As the tournament is unfolding, all the missing blocks in the puzzle are picking themselves for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Devdutt Padikkal and Yuzvendra Chahal continued their impressive start to the season, while Virat Kohli rediscovered his touch as his side eviscerated Rajasthan Royals by eight wickets to log in their third victory.
Of all the magnificent strokes at Devdutt Padikkal’s disposal — and he has a full quiver — the cut stands out for its sheer majesty. It’s almost Caribbean in its nonchalance, in the insouciance with which the tall left-hander picks the ball, gets on top of the bounce and dismisses it in front of point. It’s a blend of velvet and power.
His vertical-bat strokes are gorgeous, but it’s those with the horizontal blade that make him not only exciting to watch but also mark him out for the future. True that the Dubai surface was not wrapped in trampoline to fully probe his technique, but there were tell-tale signs that he’s an authoritative executioner of the pull and cut. The height helps, so does the youngster’s gliding feet, soft hands and a mind bristling with confidence and energy.
Equally instructive of Padikkal’s sumptuous game was a nudge past short fine-leg for a boundary. The Jofra Archer delivery was not short enough to be pulled, was quick and climbing onto him, but with nothing more than a gentle twirl of his wrists, he nudged the ball off his hips for a boundary out of nothing.
Equally staggering is that he hits the straps straightaway —there’s no fussing about. Just the second delivery he faced, he creamed the experienced Jaydev Unadkat over square leg, by just swaying a bit to the off-side to get under the ball and propel it to the intended destination. A ball later when the bowler erred on the shorter side, Padikkal unleashed a front-foot pull, a la Yuvraj Singh in his pomp. Keeping the ball on the ground seems barely a consideration for him. Thus, crunching his third half-century in four innings, he’s hurriedly ticking the boxes that could parachute him into international limelight. His fluency also afforded time for Kohli to restore some form.
Such are the high standards that Kohli has set for himself that three ordinary outings were enough to rake up doubts about his form. But normal service was restored with a pugnacious knock, his first half-century of this campaign. The setting was perfect – nearly pressure-less as they were chasing a middling target and Padikkal was pounding the runs – for the RCB skipper to get some time in the middle.
Unlike in the previous outings, Kohli was unhurried, not looking to impose himself on the bowlers, but waiting for the bowlers to drop short or bowl too full. As importantly, he seemed to have regained his joyfulness. If he seemed a forlorn figure during his past few knocks, here he was totally cheerful, often smiling wildly and laughing his heart out. The joy shortly manifested in his batting as he shed his inhibitions. Kohli essayed some gorgeous strokes, none perhaps more eye-catchy as the off-drive off Tom Curran or the six over extra-cover off Riyan Parag.
He had a terrific day as a captain too, ringing in perfect changes at the perfect time and introducing the right bowler against the right batsman. He introduced leg-spinner Chahal straightaway when Sanju Samson walked in, and it bore instant result, as the batsman tried to casually drive the leggie and ended up spooning a return catch. It’s a folly several top-notch batsmen have made against Chahal, only to be beaten by the late dip. Chahal picked two more, as the Royals creaked before they were resuscitated by Mahipal Lomror’s 47 and a 40-run blitz by Rahul Tewatia and Jofra Archer. But 154 was not adequate to even test RCB’s determination.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines