Jaydev Unadkat was big headline news from the mega IPL auction in January this year, after Rajasthan Royals dished out INR 11.5 crore on him - the most spent on any Indian player at that auction. But Unadkat finished the IPL season with underwhelming numbers: 11 wickets in 15 matches with steep economy rate of 9.65. Unadkat had done well for India in the Nidahas Trophy, on the eve of the IPL. Post the IPL, he was out of the Indian team. By his own admission, he was weighed down by his own expectations. Now, though, he has another chance to set the record right, after Royals bought him back, once again making him headline news as the joint-biggest buy at this auction. What were his thoughts on the day? Here's Unadkat:
In January, INR 11.50 crore (USD 1.8 million approx). Now, INR 8.4 crore (USD 1.16 million approx). For the second time this year you have finished as a massive buy at the IPL auction. Were you expecting this again?
What I had in mind was not the number, of course, but I was sure that with the form I have been in in domestic cricket, teams would be keen on me. The fact that I am left-arm and an Indian fast bowler stood in my favour too. To be honest, I have not done that badly in the IPL over the past few years, except for the last 2-3 matches last season. I was right up there. This domestic season, I have been in good rhythm: did well in the Vijay Hazare Trophy [domestic one-dayers] where I got 16 wickets, did well in the Deodhar Trophy [domestic one-dayers featuring the best performing players]. In the Ranji Trophy [domestic first-class], I have taken over the captaincy at Saurashtra, and we had an outright win in our last match.
You told us after becoming a millionaire last IPL auction that you were happy, you were flying. Are you flying again?
I am grounded. I wasn't' really flying that time as well. It was a mega auction [since all the teams had to largely rebuild]. There was more hype. Things are much calmer this time. I wanted myself to be composed. I just want keep enjoying my game. It is high time in my career where I don't bother about the criticism. I am going to play cricket for next 10 years at least.
Were you following the auction today?
Yes, with my Saurashtra team-mates [Saurashtra are in Mumbai for the next round of the Ranji Trophy]. Even last time, I was with the same group of players following the auction on the phone and I needed them to stick around for sure again. Arpit [ Vasavada], Snell [Patel], Dharmendra Jadeja are some of the guys and they obviously are my good-luck charm.
Was your pulse racing as the bids soared?
I don't feel that much of anxiety or the hype that was there last auction. Also last auction we were at the ground, there were a lot of media already at the ground minutes after the bidding happened. It is pretty quiet now, pretty calm at the moment. There is more calmness this time around.
Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals started the bidding, before Chennai Super Kings joined in at the INR 5 crore mark. What did you think of the way the bidding went?
Super Kings were keen on me at the last auction, too. Their think tank really believes in me. Flem [coach Stephen Fleming] and Mahi bhai [MS Dhoni] believe in me from my time with them at Rising Pune Supergiant. It matters if you have played with someone and you believe in them. Just because they did not have enough funds I believe they were being very shrewd with what they wanted at this auction. But I am really happy the belief in me from franchises is still there. And I am going to work the hardest - I am going to work my pants off and do well, become as good a cricketer as I can be from here. It has been emotional for sure, like always.
"I wanted to be the standout player in every game, I was asking too much from myself. That was the only burden I had." Jaydev Unadkat on IPL 2018
Just because of all the criticism that came last IPL season. I had a hard time coping with it. Not just because of the IPL performances, but because of that I was dropped from the Indian team as well, which was a bit surprising. That way it has been emotional. I want to be right up there.
You have spoken of the pressure of expectations that came with the "most expensive" tag last IPL. Can you expand on those feelings?
That was a first for me. People talking about you as the highest-paid player and hence the expectations were a lot higher. And then I didn't really do as well as I should have, as I could have, maybe. But I think I have passed that phase for sure.
Did you get carried away?
Not really. The personality that I have, I won't get carried away by the money or be less focused. It was just the expectations that I had for myself: I wanted to be the standout player in every game, I was asking too much from myself. That was the only burden I had. There was no burden from the franchise owners or the other people who mattered. I was just expecting of myself to be the best in every game that I played. That does not really happen in a T20 game, being a fast bowler. So I have been able to come out of that for sure, to understand that it does not matter what expectations off me are, it does not provide any extra advantage in any fashion. I am focused, determined, dedicated. This time I want to enjoy my game.
So you have clarity of mind of now?
Yes. It is about being in that mental space where you are not just enjoying your cricket but things outside, too. Life has been pretty good, pretty simple, the way I want it to be. It is about giving it all out there on the field and not really worrying about the criticism that happens.
Who helped you through that phase when you were feeling down?
At times you feel alone, you need someone to give you words of motivation. I was in that situation after last IPL. I talked to my didi [elder sister], one of my friends, an Indian Police Service officer herself, to cope with the pressure. But my mother, Nayna, was really the person who eased the pressures. Me, my friends and other members of my family were worried about me not living up to expectations in the last IPL. But my mom was the least worried. She told me if Sachin [Tendulkar] can get out on zero so you, too, can get hit for some runs in some games.
The fact that franchises are spending big money on you suggests they have confidence in you. What are the strengths they are investing in?
The biggest strength I have is the ability to bowl in any situation in a T20 game: to bowl at death, to bowl initially with the new ball, mix it up [in the middle overs]. The versatility I have in my bowling suits this format. To me that [the franchises' faith in me] was a confidence booster. I can get as much confidence as I want from the franchise believing in me and my ability. It is up to me how much I can keep enjoying my game. There was no one else but myself to blame for putting that pressure on myself [last time]. I am not going to do it this time. There has to be something in me that the franchise is having that belief again.
You are back with Royals. Do you owe them anything?
Obviously, yes. Based on the talks when Rajasthan Royals released me, I was pretty sure they were going to bid for me again. The management wanted to get me back cheaper [compared to the January auction]. I owe them for that belief and confidence they have in me.