India have suffered a huge blow before the Rajkot Test against England when KL Rahul has been ruled out of the match due to knee pain. Devdutt Padikkal Rahul’s Karnataka teammate has been called as a replacement.
Rahul had earlier missed the second Test in Visakhapatnam due to a quadricep injury and was included for the last Test on the basis of fitness clearance.
Already short on batting experience with Virat Kohli missing due to personal reasons, Rahul’s absence has made matters more complicated for India, who have also not picked Shreyas Iyer for the remaining three Test matches.
Furthermore, it is not yet confirmed whether Ravindra Jadeja has recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained during the first Test in Hyderabad or not. Jadeja is in the squad to play the game, which will be held at his home ground, but is pending fitness clearance for his participation.
Meanwhile, this is the first Test call-up for Padikkal, who is expected to join the team on Tuesday from Chennai, where he scored 151 and 36 against Tamil Nadu in the fifth round of the Ranji Trophy that ended on Monday.
23-year-old left-handed batsman Padikkal has scored 556 runs in six innings so far in this Ranji season at an average of 92.66. He has scored three centuries in total, including a highest of 193 in the season-opening match against Punjab.
Before his recent Ranji outing, Padikkal impressed with scores of 65, 21 and 105 for India A against the touring England Lions in Ahmedabad. The century in the second unofficial Test was part of a massive batting effort in the first innings that helped seal the innings victory.
Padikkal was also part of the shadow tour of South Africa with India A in December, where he had the opportunity to train with Test regulars ahead of intra-squad fixtures.
“South Africa was a great experience for me in terms of getting the opportunity to train with senior players [Test team]“Being in and around them, bowling at that level, prepares you well for the Ranji season,” he told ESPNcricinfo last month. I saw it as an opportunity to gain volume in terms of my batting. I’m grateful for that experience.”
After starting out as an opening batsman, Padikkal has gradually moved into a predominantly top-order role, which requires him to bat at No. 3, sometimes at No. 4, for Karnataka. Mayank Agarwal and R Samarth opened the innings for Karnataka and Padikkal has established himself in the middle-order.
This change in role is something he has learned to adapt to since the middle of IPL 2023 for Rajasthan Royals. The turning point, he said, was his agreement with Lucknow Supergiants where he would play under Rahul.
He had said, “I no longer look at it from the perspective of just becoming an opener.” “I’m enjoying my opportunities, wherever they are. Every position you bat in offers a different challenge. I am trying to learn new things, adapt to the circumstances. It helps me grow as a cricketer, helps me understand the game. And a lot more, not just in terms of my batting but how the game works in different phases.”
Overall, Padikkal has solid first-class credentials, averaging 44.54 from 32 matches. He has played two T20 matches for India, both of which came against Sri Lanka in July 2021.
India gave Rajat Patidar a chance to make his Test debut in Visakhapatnam. Sarfaraz Khan is the other uncapped batsman along with Padikkal. Jadeja’s possible unavailability could pave the way for another Test debutant in Rajkot. There is also a possibility that even if India go with only two specialist spinners, Jadeja may still choose one of them if available.
India have to train for two full days in Rajkot and the series is tied at 1-1.