Few know Devdutt Padikkal better than GK Anil Kumar, the veteran coach from Karnataka, who’s helped shape the future of many a bright and promising young cricketer. GK, as he’s fondly called, is the man responsible for giving Indian cricket some of the finest players. KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair are some of the cricketers whose career Anil Kumar has nurtured as coach of Karnataka’s Under-19 team.
In an IPL year that saw the rise of several youngsters, Padikkal stood out head and shoulders above the rest, including all-rounder Rahul Tewatia and fast bowler T Natarajan. Padikkal became only the second player in the history of the IPL to rack up over 400 runs in his maiden season – Shreyas Iyer was the first to do so in 2015 – before capping off the tournament as the highest-scorer for his team, Royal Challengers Bangalore.
“Pandya, Bumrah took some time. They took 1-2 years to really establish themselves, but with Padikkal you can clearly say that the kind of impact he’s had in his first IPL is tough even for an established international cricketer match playing his first IPL to match. It is really difficult to categorize Padikkal, a youngster, a rookie, getting into his first IPL, he got five half-centuries – three of which came in four matches. That speaks volumes of what he can do later,” Anil Kumar told Hindustan Times.
“I think he will definitely be a top contender and reach where Pandya and Bumrah are. Without a doubt, Padikkal will rise to incredible heights with this IPL.”
The word ‘special’ is often loosely used for youngsters with immense talent, but Padikkal is someone really deserving of that tag. Having seen him from close quarters, Anil Kumar understands what runs in Padikkal’ mind, which, let him assure you, is a lot more mature for a 20-year-old.
“What separates Padikkal is his sharp cricketing acumen, his understanding of a game situation. More than anything else, the will of wanting to perform in a pressure situation. He likes it. Most will have butterflies in their stomach and they are thrusted into tournaments where the competition is grim. But Padikkal is one individual who enjoys pressure. Very few batsmen have that kind of mindset and conviction, that calmness,” Anil Kumar said about Padikkal.
“His understanding of the game, conviction, calmness, game reading skills and the best part is god-gifted all-rounder. In Karnataka, when somebody comes into the team, he will face Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, K Gowtham and all these guys who have done reasonably well in domestic cricket. And him coming into the things and batting like a pro, as if he belongs there. His cricketing intelligence goes under the carpet because everybody is talking about his batting talent. But behind that his astute planning, which goes unnoticed.”