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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 29 May 2024

India vs England, 5th Test Day 2: 'Nervous' Devdutt Padikkal finds feet on debut

Coming in at No.5, Padikkal, 23, impressed with his shot selection on the off side though his first runs in Tests came off a thick edge to the third-man boundary

Indranil Majumdar Dharamshala Published 09.03.24, 07:26 AM
Debutant Devdutt Padikkal during his innings of 65 on Day II of the final Test in Dharamsala on Friday.

Debutant Devdutt Padikkal during his innings of 65 on Day II of the final Test in Dharamsala on Friday. PTI

Devdutt Padikkal is a rare personality in the age of social media — reticent, unassuming and never one to show emotions on the field.

“Guard it, cherish it and express yourself,” Ravichandran Ashwin told the youngster while handing over India cap No. 314 on the first morning of the Test.

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The left-hander’s debut was by chance after Rajat Patidar pulled up sore before the start. But the Karnataka batter’s enterprising 65 was the cornerstone of a 97-run partnership with Sarfaraz Khan.

This series has been made memorable by the success of the debutants — Sarfaraz, Dhruv Jurel and Padikkal. Another youngster, Yashasvi Jaiswal, has taken himself to the next level with an aggregate of 712 runs in nine innings.

Coming in at No.5, Padikkal, 23, impressed with his shot selection on the off side though his first runs in Tests came off a thick edge to the third-man boundary. The nerves vanished soon as he qu­ickly realised that he had it in him to belong at this level.

He reached his half-century in style, a straight six off Shoaib Bashir.

“Regardless of when you get to know, there is alwa­ys going to be nervousness aro­und. That was still there. I got a message the previous night saying that I could be playing. I was nervous, it was a tough night’s sleep but it is something you also enjoy... You live for those days,” Padikkal said.

It has been a roller-coaster ride; he accumulated 556 runs in six innings at an average of 92.66 in this year’s Ranji. Scores of 65, 21 and 105 for India A against England Lions recently also helped.

Post Covid, a health issue meant he was in and out of hospital for several months in 2022. But he battled on with the support of his parents — his mother ensured he got to eat only home-cooked food because of a stomach problem even when playing outside Bangalore.

The Malayali family, based out of Hyderabad, moved to Bangalore when Padikkal was 11 to pursue his dreams of bei­ng a cricketer.

“It is very special for the family. They have put in so much hard work for me. They have sacrificed so much so that I could play,” he said.

If Padikkal showed promise, Sarfaraz’s fluent strokeplay, especially against Mark Wood, was entertaining after his twin half-centuries in Rajkot. It included a superb uppercut against a short-pitched delivery.

Padikkal has come thro­ugh the ranks in Karnataka cricket — the age-group tou­rnaments before excelling in the Karnataka Premier Le­ague. He made it to the Ranji team in 2018 and a successful white-ball season meant the Royal Challengers Bangalore picked him up for IPL 2019.

His work ethic has been exemplary and batting with Sarfaraz helped him to get into his groove on Friday.

“It’s always fun to bat with Sarfaraz. He is a great character to have around. We weren’t really discussing the game a lot, we just wanted to make sure we make each other comfortable. Nothing too serious.”

Discipline remains the key for Padikkal. “That’s the key to success. Whether your practice or day-to-day habits or food,” he said.

It’s the mental aspect, and not the technical, that he focuses on the most. “Having fun and enjoying the sport” remains his motive.

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