Devdutt Padikkal returns to basics as he works his way back to the top

Karnataka batsman looking to regain his touch in Maharaja KSCA T20 Trophy

Gulbarga Mystics batsman Devdutt Padikkal during the Maharaja KSCA T20 Trophy in Karnataka. Photo: Maharaja T20 Trophy
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Last year, Devdutt Padikkal was seen as the next big batting hope of Indian cricket.

The tall Karnataka batsmen is a rarity in Indian cricket - a left-handed opener with a free-flowing style and shots all around the wicket.

A superb Indian Premier League season with his then franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, where he scored more than 400 runs in 2021 and also hit a century, put him in front of the queue of young Indian batsmen.

Given that Shikhar Dhawan is the only specialist left-handed white-ball opener in India, it seemed international cricket was going to be the next step.

However, 2022 did not pan out the way Padikkal hoped for. Firstly, he was no longer at Bangalore; Rajasthan Royals was his new home in the IPL. And even though his franchise dazzled the way to the final, where they lost to Gujarat Titans, it was an underwhelming campaign for Padikkal.

He could not breach the 400-run mark while his teammate Jos Buttler scored almost 900. Plus, he was pushed down to the middle order, which automatically restricted the amount of time at the crease. And just like that, Padikkal drifted away from the cricket conversation as other young batsmen like Deepak Hooda and Suryakumar Yadav grabbed their opportunities with the national team.

This is the T20 World Cup year. While many players are looking to impress selectors one last time before the squad and back-up list of players for the tournament in Australia is announced, Padikkal is focusing on regaining his touch in domestic cricket.

Currently participating in the Maharaja KSCA T20 Trophy in Karnataka, the 22-year-old is not looking too far ahead and instead is focusing on taking small steps.

"I never look at Indian team selection. I try to focus on my game. It has not changed for the past few years," Padikkal told The National. "I look to improve my game every time I go to bat. I just want to continue to learn."

Padikkal is back opening the innings, for Gulbarga Mystics, and that has translated into good starts in every match, with a couple of fifties. Returning to his familiar position at the top of the order, and at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, has been a breath of fresh air.

"It is a great platform. I came to the limelight through a similar domestic tournament. To have this league in Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy Stadium is something every youngster in Karnataka dreams of," added Padikkal, who has represented India in two T20 games - against Sri Lanka last year.

While his IPL 2022 season wasn't exactly stellar, he did enjoy the relaxed environment of the Rajasthan dressing room and also received a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - playing an IPL final in front of 100,000 fans.

"There was a lot to learn for me throughout the IPL. It was a new role for me at Rajasthan Royals. Hopefully I can build on that. It was a relaxed and laid back dressing room. Everyone was really together as a family.

"[The final] was incredible. That stadium is out of this world. To play in front of that many people was amazing."

Updated: August 23, 2022, 9:38 AM