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Can Padikkal Fill The Rahul Void?

February 13, 2024 08:29 IST

Devdutt Padikkal

Photograph: Kind courtesy Devdutt Padikkal/Instagram

In the build-up to the Rajkot Test against England, India faced a setback with K L Rahul sidelined due to a knee issue.

Stepping into the spotlight as his replacement is Devdutt Padikkal, marking his maiden Test call-up, a testament to his impressive form in domestic cricket.

Padikkal's journey to this point is marked by resilience, adaptation, and an unwavering pursuit of excellence.

The setbacks began in 2022 when an unexpected intestinal illness disrupted the promising career of the rising star in Indian cricket. Hospital visits replaced his time on the field, causing him to miss the entire 2022 Vijay Hazare Trophy and struggle in five Ranji Trophy matches, scoring just 260 runs.

Despite the toll the illness took on his body and form, Padikkal refused to succumb to despair. The 2023 IPL season with Rajasthan Royals tested him further, managing only 261 runs.

A thumb fracture during the Deodhar Trophy added another layer to his challenges, sidelining him from both the tournament and the Maharaja KSCA T20 Trophy.

'Those two years were pretty frustrating more than anything else,' Padikkal had told Deccan Herald.

Devdutt Padikkal

IMAGE: Following a lean patch, Devdutt Padikkal has bounced back on a smashing note. Photograph: Devdutt Padikkal /Instagram

Padikkal's path to recovery and resurgence was defined by unwavering determination, and perhaps one catalyst for this unwavering spirit is the shared birthday with none other than the iconic Mahendra Singh Dhoni on July 7.

The 2023-2024 season became his target for a fresh start. The Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy didn't unfold as planned, but the Vijay Hazare Trophy witnessed a rejuvenated Padikkal emerging as Karnataka's top run-scorer with 465 runs in five innings.

The turning point came with his outstanding performance in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season. Scoring a career-best 193 in the season opener against Punjab, Padikkal has been a prolific run-scorer, amassing 556 runs in six innings at an average of 92.66. His newfound consistency includes three centuries, showcasing his ability to bounce back from adversity.

Devdutt Padikkal

IMAGE: Devdutt Padikkal had undergone surgery on his thumb. Photograph: Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters

Padikkal's emotional celebration after reaching his century against Punjab reflects the depth of his journey. From the lows of illness to the highs of significant contributions, each run and milestone carries a story of resilience.

His recent performances extend beyond the domestic circuit, showcasing his prowess with scores of 65, 21, and 105 for India A against England Lions. The southpaw's century in the second unofficial Test played a pivotal role in setting up an innings victory.

Reflecting on his journey, Padikkal acknowledges the pivotal experience of the shadow tour to South Africa with India A.

'I consider my time in South Africa a valuable experience, especially getting the opportunity to train alongside the senior players, he shared with ESPNcricinfo.

'Being in their presence, facing that high level of bowling, has significantly prepared me for the Ranji season. I saw it as a chance to accumulate substantial batting experience, and I am genuinely thankful for that invaluable opportunity.'

Transitioning from an opener to a predominantly top-order role, Padikkal has navigated challenges, including a trade to Lucknow Super Giants in IPL 2023, where he will play under the mentorship of Rahul.

The left-hander, with 31 first-class matches under his belt, holds a solid average of 44.54, showcasing his consistency over the years.

Padikkal, once sidelined by health issues, is now a symbol of triumph, having navigated through the storm with unwavering determination.