Cricket

Lack of red-ball cricket hampering players’ skills already: Jaydev Unadkat

Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Unadkat feels the players’ skills against the red ball have started diminishing and potential cancellation of a second consecutive Ranji Trophy season will be a “great loss” for domestic cricket in India.

After the COVID-19-forced cancellation of Ranji Trophy last year, a first in the tournament’s rich history, the postponement of the current season due to the third wave of the pandemic has left many players worried.

The premier tournament was supposed to begin on January 13 and lead pacer Unadkat and the rest of the Saurashtra players had started their preparations to defend the maiden title they won back in March 2020.

‘Players’ skills are being hampered’

It felt like a different ball game altogether at the camp with players only used to white ball cricket for the last two seasons.

“Two years in a row would be a great loss. One year itself was a great loss. When we started our pre-season camp before the eventual postponement, it felt like a whole new game,” Unadkat told PTI.

“Leaving the ball, bowling with pace and bowling long spells. All that had gone out of the picture. It is going to be difficult for sure if it doesn’t happen this year too.

“I hear that BCCI is keen on staging it. If the virus situation doesn’t become threatening, we can have it in February with a stricter bubble and more vigilance,” said the left-arm pacer who picked a record 67 wickets in a memorable 2020 season.

If February is not possible, then the BCCI must start the next season with Ranji Trophy, feels the pacer who has played one Test, 7 ODIs and 10 T20Is for India.

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“For batters, even when I was batting I left the first ball alone it felt very different to be honest. I had not left a ball in two years of my batting practice. Probably the same for all batters barring the openers who were doing it even in one-dayers.

“For the bowlers, bowling that full length and trying to swing the ball but people were trying different things and were bowling a few balls. It was bound to happen with such a long gap. It will hamper the skills of cricketers for sure if there is a two-year gap,” said Unadkat recalling the experience at the training camp.

The seasoned cricketer also understands that the BCCI has an enormous task at hand in staging a 38-team event amid the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“It is disappointing but I feel this was bound to happen considering the COVID situation and the right decision taken was taken. Hopefully things get better and we can play at least half of it or the league stage before the IPL,” he said.

‘Central contracts will ensure financial security in these uncertain times’

The BCCI compensated all the players who were part of the 2019-2020 season but that did not include many players on the fringes of state teams.

Unadkat offered a solution.

“See the maximum that BCCI can do is compensate players like last year but that is only for the guys who played the year before. The guys who were not part of that squad and are on the fringes it is more difficult for them.

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“May be the state associations can take the initiative. Whosoever was on the brink of selection, for example if top 20 are being compensated by the BCCI, the next 20 too have to be taken care of.”

On his stance on central contracts, he added: “The board was keen on it coupe of years ago when things were normal but post COVID no one really has put their hands on it. I don’t know why. That can obviously help a lot of cricketers especially in this situation.”

With red-ball cricket not played in the country in the last 24 months, the India selectors can only factor in the performance of the 2020 season while giving an opportunity in the Test team.

Despite a stellar season, Unadkat has been ignored repeatedly. But that doesn’t impact his motivation level.

“Obviously losing out a year after having the best phase of my career in red-ball cricket was unfortunate. I would still be at the same level of motivation when the season starts.

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