Devdutt Padikkal, the 20-year-old Royal Challengers Bangalore opening batsman, created considerable buzz after starring on his IPL debut, combining with Aaron Finch to form a new opening pairing for the franchise.
He might be still unheralded in the IPL, but for those who have followed Indian domestic cricket for the last year and a half, Padikkal has been the one to look out for, impressing with his brisk strokeplay at the top of the order.
Devdutt Padikkal: The beginning
The 6 ft. 3 batsman was born at the turn of the millennium in Bengaluru, the very city RCB are based in. Introduced to the game at an early age, he turned out to be a prolific run-scorer in age-group cricket; incidentally, he did his schooling in Bengaluru’s St Josephs Boys, Rahul Dravid’s alma mater.
After impressing in school cricket, Padikkal was introducted into Karnataka’s U-14 and U-16 teams, and made it to their U-19 side by the age of 15.
Early signs of white-ball brilliance
Devdutt Padikkal shot into the limelight during the 2017 Karnataka Premier League, a domestic T20 competition in India. Opening the batting, he smashed 72 off 53, and followed it with a stellar run in the 2018 Cooch Behar U19 tournament, where he cracked 829 runs, the fourth highest in the tournament. It paved the way for his U19 debut for India the same year, where, under Rahul Dravid’s coaching, he opened the batting at U19 level with Yashasvi Jaiswal, another impressive young left-handed opener.
After making his U19 debut, Padikkal was picked to open for Karnataka in the 2018/19 Ranji Trophy, making his debut against Maharashtra – he hit 77 in the second innings.
In 15 first-class games so far, he has cracked 10 fifties, and averages 59.09 in List A cricket. From 13 T20s so far, his strike-rate currently stands at 170.96.
T20 cricket, RCB and beyond
2019 turned out to be a breakthrough year for Padikkal, where he got a chance to showcase his batting prowess in India’s premier white-ball competitions.
Impressed by the tall left-hander’s rapid run-making in domestic cricket, Royal Challengers Bangalore acquired his services ahead of IPL 2019, bagging him for INR 20 lakh. Although he did not feature in the 2019 edition, he went all out at domestic level.
— Devdutt Padikkal (@devdpd07) August 29, 2020
In the 2019 Vijay Hazare Trophy, his debut List A tournament, he outscored the likes of KL Rahul and Manish Pandey, ending as the highest run-getter with 609 runs @ 67.66, two centuries and five half-centuries included.
Later that year, he debuted in the 2019 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy – the Indian domestic T20 tournament – and top scored once again, blasting 580 runs at 64.44, at a strike-rate of 175.75, with one century and five fifties to show.
Devdutt Padikkal, the RCB player: IPL debut
With such impressive numbers, it was difficult for RCB to keep Padikkal out, a sentiment expressed by head coach Simon Katich himself ahead of IPL 2020.
In his very first game for Royal Challengers Bangalore, Padikkal blended into the team like a seasoned pro, scoring a fluent 42-ball 56 – exhibiting a wide array of strokes on both sides of the wicket. Using his height to reach the pitch of the deliveries with ease, he seemed eager to hit the quicks on the up and over the in-field, striking eight fours in his knock.
A fifty on debut for @RCBTweets 💪
— Wisden India (@WisdenIndia) September 21, 2020
Aaron Finch, the Australia T20 captain, was impressed by his new opening partner after their maiden win in IPL 2020. At the post-match press conference after the Sunrisers game, Finch admitted that he was happy to play the supporting role to the young batsman.
“He is a brilliant young player,” Finch said. “I think he has shown over the last couple of years in domestic cricket, U19 cricket just how talented he is and how destructive he can be at the top of the order. I loved opening with him, he’s such an exciting young player.
“My advice is to play his natural game; if you’re feeling it, against a particular bowler, keep going, play nice and smart and then my role changes a little bit. It’s me just getting off strike, trying to get his rhythm going.”