If a 20-year-old uncapped batsman is one of just five players to play every game of his team’s IPL campaign, it can only mean that the youngster is special, as was the case with one Devdutt Padikkal.
A lot was spoken about Padikkal and his chances of making a mark with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) ahead of IPL 2020, with the team’s Director of Cricket Operations, Mike Hesson, taking special interest in the left-hander from Karnataka.
On his part, Padikkal let his bat do the talking, scoring 473 runs in 15 games, and topping the season’s charts for RCB in the process. The feat is particularly impressive when you consider that the Bangalore franchise is also home to the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Skipper Kohli would have been particularly pleased about how Padikkal’s season panned out, and he made his thoughts known after the two shared a 99-run partnership that helped RCB make light work of the chase against Rajasthan Royals at Abu Dhabi. The Indian captain went on to suggest that the southpaw has "some serious talent", during a post-match interview.
The admiration between the two is mutual, of course, as Padikkal made his thoughts on partnering his IPL captain in the middle known in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
“It’s special because he (Kohli) is one of the greatest batsmen in the world and to bat with him and learn from him throughout the season was something I was very excited about and I truly enjoyed every minute I spent with him,” Padikkal said.
“I’ve dreamt of it for a long time” - Devdutt Padikkal on IPL debut
Given the maturity that he has shown while wielding the willow over the course of the season, one could be forgiven for not realising that 2019-20 is Devdutt Padikkal’s first full domestic season.
Be it for Karnataka or RCB, the past year and a half have been about Padikkal showing the world his range of shots. First, he top-scored in the Vijay Hazare Trophy with 609 runs as Karnataka went on to defend their title, with the Bangalore lad coming agonisingly close to a semi-final century.
Padikkal was the MVP once again as his state team set out to make it two in a row in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well. The young opener scored 580 runs in the tournament, a whole 161 ahead of Ruturaj Gaikwad in second place, as his heroics saw Karnataka retain their title for a second tournament running.
Padikkal’s white-ball performances went a long way in catching the eye of the powers that were in the RCB team management ahead of IPL 2020. The opportunity to play the IPL was a dream come true for the young man who had idolised Virat Kohli over the years.
“The experience has been amazing, it was an incredible opportunity to play in the ipl alongside some of the greats of the game. Definitely my debut for RCB is the moment I cherish the most this season because I’ve dreamt of that for a long time,” Padikkal added.
Having been named in RCB's playing XI for their opening fixture against the Sunrisers Hyderabad, Padikkal strode out into the middle alongside Aussie skipper, Aaron Finch.
The 20-year-old put to bed any fears of stage fright, as he scored a 42-ball 56. He would go on to prove that the innings was no flash in the pan either as he notched up four more fifties during the IPL 2020 campaign.
“I always try to give it as much importance in training as I do to my batting” - Devdutt Padikkal on his exceptional fielding
As a youngster just coming into the system and playing as well as he has, it is only natural that Devdutt Padikkal draws comparisons to some of the very best to have played the game. The elegance with which he plays his shots, be it the lofted cover drive or the flick off the toes, meant viewers could not help but see a little bit of Yuvraj Singh in the young southpaw.
Batting, however, is not the only trait of Padikkal’s game that is similar to Yuvraj’s, of course. The boy from Bangalore wowed fans and colleagues alike with some exceptional fielding over the course of the IPL 2020 season.
Whether it is the six he nearly saved with some acrobatics down at long-on, off the bat of Andre Russell at Sharjah, or the impressive diving catch he did pull off to dismiss Saurabh Tiwary at Abu Dhabi, Padikkal was nothing short of a livewire on the field.
The Edappal-born youngster acknowledged the importance of his fielding and the effort that has gone into turning himself into the fielder that he is today.
“Fielding has definitely become as integral to the game as batting and bowling is so I always try to give it as much importance in training as I do to my batting and you can only get better with more practice,” Padikkal told Sportskeeda.
While he may have been unable to make the most of his chances for the Indian under-19 team, performances of the kind that Padikkal has put out in his first season at the highest level in India have to mean that an international appearance cannot be too far away.
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