|Batting style||Left-hand bat (LHB)|
|Bowling style||Slow left arm orthodox|
Nadkarni entered the cricket scene appearing in the Rohinton Baria Trophy for Pune University in 1950-51. He made his first-class debut for Maharashtra the next year. Two years later he scored his first hundred, against Bombay at the Brabourne Stadium. Nadkarni scored his 103* in just over three hours, and added 103 runs for the last wicket Sadashiv Patil.
Nadkarni got a lucky break when he was picked to play against New Zealand in the Test at Feroz Shah Kotla in 1955-56 when Vinoo Mankad rested himself. He scored 68*, but bowled 57 overs in the match without taking a wicket. When Mankad returned, Nadkarni found himself out of the team. Nadkarni became the captain of Maharashtra the same year.
Nadkarni was famous for bowling an unerring line to batsmen which made it nearly impossible to score. It is often told that he used to put a coin on the pitch when he practiced in the nets, and would practice hitting the coin with every delivery. He had a career economy rate of less than 2.00 runs per over.
Nadkarni is perhaps best known for his bowling in the Madras Test against England in 1963-64. His figures at the end of third day of the match, bowling mostly against Brian Bolus and Ken Barrington, read 29 overs, 26 maidens, and no wickets for three runs. He finished with figures of 32-27-5-0 and bowled a record twenty one consecutive maiden overs (131 dot balls in a row) in a 114-minute bowling spell. In the final Test of that series, Nadkarni hit 52* and 122*. It remained his only hundred in Test cricket.
Nadkarni took 5/31 and 6/91 against Australia in Madras in 1964-65, but with the emergence of Bishen Bedi as a left arm spinner, his chances became scarce. He was dropped from the tour of England in 1967 but, in New Zealand that winter, he bowled India to a win at Wellington with career best figures of 6/43. On return from this trip, he announced his retirement from first-class cricket.
Nadkarni represented Maharashtra in Ranji Trophy from 1951-52 to 1959-60 and Bombay thereafter till 1967-68. He scored 201* and took 6/17 and 3/38 against Saurashtra in 1957-58 and 167 and seven wickets in the match against Gujarat in 1958-59. His highest score was the six hour innings of 283* against Delhi in the 1960-61 semifinal.
- Nadkarni bowled 21 maiden overs, or 131 scoreless balls, in succession. The record for most consecutive balls without conceding a run is held by Hugh Tayfield of South Africa, who bowled 137 dot balls, or 16 eight-ball overs, across two innings against England at Durban, in 1956-57. In first-class cricket, Nadkarni comes third after Tayfield and Manish Majithia of Madhya Pradesh, who bowled 136 dot balls in a row against Railways in 1999-00. 
- The records for maidens in succession with different balls-per-over are : 
- 4 ball overs : 23 - Alfred Shaw, North v South, Nottingham, 1876 
- 5 ball overs : 10 - Ernie Robson, Somerset v Sussex, Hove, 1897 
- 6 ball overs : 21 - Bapu Nadkarni, India v England, Madras, 1963-64
- 8 ball overs : 14 - Hugh Tayfield, South Africa v England, Durban, 1956-57
- Sujit Mukherjee, Matched winners, Orient Longman (1996), p. 120-132
- ^ Mihir Bose, A History of Indian cricket (1990)
- ^ Maiden over statistics
- ^ Dot ball statistics