Unadkat replaces Shami for Tests in Bangladesh
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Abhimanyu Easwaran has already been called up as cover for the injured Rohit Sharma

Jaydev Unadkat has been called up to India’s Test squad in Bangladesh as a replacement for the injured Mohammed Shami. Unadkat is currently in Rajkot, waiting to complete his visa formalities, and is expected to link up with the Test squad in Chattogram over the next couple of days.

Shami is currently undergoing rehab for a shoulder injury at the BCCI’s National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. He picked up the right shoulder niggle during a training session prior to the Bangladesh tour. After he missed the ODI leg of the tour, there was a slim chance that Shami would be fit for the Tests, but that has now been ruled out.

For 31-year-old Unadkat, this is only the second call-up to the Test squad. His only appearance so far in the format was almost exactly 12 years ago, as a teenager straight out of the India Under-19s, in the first Test of the 2010-11 tour of South Africa. In that Test, in Centurion, he ended with figures of none for 101 as India lost by an innings and 25 runs.

Unadkat is the second player set to join India’s Test squad in Bangladesh as an injury replacement. On Friday evening, Abhimanyu Easwaran, the Bengal player who led India A to a 1-0 win in the four-day series against Bangladesh A on a shadow tour, was called-up as cover for Rohit Sharma, who has flown home to Mumbai to nurse a finger injury he picked up during the ODI series. Left-arm spinner Saurabh Kumar is also in line to replace Ravindra Jadeja. Saurabh finished the ‘A’ tour with a haul of 15 wickets across two red-ball matches.

Over the past five years, Unadkat has built up an impressive body of work with Saurashtra, the team he has led to a wave of success in the Indian domestic circuit. He was front and centre during their first Ranji Trophy title win in 2019-20, picking up 67 wickets, the second-highest haul by a bowler in a season. Over the last three Ranji seasons, Unadkat has picked up 115 wickets in 21 matches.

Unadkat’s bowling average of 16.03 since the start of January 2019 is the best in all first-class cricket in that period. He has picked up 126 wickets in 24 matches in this period, including nine five-fors and three ten-wicket match hauls, with a best of 7 for 56.

In an interview with ESPNcricinfo last week, ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy final, Unadkat reiterated that “the hunger and fire to play and perform for the country is still burning bright”. Unadkat led Saurashtra to the title, finishing as the tournament’s highest wicket-taker with 19 wickets in ten games.

“I do look at my individual performances, but from a way that it takes the team through, not in a way where I think if it will help me get selected for India or India A,” he had said. “At the end of the day, that’s the space you want to be in and I’m happily trying to help the team win as many games as possible. If you love the way you play the game, all other things will fall in place. I love this space and the mindset I’m currently in and don’t want to change that for anything. But the hunger and fire to play and perform for the country is still burning bright.”

Over the years, Unadkat has built his USP around bowling on the famously lifeless decks in Rajkot. His ability to swing the new ball and reverse the old ball has brought him lots of wickets, and his improved fitness has helped deliver longer spells, something he did tirelessly during that 2019-20 campaign that he later described as “career-defining”.

One Test aside, Unadkat has also featured in seven ODIs and ten T20Is. He was last part of the India team during their Nidahas Trophy campaign in Sri Lanka in March 2019.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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