Jaydev Unadkat is an Indian bowling behemoth.
Hear me out before you get going with those eye-rolls, those who have memories of him only from the last two IPL seasons. Those who remember only his Test debut, suspend your disbelief.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Unadkat has taken 174 wickets in first-class crickets in India. Only six quick bowlers have taken more wickets than he has. One of those - Pankaj Singh - got 45 wickets in the Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season, but in the Plate Group, for Puducherry. Excluding games played there, only five quick bowlers have taken more wickets than Unadkat. And among those with at least 100 wickets in that time frame, nobody has a better strike rate than Unadkat's 43.6, and only three bowlers have a better average than his 21.55.
And he has done all this playing a majority of his games at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot, which is famous for not being friendly to fast bowlers.
Season after season, Unadkat has pounded in, bowled in tough conditions, bowled for a team that is much better known for its batsmen and spinners - as evidenced by Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja - than its quick bowlers. And he has done it well enough to be taking wickets quicker than anyone else of his ilk.
On Wednesday, Unadkat added four more wickets to his tally, bowling for India Red against India Green in the Duleep Trophy final. He could have had five, when he had a desperately close lbw shout against No. 10 Tanveer Ul-Haq when the batsman was on 1. But his 4 for 58 meant India Green are on a precarious 147 for 8 on a rain-truncated first day after having chosen to bat, and this despite the ninth-wicket stand being worth 35 runs until now, the highest of the innings.
Not that Unadkat had only luck going against him. He admitted that India Red were thinking of batting first if they had won the toss, but a cloudy and rainy day meant it became "a good toss to lose". Further, the breaks in play - there were four stoppages that totalled two hours 49 minutes overall with only 49 overs bowled in the day - meant that Unadkat could bowl longer without tiring, and he delivered 18 overs.
Having Unadkat fresh enough to bowl that many overs was crucial. One of the features of his bowling is that he is equally at ease going over the wicket or around, and does so frequently throughout his spells. It doesn't matter if it's a right-hander or left-hander, with new ball or old, Unadkat can change angles seamlessly. To do that and be effective, a quick bowler needs to have the skill to move the ball both ways, and be accurate.
"I am right up there in terms of mental levels. I want to do it, I want to prove that I have the abilities which can get me to the highest level and be successful. It's bound to happen for sure" Jaydev Unadkat
"I can move the ball both ways, and when you can do that from two different angles, it becomes more difficult for the batsmen," Unadkat said.
"It's good to be able to say that 'Yes, I bowled well from both angles', but it requires more accuracy than bowling from one angle. I get into a zone when the ball is coming out of my hand nicely, and I don't really think about too many things to do with the batsman. Yes, it comes naturally that if a batsman is planting his foot really early, then you obviously tend to swing it in. But as I said, I go into my own zone when the ball starts moving and starts coming nicely out of the hand."
Unadkat is starting on the back of a successful season in 2018-19. He led Saurasthra to the Ranji Trophy final, and picked up 39 wickets at 17.17 (strike rate 40.1). Add the seven wickets he took in last year's Duleep Trophy, his most productive season - wickets-wise - so far. And yet, while the rewards have been consistent, the last time Unadkat played for India A was in 2013 despite having been on a spectacular domestic run since then.
"Obviously playing for the nation - or one level higher than what you're playing - is going to be a goal every time you go out there on the field," Unadkat said. "If I'm playing a Ranji game, I'll be aiming to be selected for Duleep Trophy or India A or whatever. That happens naturally. But after having played eight or nine seasons now, those are things I don't get worried about.
"It's all about setting standards for myself, and that's what I did last season. It was a season that went according to how I wanted. Yes, I got the wickets, but I was able to execute the plans I was setting before every single game for different kinds of batsmen. That is one season I want to keep as a benchmark and keep pushing from there. Apart from that, I would say that it's not because I want to get selected somewhere that I'm doing what I'm doing."
What he is doing has included two underwhelming IPL seasons, made starker because each time he fetched a hefty price at the auctions.
"I have been asked this a lot in the last couple of seasons because I haven't had a season as good as I would have wanted it to be," he admitted. "I believe it has been about execution. If I could have executed my plans better in the last couple of seasons, I would have been successful. It's very simple and [to be] very honest I think it's going to get better this season. I am right up there in terms of mental levels. I want to do it, I want to prove that I have the abilities which can get me to the highest level and be successful. It's bound to happen for sure."
If the ball keeps coming out of the hand as well as it has for Unadkat of late, his fate could well align with his belief.