Devdutt Padikkal: On the fast track to India blues

After finishing the 2019-20 domestic season as the highest run-scorer in both the Vijay Hazare 50-over tournament and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, Devdutt Padikkal has 343 runs from 11 matches in the 2020 IPL season. An India berth cannot be far.

To Devdutt Padikkal’s credit, he has shown that while the demands of T20 may have made sustained big hitting in cricket commonplace, there is value for orthodox cricket shots.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is an opportunity to watch youngsters perform without bearing a cross on their back – the burden of expectations and success. So, to an extent, it is little wonder that when 20-year-old left-hand batsman Devdutt Padikkal was afforded a chance in the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) top order, he quickly became one of the team’s most important players.

The scale of Padikkal’s rise as a Twenty20 (T20) batsman is remarkable. The elegant southpaw finished the 2019-20 domestic season as the highest run-scorer in both the Vijay Hazare 50-over tournament and the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy. In the latter, the opener scored 580 runs at a strike rate of 175.75. He was the luxury option in a Karnataka side that already boasts of India internationals K. L. Rahul, Manish Pandey and Karun Nair in its ranks.

READ | Padikkal is the 'future of Indian cricket', says Chris Morris

Padikkal feels the two years on the domestic scene have helped him cope with the stress of the big stage. “My form in the 2019-20 domestic season has influenced my batting (in the IPL) this year. I was in good nick during both the white-ball and red-ball tournaments and I’m happy to have carried that form into this T20 tournament. Hopefully I can keep going,” Padikkal says.

He has 417 runs — including three fifties in his first four games — from 12 matches at a strike rate of 128.70 in the 2020 IPL season so far. To Padikkal’s credit, he has shown that while the demands of T20 may have made sustained big hitting in cricket commonplace, there is value for orthodox cricket shots, and that, with the correct attitude and approach, you don’t have to go aerial all the time to stay relevant. It’s helped that Padikkal represents a state that has a long history of top-class, high-profile batsmen: Rahul Dravid, Gundappa Viswanath and Brijesh Patel, to name a few. “They are role models for me. Not just them, I have also learnt a lot by watching KL, Manish and Karun bat, and to be able to play for the same state as them is a great honour for me. The aim is to keep doing well for Karnataka and RCB,” he says.

Padikkal says batting alongside Virat Kohli and A. B. de Villiers has helped him grow as a cricketer and has accorded him the time to ease into his maiden IPL season.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

Padikkal is unfazed by the hullabaloo surrounding the IPL and the attention that comes with it. He made a statement when he became the only player in IPL history to score three fifties in his first four games. Padikkal was part of Royal Challengers’ roster in 2019, too, but he didn’t play a single game. That, however, didn’t deter his spirit. “I knew that whenever I get a chance to play (for RCB), I will be 100 percent ready. I am glad I was able to make an impact as soon as I got a chance,” he says.

Padikkal says batting alongside Virat Kohli and A. B. de Villiers has helped him grow as a cricketer and has accorded him the time to ease into his maiden IPL season. “They have so much experience,” he says. “They help you through your batting, and it makes your job much easier... It is a real treat batting with them. Hopefully we will have many more partnerships.”

If Padikkal continues to churn out runs as he has done so far, an India berth cannot be out of bounds for too long. And two domestic titles (in 2019-20) with him as the team’s highest run-getter in both is a springboard, no doubt. Meanwhile, scoring on both sides of the wicket with the Indian captain watching from the other end does his reputation no harm. But Padikkal is taking it one game at a time. “Whenever I get to play for the country, it will be a great honour,” he says. “But I have not set myself a timeline. I just need to keep working hard and focus on my next game. Keep doing well for the side, and hopefully it will come soon.”