Devdutt Padikkal
Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Devdutt Padikkal plays a shot during the match against Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2020, at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, UAE, on September 21, 2020. Image Credit: PTI/Sportzpics

Devdutt Padikkal is the toast of Twitterati in India. The IPL debutant, along with Indian leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, was one of the architects of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad. His stroke-filled fifty at the Dubai cricket stadium on Monday earned rave praise from stalwarts like Sunil Gavaskar and Michael Slater, and the RCB supporters – the Bold Army – have taken to Twitter to welcome the arrival of a new hero.

Padikkal’s response was a video, thanking the fans in fluent Kannada. Not bad for a lad, whose parents hail from Kerala. He was born in Edappal, so he’s got the Keralites rooting for him as well. Padikkal, 20, is very much a Bangalore boy. He went to school there, learned his cricket there, and scored lots of runs for Karnataka in India’s domestic fixtures.

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The Royal Challengers Bangalore signed up Padikkal last year following his string of good scores for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy. He didn’t play for RCB, but his debut this year was in no doubt after having topped the scoring charts in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournaments. In November, Padikkal became the first player to complete 1,000 runs across formats in the 2019-20 season.

The left-hander’s T20 batting credentials attracted plenty of attention in the Karnataka Premier League, where Padikkal turned out for Bellary Tuskers. That allowed Mike Hesson, RCB’s director of cricket, to watch him at close quarters.

“He [Padikkal] batted in the middle order at the KPL, and he showed power both sides of the wicket, which was impressive for such a young player. Being a tall player, Devdutt has long reach but is also light on his feet which helps him control length, which is so important especially against spin,” Hesson told ESPNcricinfo.

A glimpse of that skill was seen against the Sunrisers when he struck 56 (42 balls) and strung a partnership of 90 with Aaron Finch. “Devdutt was outstanding,” RCB skipper Virat Kohli said while evaluating his team’s performance. This is just Padikkal’s first IPL match, and there’s a long season ahead. He has to perform consistently to justify the effusive praise heaped on him.

Already, cricket pundits have marked him as an India prospect. An India cap is still a long way off. Right now, let’s enjoy his batting for RCB.

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