Padikkal was in a rich vein of form in the last Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy tournaments as well. He scored 218 runs at an average of 43.60 in six matches for Karnataka in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and continued with his sublime touch in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well. The left-hander amassed 737 runs in 7 matches at an astonishing average of 147.40. His onslaught in the Vijay Hazare Trophy included four back-to-back centuries and three fifties.
Padikkal hit a roadblock recently when he tested positive for COVID-19 on March 22. He is currently under home quarantine in Bengaluru and though he is “feeling well”, he will only join the RCB bio bubble in Chennai once “his RT-PCR tests are negative”, according to a statement released by RCB.
This means that Padikkal is likely to miss his team’s mouth-watering tournament opener against Mumbai Indians on April 9 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. RCB play their second match of the tournament on April 14 vs Sunrisers Hyderabad at the same venue.
With Virat Kohli announcing he will open for RCB this season, Padikkal is the other first choice opener for the team after his good performance last season, that also saw him finish as the eighth highest run getter overall in IPL 2020.
Ahead of the 2021 season, Timesofindia.com caught up with the very talented 20-year-old left-handed batsman for an exclusive interview to talk about his impressive domestic season, playing alongside Virat Kohli, meeting batting legend Rahul Dravid and much more…
You dominated the domestic season and hit back-to-back centuries. What was that experience like and how would you describe your approach to batting?
I have matured with time and the way I have been batting. I really learnt a lot in terms of building an innings and getting those big runs because I used to have problems with getting out a number of times in the 70s and 80s. In the last couple of years, I have really worked a lot on my batting to build an innings and to have a clear set of plans. I learnt the art of how to go ahead from start to finish. That’s what really helped me in the domestic season where I got those centuries and took my team to wins.
Devdutt Padikkal (TOI Photo)
For me, I try to keep things simple. I take one ball and a bowler at a time – that’s my mantra. Sometimes you get carried away after a decent or good start. I have set game plans now. I plan ahead of a match. I want to be consistent in any format I play.
What was the experience like of playing alongside players like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers?
I had an incredible outing at RCB last year. I got the chance to play all the games. Playing alongside Virat bhai and ABD and all other cricketers was great. It was an incredible experience. Every day I was learning something new from Virat and ABD. The way they carry themselves in the international tournaments and in IPL, which is a long tournament, is amazing. The way they handle the pressure and perform in every single game is something I wanted to inculcate. That helped me a lot.
AB de Villiers and Devdutt Padikkal (IPL Photo)
What is the biggest thing you learnt from Virat Kohli?
The passion and hunger he has for the game, it’s incredible. He has that kind of drive towards the game. He doesn’t need anyone to push or motivate. He has so much fire to perform and give the best for the country or team. That is something I really want to have in myself. I really want to have that drive in myself that can push me every single day in terms of practice, training, and whatever I do. That kind of motivation and hunger is something (that is) really incredible.
The IPL trophy is missing from RCB’s cabinet. How would you rate RCB’s chances this season?
The side is looking strong. We have star players. I had a huge learning (curve) last season and will aim to carry on the same show in the IPL too. Looking forward to scoring a good amount of runs for RCB and helping the team win the title.
Virat Kohli and Devdutt Padikkal (IPL Photo)
Karnataka has produced world class cricketers over the years who went on to represent India. How would you rate your chances of playing for India some day?
The ultimate goal for any cricketer is to play for the country. I also want to represent my country. It is such a big honour. Hopefully, I will get that someday. I am working hard for it and will continue to do so. The competition is too high and tough. I just want to be consistent. I did well in the domestic season. I am trying to improve my game every day and take it to the next level so that whenever the opportunity arises, I can grab it with both hands.
What was the experience like of learning from the legendary Rahul Dravid?
I have spoken with Rahul (Dravid) sir a few times. Whenever I have the chance, I have met him. I met him at the KCA most of the time. He is such a humble person. He is ready to give any kind of advice whenever I need it. You can always walk up to him and ask him anything. He has the solution for everything. He always told me that ‘keep working hard, keep learning and keep improving as much as possible. Whenever I met him, I learnt something new. It is always nice and great talking to him. Whenever I get time, I go and speak with him. I listen to him carefully.
How did your cricketing journey begin?
I started playing cricket when I was nine years old. It started off as a hobby and then my parents took me to a summer camp. I loved this game. I never thought I would take up cricket as a profession. But once I shifted to Bangalore for cricket, because Bangalore had a really good infrastructure for cricket and spent more time at the crease, I realised this is something I should do professionally. My focus completely shifted to cricket. I ensured I would give my everything to the sport. Once I started playing cricket, especially Under-14, etc., I knew that I had something and I took that fire forward. My parents supported me a lot. Their support was immense. There are times where you are down, then you need someone who can push you and motivate you. My parents did all that for me. They played a huge role in my life and I will always be grateful to them.
Who is your inspiration and why?
For me, there is not one individual who has inspired me. Every person has a separate story and everyone really has gone through with some things to get there in their career. I take inspiration from every cricketer who has played for India because getting there is not easy at all. It takes a lot to get there. They have done a lot to reach that level and contributed to the country.
But my role model is Gautam Gambhir in cricket. I have grown up watching him bat. I still watch his videos. I still love his batting. Gambhir is my cricketing role model.