Ganguly, Akram impressed by Undakat's talent
Haresh Pandya traces the meteoric rise of 18-year-old Jaydev Unadkat, who finds himself in the Indian Test squad for the second Test against Australia despite not playing a single Ranji Trophy match.
He is not yet 19 (born in Porbandar, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, on October 18, 1991), has played only four first-class matches, but not a single Ranji Trophy game so far. But things are happening so fast in the still-budding career of Jaydev Unadkat that today he finds himself in the injury-hit Team India.
And the chances are that he may make his Test debut against Australia in Bangalore on Saturday.
The quiet, unassuming and scholarly lad from Saurashtra has remained in the national headlines since he was selected in India's Under-19 squad for the youth World Cup in New Zealand in January 2010. What followed was a fairly handsome Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Jaydev, who was initially in the KKR development squad and would bowl only in the nets, had figures of 3 for 26 in 4 overs against Rajasthan Royals at Eden Gardens on April 17 -- after a lacklustre debut against Kings XI Punjab, it should be emphasised. He had already impressed the KKR captain, Sourav Ganguly, and bowling coach Wasim Akram, who marked out his willingness to work hard and ability to swing the ball both ways.
Not only did Jaydev justify the duo's confidence in him, but went on to make the national selectors sit up and take notice of his talent as a left-arm medium-pacer as well after consistently good performances. He celebrated his first-class debut with seven wickets for 41 and six for 62 for India A against West Indies A at Leicester. Along with his skipper and Saurashtra team-mate Cheteshwar Pujara, he was one of the most successful players on the tour.
Image: Jaydev Unadkat
One of the stars of the Emerging Players tournament
When Zaheer Khan and S Sreesanth were rendered hors de combat owing to injuries on our last tour of Sri Lanka, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten sent an SOS to Jaydev and Umesh Yadav to join Team India as net bowlers. Bowling to Indian cricket stalwarts (even if it was only in the nets) he had grown up idolising did a "world of good" to Jaydev's "confidence".
In Australia he was one of the stars of the Emerging Players tournament. After this, it was only a foregone conclusion that Jaydev's would be one of the first names to be penciled in by the selectors when they met to pick the Rest of India squad for the annual Zal Irani Cup against the Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai in Jaipur. He took 4 for 41 in 15.4 overs in Mumbai's first innings score of 274.
With Ishant Sharma getting injured in the first Test in Mohali, the selectors picked Jaydev as his replacement for the second and last match, starting on October 9 in Bangalore. Realistic, like many youngsters his age today, even Jaydev had "not expected" that he would be selected in the Test team so early in his career. But destiny always has a lot of surprises in store for you.
It matters not whether Jaydev finds himself in the playing eleven in Bangalore. What is important is he has progressed thus far despite being still in his teens. But, then, anything is possible if you are talented and have a passion for what you are out to pursue with a single-minded dedication.
"My son had this habit of always sleeping with a cricket ball in his pocket since he was a kid. Unlike most kids, he would always insist on buying cricket balls and no other toys," said Jaydev's mother Nainaben, unable to hide tears of emotions.
"And he used to say he would play for India one day. Today he is on the verge of proving himself right," he added.
Jaydev's father, Prof Dipak Unadkat, is principal of Government Polytechnic in Junagadh, having been recently transferred from Porbandar.
"Considering his cricketing skills and his consistently impressive performances, we were in no doubt that he would don the India colours one day. Frankly, we believed that he would have to wait for a year or so.
"But his talent, hard work and performance have been rewarded. Now that he has got a chance, by the grace of God, he should grab it with both hands. Like any parent, I also pray that my son performs brilliantly and helps the country win. I also hope that he reaches dizzy heights like Sachin Tendulkar and never becomes arrogant," said the academician father of his gifted son.
"Unlike many young cricketers, Jaydev has always struck a nice balance between sport and studies. He has never neglected his studies even though he hardly gets time to attend classes and read books. But he is very focused, both as a student and as a sportsman, and you can see that in his progress in both the fields at such a tender age," he added.
Image: Jaydev Undakat with his family
Chance to be first ever cricketer from Porbandar to represent India
And he is right. Jaydev, an alumnus of St. Mary's School of Porbandar, scored 91 percent Standard X and 86 percent in Standard XII -- both from Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board. He wanted to pursue a science degree but changed his mind as he "realised" it would "not be so easy" for a "very busy" cricketer like him.
He has decided to graduate in commerce and, at present, he is a first year B.Com. student of H.L. College in Ahmedabad, though his gruelingly tight cricket schedule did not leave him any time to take his annual examinations a few months back.
Jaydev's elder sister Dhara, his only sibling and busy pursuing an MBA degree, is obviously "very proud" of her brother's "meteoric rise" as a cricketer.
"I don't know how to express my feelings. You've only to imagine how happy my parents and I are about Jaydev's selection in the Indian team for the second Test against Australia. I'm simply delighted that Jaydev's childhood dream has become a reality now," said a visibly ecstatic Dhara.
"He was always mad after cricket. It's a very proud moment not only for our family but for the entire Porbandar that Jaydev is selected to play Test cricket for India. Only five months ago, when our family performed the dhaja arohan ceremony at Dwarka as a mark of worship to Lord Dwarkadhish, I had told Jaydev that he would find a berth in the Indian team by the end of the year," revealed Jaydev's grandfather Naranbhai Unadkat.
"This belief, this faith, has been accomplished by the grace and blessings of Lord Dwarkadhish."
Jaydev's grandmother, Muktaben Unadkat, felt that the laurels he has brought to the port town and pilgrim place would be written in letters of gold by future historians of Porbandar.
"Whatever he does, he does it positively and seriously. If he hadn't earned a name as a cricketer, he'd surely have become famous as somebody else. As you know, he is a brilliant student, too, besides being a promising cricketer," she added.
Not too many know that Maharana Natwarsinhji of Porbandar was the captain of India's first official cricket team that toured England for the country's maiden Test at Lord's in 1932. Being a poor cricketer, the royal man stepped down and asked the more deserving C.K. Nayudu to lead India in the historic Test.
If Jaydev manages to find a place in the playing XI at Bangalore, he will be the first ever cricketer from Porbandar to represent India in the heavyweight division of cricket.
Image: Jaydev Undakat with his mother