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IPL 2020: New RCB Fan Favourite Devdutt Padikkal Looking to Continue Where He Left Off Before Lockdown

Devdutt Padikkal. (Twitter)

Devdutt Padikkal. (Twitter)

In September - October 2019, Devdutt Padikkal took his first step towards becoming the next rising star from Karnataka, smashing 609 runs from 11 matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy to top the batting charts and help the side win the tournament.

In September - October 2019, Devdutt Padikkal took his first step towards becoming the next rising star from Karnataka, smashing 609 runs from 11 matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy to top the batting charts and help the side win the tournament. In November - December, he showed he can switch formats effortlessly to T20 cricket and topped the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy batting charts with 580 runs at an incredible strike rate of 175.75, with one century and five fifties. Once again, it was a performance that helped Karnataka win the tournament.

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From January to end of February 2020, Padikkal switched to first-class format, scoring 649 runs from 10 Ranji Trophy matches. It wasn't as good a performance as his exploits in the other two tournaments - he didn't make even one century in the tournament - but it was still the highest among Karnataka batsmen.

In an ideal world, Padikkal would have loved to carry the momentum and form into the summer with the Indian Premier League looming. However, COVID-19 happened. How frustrating was it that the lockdown stopped the rhythm?

"Frustrating, yes," Padikkal told Cricketnext. "Obviously I would have liked to come into the IPL season straight after that domestic season. But it's more in the mind I feel, nothing has changed since then and my mindset is still the same. So I have to just continue the same momentum I had.

"It wasn't easy to stay in touch with batting, you couldn't really go out. I had to be at home most of the times. I had a hanging ball set up in my house and I was just doing that or shadow practice, or anything that I could do to keep myself active and in touch with batting."

The season of consistency helped Karnataka win trophies, while also increasing his IPL fortunes. Padikkal was a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore squad in IPL 2019 as well, but didn't get a single game. Now, even before making an IPL debut, Padikkal has become a sort of fan favourite among RCB followers given he is the one of only two local Karnataka lads in the side. He's also earmarked as the youngster to look forward to this season.

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Not just among the fans, the RCB team too seem to be doing everything they can to ensure Padikkal plays. One big move is making AB de Villiers keep wickets, so that Padikkal could perhaps take the spot of Parthiv Patel at the top.

"The decision was made prior to his domestic season (to retain Devdutt Padikkal)," coach Simon Katich had said. "As a young 20-year-old batsman, the fact that he's a left-hander as well, he's obviously going to be a favourite. When it comes to the balance of the batting order you do like to break up left-hand, right-hand batting combinations so I think he's done everything possible to put his hand up and potentially make his debut in the IPL. Obviously now it's up to him to put his best case forward in the camp, we'll have some practice matches where I'm sure he will get an opportunity to play. He's an exciting young talent."

Padikkal himself is happy to be among the players to watch out for list.

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"Yes it definitely feels great to have fans behind you and have their support, to know that there are people backing you and wishing you well," he said. "Not really a pressure, it's just support. It's not them putting pressure on me, they're supporting me and it only motivates me even more to do well.

"It's been great (to be around seniors), they are such experienced cricketers and they've played so much and done so many things for the country and RCB, there's so much to learn and I'm just enjoying my time with them."

His very first IPL season, though, could be a huge challenge as it's happening under extraordinary circumstances in potentially tougher batting conditions away from home. Padikkal, though, is just happy to be playing again after a huge gap.

"The conditions are a bit different to what we're used to. But we're grateful that we're getting the opportunity to play cricket. Most of us thought we will not have an IPL this year, but the fact that it's happening and we'll be able to get some cricket is great."