When Jaydev Unadkat was picked up by Rising Pune Supergiant for INR 30 lakh at this year's IPL auction, all he would have likely wanted was more game-time. Unadkat, 25, has turned out for three franchises - Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders - and over the last two years he has played only two matches, one each for Daredevils and Knight Riders respectively.
Life at Rising Pune, though, has turned out to be pleasantly different for Unadkat. Having been preferred to the misfiring Ashok Dinda in the early stages of the tournament, Unadkat has not only nailed down a first XI slot but has also played a key role in Rising Pune winning seven of their last eight games. With 17 wickets at an economy-rate of 7.71, Unadkat is Rising Pune's second-highest wicket-taker behind Imran Tahir (18) having played four fewer games.
On Saturday, his spell of 5 for 30 against Sunrisers Hyderabad was special on more than one count as he defended 13 runs off the last over. As if bowling a maiden wasn't jaw-dropping enough, he raised the awesomeness quotient with a hat-trick as Sunrisers fell short chasing 149. Unadkat dismissed Bipul Sharma off the second delivery and then induced a skier from Rashid Khan to complete a caught-and-bowled chance before snaring Bhuvneshwar Kumar. All three deliveries came off slower balls.
Two weeks ago, Unadkat was entrusted with the responsibility of bowling the last over against Mumbai Indians. Mumbai needed 17 runs to win, but Unadkat picked up two wickets, including that of Rohit Sharma as Rising Pune scraped through by three runs. The experience of bowling well at the clutch, Unadkat said, prepared him for the Sunrisers challenge.
"To have been already through it, having been there, done that, you have the confidence in yourself, your skills," Unadkat told iplt20.com. "To bowl those cutters is something that has been working for me. I have been hit for some runs in the last game and some other games as well. But, as we talked in the meeting as well, just sticking to those plans and just doing what I am good at, bowling to my strengths has been working well. Really happy we defended that low-scoring total and have gone up in the points table."
If not for Unadkat's decisive final act, Ben Stokes would have been a unanimous choice for what would have been his fourth Man-of-the-Match award of the tournament. Stokes first smashed a 25-ball 39 to boost Rising Pune's total and then removed Sunrisers' top-three batsmen - David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Kane Williamson - to scuttle their chase.
After the match, though, Stokes was happy to take turns with Unadkat to play interviewer-interviewee in a light-hearted chat. When Stokes asked if Unadkat reckoned he could secure a hat-trick in the last over, the latter laughed and shook his head in disbelief, not least because he had gone for 21 runs in the 19th over against Knight Riders in Rising Pune's previous game.
"It's crazy. To go for some 20-21 runs in the last match, and to then come out here and defend 13 runs is something special. Keeping it simple is what has been working well for all of us," Unadkat said. "All of us have been helping each other; to take those wickets in the Powerplay, middle overs. At times I have taken those wickets, at times you [Stokes] have. Immy bhai [Imran Tahir] has been brilliant for us as well. I think taking those wickets throughout the innings is what has been helping me in the death overs as well."