Before every important match, a renowned national coach used to tell all his players: “Jangal mein mor nacha kisne dekha?” It is a popular Hindi proverb. That loosely translates to: who cares what you did in the desert? In the context of cricket, what he meant was that whatever players have done in league matches or against comparatively weaker opposition matters little. They need to perform in important games, when all eyes, at least those who matter, are glued to them. Devdutt Padikkal has done exactly that.
The Karnataka left-hander smashed 151 off 218 balls in an Elite Group C Ranji Trophy against Tamil Nadu in Chennai in front of chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar. The former India pacer was in the stands, taking notes of Padikkl’s exploits against an attack that featured Sandeep Warrier, Sai Kishore and Vijay Shankar.
When Padikkal hit 12 fours and 2 sixes in his crucial knock that enabled Karnataka to score 366, finally giving them enough runs to take a 3-point lead in the first innings, on February 9, little did he know that a couple of days later, it would be called up by the Indian team.
KL Rahul was declared 100% unfit for the third Test against England scheduled to begin on Thursday in Rajkot. The right-hander, who missed the second Test in Visakhapatnam due to a quadriceps injury, would need a few more days to regain his full fitness. He is likely to be available for the fourth and fifth Tests in Ranchi and Dharamsala. But for the third Test, India needed a backup. Padikkal entered.
Devdutt Padikkal’s stellar stats this season
Padikkal has been in excellent form in this Ranji Trophy season. The lanky left-hander has racked up three centuries in four matches and has amassed 556 runs at an astonishing average of 92.66. In between, he also posted 105, 65 and 21 for India A against the touring England Lions team. All this was very important in his rise, but you have to believe that the 151 off Agarkar acted as a springboard for the 23-year-old.
I wasn’t putting on a show in the jungle. He batted fluently in front of the chief selector and did wonders.
Padikkal, who played two T20Is in the 2021 tour to Sri Lanka, where pitches heavily favor spinners, has just started peaking at the right time. Always considered a better white-ball batsman: he has a List A average of 81.52 in 30 matches and made a name for himself in the IPL while opening the batting for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Padikkal has slowly but surely started to make that count. in red ball cricket.
The first-class average of 44 probably still doesn’t do justice to his talent, but if his performance this season is anything to go by, it’s likely to rise quickly.
Padikkal is yet to join the Indian team in Rajkot. His Ranji Trophy match ended on Monday and he will travel from Chennai to Rajkot on Tuesday. It is unclear whether he will immediately join the afternoon training session at SCA Stadium.
The chances of a trial limit are also slim, but not impossible. In the absence of Virat Kohli (out of the series due to personal reasons), KL Rahul (injured) and Shreyas Iyer (out), the team management is likely to opt for Sarfaraz Khan and Rajat Patidar in the middle order. Patidar made his debut in Visakhapatnam and is ready to get another chance, probably at No. 4 this time. After a lot of traveling and years of knocking on the door, Sarfaraz is finally ready to see the light of day.
However, the impact of training on Tuesday and Wednesday cannot be completely ruled out. If Padikkal attends both sessions and impresses captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid like he did with Agarkar, then he can ruin Sarafarz’s party. But the chances of that happening seem slim, at least as things stand now.