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Devdutt Padikkal makes a mark

The youngster has offered enough evidence of his abundant talent

Last year, the senior India selector Jatin Paranjpe travelled to Mysuru for a Ranji Trophy game despite a bad back, because he wanted to watch a certain young Karnataka batsman in action. It is fair to presume Paranjpe walked away from the Gangotri Glades duly impressed. For Devdutt Padikkal offered a glimpse of his bountiful talent on debut, stroking his way to an attractive 77 in the second innings.

If that was a sample of his potential, the 19-year-old has delivered a full batch this season, topping the run charts in both the Vijay Hazare Trophy (609 runs, 67.66 avg.) and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (580 runs, 64.44 avg.).

Champion stuff

“He’s been the find of the season,” off-spinner K. Gowtham told The Hindu. “Last year, he started off fairly well in the Ranji Trophy. Maybe things didn’t go the way he wanted after that but this year he’s been working really hard. He’s shown he has what it takes to succeed at this level. What he’s done is absolute champion stuff.”

From a roster full of stars, Karnataka picked a teenager to open (for the most part), and he did not disappoint. Back in October, in his second Vijay Hazare Trophy outing, Padikkal had fallen for 60 at a critical juncture in a run-chase against Hyderabad. Karnataka lost a low-scoring game by 21 runs. “It changed him as a batsman,” Manish Pandey said later. “That loss hit him quite a bit.” Scores of 8 and 44 followed. In the five innings after that, Padikkal made 79, 103 n.o., 102 n.o., 50, and 92. “When I feel I am drifting away, I am looking to concentrate more and get back to the game,” he told reporters. “It is just about batting long.”

Delightful freedom

In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Padikkal played with a delightful freedom, attacking from the outset, and finishing with a strike-rate in excess of 175. The tall left-hander hits sixes with what seems like minimum effort; he struck 33 of them during the tournament, 11 more than anyone else.

The former Karnataka captain R. Vinay Kumar, who handed Padikkal his Ranji Trophy debut in Mysuru, was never in any doubt about his ability. “The way he was timing the ball in that second innings in Mysuru, he never looked like a youngster to me,” Vinay told The Hindu. “That day I felt, ‘This guy will make it very big.’ He looked ready for the next level. He is fearless. He is totally dominating the bowling. It won’t be long before we see another Karnataka player in the Indian team.”

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