A star in the making: Devdutt Padikkal

A few days after registering with the Karnataka Institute of Cricket (KIOC), Devdutt Padikkal returned home crying. Concerned parents, who had just moved to Bangalore to give their son a better exposure to gambling, asked him why. He told them he didn’t have a chance to knock. Her mother called one of the institute’s coaches. It turned out that they mistook him for a melon because of its size.

He was around 11 at the time, but taller than most children his age. He wasn’t 6-foot-3 like he is now, but he still stood out in the crowd, says Mohammed Naseeruddin, one of his childhood coaches at KIOC. If indeed some coaches were thinking of making him a bowler amazed by his size, Padikkal himself gave them little chance to fiddle with the idea. A few sessions on the net were enough for Naseeruddin and Irfan Sait of KIOC to be convinced that they were watching a special talent develop.

On Thursday night, Padikkal’s undefeated 101 on 52 balls at a nearly 200 strike rate against the Rajasthan Royals was a round that once again showed its potential. As much as the punching game, it was the calm and collected manner in which he approached his sleeves that stood out.

He was a magnificent cricket ball handler, his coaches say. But it was his determined character that impressed them. “He was very serious about the game, no frills even at a young age. It is this trait that has convinced us that he is a serious talent, that we have a gifted player in the academy. He had no other distractions, ”Sait said.

It was as if cricket was the only thing that mattered to him. Soccer and the PS4 are just a passing hobby. Her sister Chandini highlighted her brother’s cricket fixation on the popular show Chat with Reena DSouza. “There was a cricket theme in everything he did. Even the cake he cut for his birthday was shaped like a bat, ball, or cricket pitch. Her room was full of bats of different shapes and sizes, ”she says.

READ | The princely century of Padikkal leaves the Royals of Rajasthan in tatters

Sweet, almost introverted to quote his sister, Padikkal would take cricket advice seriously.

For example, in his early days he was mostly a forefoot player, who loved to drive. It still cuts off a pretty sight when driving, especially through the extra coverage area. Unlike many great players, he doesn’t try to hit the ball field with his long levers alone. Very tall players sometimes go crazy playing from the crease, relying too much on their reach, ending up throwing themselves on the ball. But he makes sure that his front foot moves forward and reaches the height of the ball. Some tall players are reluctant to use their feet, especially against spinners. But Padikkal slides like a Rolls Royce. As he did against Rahul Tewatia in Thursday’s game.

Coaches, however, realized he needed to improve his back-footing game to thrive at a higher level. “His back foot didn’t come back completely. He was sort of playing the fold. Academically it didn’t matter, but in more competitive cricket it did. We have identified the problem and started working on it. He was so motivated that he seemed to have no peace until he solved the problem. He would easily stay back after hours to perfect his back footing, ”says Sait.

These days, he moves seamlessly on each foot, pirouetting like a ballet dancer. His penchant for cutting and pulling is all too obvious. On his way to his unbeaten hundred against Rajasthan, he deployed a splendid fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman. Bangladesh’s left arm isn’t playing at a scary pace, so Padikkal had more time to judge the ball and decide the stroke.

But some fundamentals stood out, like its soft pivot, the contraction of the wrists to squeeze into the perfect space, and the back foot that had sunk deep into the crease. He had too much time to play this shot, a hallmark of all good drummers. This move also embodied his game: he welds the flamboyance with finesse. He is rarely worried or in a hurry. He hardly plays a stupid move, or an exaggeration move. So many gifted young people fall into the pitfall of showing the world all of their vaunted skills at the same time, and in the pursuit, of self-destructing. It has neither the flippancy of youth nor the restraint that accumulates with experience.

Its cut is distinguished by its sheer majesty. It’s almost Caribbean in his nonchalance, in the recklessness with which the great left-hander takes the ball, takes over the rebound and sends it back in front of the point with a mixture of velvet and power.

It is his temper as much as his blows that have swelled his horde of admirers. Indian coach Ravi Shastri wrote on Twitter that he made “the batter so easy”. Kumar Sangakkara was blown away by his “maturity to beat in innings”. Brian Lara considers him a “great talent”.

Kohli was no less excited about his full punching game. “Bowlers can’t be short. He can cut balls for six. He can shoot it for six. Great talent. Great to watch in the future and tonight I had the best seat in the house and really enjoyed his sleeves.

Beneath the silent exterior shines a fierce determination to succeed. He hates setbacks, even though he quickly recovers from setbacks. He lost the successive finals of the Cottonian Shield, Bangalore’s most prestigious inter-school tournament. “I cried a lot, I took responsibility for myself. It was my madness that I knew. But in the end, I realized that chess is part of your career and you have to come back stronger, ”he said on the Reena DSouza show.

READ | Padikkal is one for the future, deserved to have a hundred: Virat Kohli

Later, on his second outing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, he scored 60 but his outing precipitated a collapse and Karnataka lost the match.

“It hurt me and I realized the importance of hitting long and finishing the job. When I feel like I’m pulling away, I try to focus more and get back into the game, ”he recalled at a press conference later, after hitting hundreds in a row in the same series .

The willingness to strike deep was evident in his last Vijay Hazare campaign, when he scored 737 runs in seven innings, four hundred of which at a strike rate of 147. 40. He seems to have worn the habit in the IPL, where his cent against Rajasthan could be the start of a memorable journey. It’s time for him to stand out not only for his size, but also for his actions. From being mistaken for a bowler, he leaves an unmistakable mark on the bowlers he faces. The mark of a genius.

Padikkal’s strokes of genius

Covered driving: He slides in his practices, reaches the ball court and then, with his wrists, guides the ball through the spaces with a flourish – often through blankets and sometimes through extra blanket. He barely hits the ball, does not reach out but waits for it to fall close to him.

Shoot: Anything that’s slightly short in his body or just outside the stump, he’s quick on the back foot, transferring his weight smoothly. His size often allows him to step on the ball and play it on the ground, although in shorter formats he is also inclined to take the airway, where he consciously places himself under the ball and opens his stance a bit for that it achieves the required elevation.

Browse: There is an easy nonchalance in his films, especially when he goes on the air. It’s nothing more than a last minute wrist turn. The key again is his balance, which ensures that his head stays still when he plays the stroke.

Slog sweep: Probably the most powerful move in his repertoire. For a tall man, he crouches down quite gently and once he does, a great view opens up for him, thanks to his long reach. Sometimes when performing this shot he looks like Matthew Hayden without those gargantuan forearms.

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