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What Devdutt Padikkal has done to earn India Test call-up

Devdutt Padikkal is the latest player to receive a maiden call-up to the Indian Test team after Sarfaraz Khan and Rajat Patidar.

Devdutt Padikkal has received a maiden Test call-up ahead of the third match between India and England that is scheduled to start on February 15. Padikkal finds a place in the team as a replacement for fellow Karnataka batter KL Rahul, with the latter being ruled out of the third Test due to a sore knee. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said in a release announcing the squad that Rahul “has reached 90 per cent of match fitness” and that “he will continue his recovery process at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru to be completely match-fit for the fourth and fifth Test.”

Devdutt Padikkal has been impressive in the Ranji Trophy this season(PTI)

Rahul has pretty much been in the form of his life across formats since returning from a lengthy period on the sidelines a few weeks before the 2023 World Cup. In the first Test against England, which India lost, Rahul was India’s highest scorer in the first innings with 87 runs and he followed that up with 22 in the second. His unavailability is a blow but, as is the case so many times with the Indian team, it also means an opportunity for a player who has been quietly piling on the runs in first class cricket.

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Padikkal’s impressive first class career

Padikkal may have become a household name due to his performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but the 23-year-old has built an impressive resume in red-ball cricket. In the 31 first class matches that he has played thus far, Padikkal has scored 2227 runs at an average of 44.54 with six centuries and 12 half-centuries.

He has been in particularly good form this season, scoring 556 runs at an average of 92.66 in four matches. He has also scored three centuries in the six innings he has played, getting a three-figure score every time he crossed 50. In Karnataka’s fifth round fixture against Tamil Nadu in Chennai that finished in a draw on Monday, Padikkal was player of the match, having scored 151 and 36. His highest score this season has been 193, which he scored in Karnataka’s opening match against Punjab.

Padikkal was also part of the India A team that faced England Lions in Ahmedabad and impressed with scores of 65, 21 and 105. His century in the second unofficial Test was part of a massive first-innings batting effort that helped set up an innings victory.

This current run of form has come after two rather forgettable years for the youngster. Padikkal’s consistently good performances in the 2020 and 2021 seasons of the IPL for RCB, in which he scored 473 and 411 runs respectively, resulted in him making his international debut for India in the shortest format. However, he didn’t leave much of a mark in the two matches that he played against Sri Lanka in July 2021 and it has been anything but smooth sailing for him since then. An unexpected illness forced him to miss the entire 2022 season of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and he scored just 260 runs in five Ranji Trophy matches. He could score just 261 runs in IPL 2023 and then he was sidelined for the Maharaja KSCA T20 Trophy due to a thumb injury. Padikkal seems to have put those troubles behind him, judging by his performances in the ongoing red-ball season.

Can a Test debut come in Rajkot?

Padikkal is familiar with the Indian senior setup. Apart from playing two T20Is, he also trained with the senior Test team in South Africa as he was part of the India A squad that toured the country at the same time as the two-Test series took place.

Padikkal started out as an opener but has eventually transitioned into being a No.3 and No.4 batter for Karnataka. India have not included Shreyas Iyer, who played at No.5, for the rest of the series while No.4 Rahul has also been ruled out. Virat Kohli is also confirmed to be unavailable for selection while there is a question mark over whether Ravindra Jadeja will be fit in time for the third Test. This means that there could be at least two spots that India may need to fill in their middle order in Rajkot. Rajat Patidar had been handed his debut in the second Test while Sarfaraz Khan had to wait on the sidelines. There is hence a chance of maybe seeing Sarfaraz and Padikkal making their Test debuts in Rajkot.


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