South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion December 16, 2010

Unadkat in the swing of things

It's yet to be seen how the 19-year old will perform on the biggest stage in South Africa, whether he has the necessary skills and the mental fortitude to excel, but his coaches and parents believe he has what it takes

Rambhai Odedera, Jaidev Unadkat's coach, chuckles at one memory. "Jaidev's great worry about becoming a cricketer was whether he'd have to start eating non-vegetarian food". It's an endearing and revealing anecdote about the boy from Porbandar, a coastal town in Gujarat more famous for producing the Mahatma. "He said, 'All fast bowlers, they say, have non-veg. Sir, I don't want to eat meat. What will I do?'" Odedera assured the boy that he could stick to his vegetarianism but Unadkat had another doubt. He was doing well at school and feared that cricket might derail his future. Deepak, his college-principal father, shared those concerns. Once again Odedera eased their minds, suggesting that there was a great future in cricket and it wouldn't affect his studies.

Unadkat's cricket journey had started when, aged ten, he would accompany his father to weekend games at a ground near the shore. His natural talent excited his father - who enrolled him in the Duleep school of cricket, an institution inaugurated by Duleepsinhji two months before India's Independence - and excited Odedera too. "He was a natural talent. His run-up and delivery stride was always smooth. Over the years, we have worked on the all-round development of his game. He now gets appreciable bounce, can bowl from round the stumps, and can swing the ball both ways."

It's an assessment shared by Praveen Amre, Unadkat's India A coach on a successful 2010 tour of England. "That's how he got those 13 wickets on his first-class debut against West Indies A on that tour. He is a really good bowler." That performance, and his earlier work in the Under-19 world Cup which got him an IPL berth, caught the eye of the national selectors who fast-tracked him into the national team.

It has been reported that Unadkat's stint with Wasim Akram in the IPL has honed his ability to reverse the ball. What's certain is that the IPL made his father more confident of a brighter future. It wasn't the cricket but how he handled the money and the fame. "There was the concern. Porbandar is a small place and he is a nice kid. When the IPL happened he showed how mature he was. His behaviour didn't change and he showed us he could handle himself. His mother keeps advising him on this and that; I just have full confidence in him."

"When he won the Man-of-the-Match award, he got 100 pounds. He took his team out to dinner. Small thing, but it shows his character."
Praveen Amre on Unadkat

The IPL's glam factor had worried Odedera too. "I remember the whole of Porbandar seemed to think it was a big thing. I told Jaidev not to let it get into the head. The IPL is nothing. Your aim should be to play and do well for India. You are the second cricketer [from Porbandar] to play for India. In 1932, [maharaja] Natwarsinghji of Porbander, who eventually started the Duleep school of cricket, was the original captain of Indian team that toured England on its first Test tour. In the end, he didn't play; CK Nayudu did. You have this great chance now to play for India."

Odedera recalls Unadkat getting very emotional and promising him that he would not only play for India but do well. Amre cites an incident from the England tour that highlighted his attitude and team spirit. "When he won the Man-of-the-Match award, he got 100 pounds. He took his team out to dinner. Small thing, but it shows his character."

It's yet to be seen how the 19-year old will perform on the biggest stage in South Africa, whether he has the necessary skills and the mental fortitude to excel. His coaches and parents are confident and hopeful. "He is a special talent and the selectors have granted him a great opportunity," Amre says. "It's up to him now, what he does with it."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2010, 11:33 GMT

    Right we have 3 pacers in the team who have played less than 30 test matches. It is an inexperienced attack without a leader. We should back them to perform well in the coming matches instead of throwing rants at them. There is no compassion for the experienced batting line-up though. It really seemed like they have under-estimated the Saffas of all people!

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2010, 3:20 GMT

    I seriously feel INDIANS LOVE CRITICIZING their Cricket team, if they have had a bad day or match. The coffee table experts who might not even know the technical/mental aspects of cricket @ the highest level start calling names & suggesting weird things. GOD knows will these idiots learn to at least RESPECT our Cricketers. I am sure Unadkat will do well in future, he definately is a bright prospect. Though I agree that may be RP would have done well coz of the conditions & his prior experience. My Best wishes to Team India. Don't bother friends, there fools everywhere, who just love to criticize, as that's easy to do rather than facing fast bowling on a greenish top with someone bowling at a speed of 90miles/hr. Good Luck for the rest of the series!!

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 19:21 GMT

    like I said before, he doesn't belong at this level. I saw a couple of clips of him before the match, he looks like a hybrid paceman, he doesn't have the pace or bounce to bowl seam and he doesn't have the action to bowl swing. He was fast-tracked into the Indian team but he still looks like a genuine U-19 bowler. He needs a LOT of work to be anywhere near useful.

  • Ahmed on December 17, 2010, 16:29 GMT

    They guy has'nt played a test and you have started comparing him to mcgrath and wasim akram. Where's your irfan pathan, srisanth, agarkar and a lot of other club level bowlers

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 16:20 GMT

    @Nampally, be serious man, pls have some respect to mcgrath, Undalkat compare with Mcgrath is Disrespect to Mcgrath,

  • arvin on December 17, 2010, 16:11 GMT

    unadkat is in the team coz of his godfather niranjan shah... after his first class debut match he just took 18 wickets in 7 matches... that is not a good bowler with potential...

  • Dummy4 on December 17, 2010, 15:58 GMT

    Don't celebrate this fellow. He just bowls around 120 kmh..not a great stuff. Remember what happened to Irfan who bowled at the same speed and is nowhere in the scene now. These military medium guys won't help. I am afraid we may lose 3-0.

  • Mashuq on December 17, 2010, 15:11 GMT

    One of my grandfathers also hailed from Porbander and settled in SA. Nevertheless, in this series I prefer India to win. However, I have to concur with @Ari DeAndrado about the team India being flat track bullies. All the stats about doing well in Australia of late can't hide the disappointment Indian fans are feeling (and are likely to feel over the next few weeks). Keep your heads up, fans, Zak may come back and dismiss Smith for ducks in the next tests. However, nothing will change the result. 2-0 to SA, because of the toothless attack. And how manmy runs will GOD make? What about Viru scoring another 300? Maybe at Newlands in a high-scoring draw, but never when it matters. Ouch!!!

  • Thilina on December 17, 2010, 14:12 GMT

    Ouch numberr 1 in the world !

  • sam on December 17, 2010, 13:49 GMT

    Saw Unadkat bowl today and honestly didn't see him get any ball to swing prodigiously though couple of his deliveries did seam off the deck. Prabhakar/Prasad kind of pace around 125-132 Kmph. Assessment: Not a bad future prospect, still not ready for Test Cricket and RP was much more promising than this guy when he first played in international crikcet (Pity RP's test career was destroyed by IPL). To people who think Irfan Pathan had more talent than RP as a test bowler; well, they simply don't understand test cricket (Stats normally don't lie and if one takes away Pathan's performances against incompetent test teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh he averages around 46 per wicket).

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