Jaydev Unadkat
The hunger to do well is more than ever and we want to hit the early momentum — which is so important in this format, says Jaydev Unadkat. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: After being one of the highest grossers in the IPL auction for two years in a row, Jaydev Unadkat must have been laughing his way to the bank.

However, life has not been exactly a bed of roses for the attacking linchpin of Rajasthan Royals last season — with the sky high expectations due to his staggering price tag often bogging him down.

Returning to the IPL fold after a two-year ban in 2018, the Royals’ campaign failed to hit the early momentum and though they eventually made the play-offs, Unadkat finished the edition with a modest haul of 11 wickets from 15 matches.

“Yes, I have been saying about this that I found it tough to deal with the expectations. I had been working on a lot on the mental accept this season in order to try and enjoy the game,” the 27-year-old left arm paceman said during an exclusive chat with Gulf News from India.

There were enough eyebrows raised last year when Unadkat, who last turned out in the Indian colours in a ODI series against the West Indies in 2016, turned a millionaire and the richest buy among Indian players worth Rs115 million (with teammate Ben Stokes only ahead of him at Rs125 million). The franchise owners decided to release Unadkat late last year — which actually turned out to be a strategic move as they netted him for Rs84 million in the auction for the new season — making him the millionaire again along with Varun Chakravarthy, a mystery spinner from Tamil Nadu who was acquired by Kings XI Punjab as the joint top grossers.

Looking ahead at IPL XII which is scheduled to start in India from March 23, Unadkat — who would be the de facto leader for the bowling unit — said: “It’s a new season and the squad, which has a lot of younger faces this year, are excited about it. The hunger to do well is more than ever and we want to hit the early momentum — which is so important in this format.”

The Swai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur, Royals’ home venue, had the reputation of having something in it for the pacemen but Unadkat said things have changed now. “The wicket has slowed down at this time of the year. However, we have a bowling unit to exploit all kind of Indian conditions and I am looking forward to the contest,” he said.

From a youngster who was handed an IPL contract by Kolkata Knight Riders soon after his return from the 2010 Under-19 World Cup, Unadkat will be not complaining about the way T20 league has bestowed a financial windfall on him. However, he had not been as fortunate in fulfilling his potential in the Indian jersey — even though the team management has been on the lookout for a left-armer to complement the likes of Bhubaneswar Kumar, Mohammad Shami and Jasprit Bumrah for the upcoming ICC World Cup.

Asked if he was disappointed at missing out on a chance when the squad for the ongoing One-day series against visiting Australia was being picked — especially after a remarkable domestic season for Saurashtra during which Unadkat finished with 39 wickets from eight matches — he tried to brush it off.

“I have realised it’s best not to get worked up with things that are not under your influence. As a pace bowler, I have been trying to educate myself on several aspects of the game like fitness, mental aspect and just try to do my best,” said Unadkat, who had been captaining Saurashtra in the absence of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja due to their international commitments.

For someone who made his international debut quite young in 2013 in a One-day series versus Zimbabwe, Unadkat has turned up in seven ODIs and 10 T20 games for eight and 14 wickets, respectively.

With each passing year and the growing competition for the pace bowlers’ berth in Indian team — with youngsters like Khaleel Ahmad pushing for the left-armer’s spot, does he feel that the job is getting any tougher?

“As I said earlier, I am in a good mental space now — trying to enjoy each game and not have any expectations. My experience as the state captain also helped me mature as a cricketer and in decision-making. I hope to continue this way,” Unadkat signed off.