a rate of 9.5 as well. His wickets included those of Soumya Sarkar towards the beginning of the innings and Sabbir Rahman and Mehidy Hasan Miraz towards the end. He could not check the run flow even after picking up those wickets. Conceding runs at that rate is a crime when your teammates have bowled economical spells and the opposition team has scored just 139 runs at an overall rate of 6.95 runs per over.
Unadkat's real weakness came to the fore against Sri Lanka in the first match of the Nidahas Trophy. India had a clear-cut chance of winning the match after they had got Kusal Perera’s wicket. Sri Lanka required 23 runs from three overs. These are runs that India would have backed themselves to defend had Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah been bowling. Since both of them have been rested for this series, the ball was handed over to Unadkat to bowl the 18th over.
He leaked 15 runs in that over as the batsmen picked up his cutters and he failed to land his yorkers accurately too. This is another area that he needs to work on — bowling accurate yorkers like Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah.
Unadkat proved to be expensive in the T20Is in South Africa as well. His cutters were very ineffective in those conditions as they couldn't extract any bite or movement off the surfaces there. He picked up three wickets in the two T20Is he played in that series at a not-so-impressive average of 25 and a dismal economy rate of 10.14.
So it is high time Unadkat added a few more weapons to his bowling armoury. And he should start by increasing the accuracy of his yorkers. Deliveries like the knuckle ball are some other things he should try to master. The aim is to create an armoury that would contain enough weapons to keep the batsmen guessing. In this way, the batsmen can't premeditate shots and even if they do, Unadkat will have a high chance of outfoxing them.
Pace is another area he still needs to work on. He has certainly increased his pace and bowls on the higher side of 130s now. He is a lot stronger too. However, he probably needs to add another five clicks to the speedometer in order to become a complete bowler.
He should keep in mind that he has to justify his price tag of Rs 11.5 crore in the IPL as well. The Rajasthan Royals would be very disappointed if they don't get the results they expect from Unadkat this season. Moreover, such expensive spells may lead to his exclusion from the Indian team once again if it persists in the upcoming games of this tournament. He has spent a number of years working hard and trying to make it back to the Indian team. Unadkat should realise that he can't let this chance go abegging. He needs to increase the options in his arsenal sooner rather than later.