Two strokes, one on Monday and Tuesday, ensured a big bang early into the second IPL week. The first was from Devdutt Padikkal, the second by teenager Abdul Samad.
Padikkal is 20 and was into his third IPL game when he met a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer with a rasping pull, the control in execution being jaw-dropping. Former Australia player Brad Hogg tweeted with a picture of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batsman: "Padikkal pull shot of Bumrah has got my attention. I was worried about this area of his game. The kid is learning quick."
On Tuesday, Sunrisers Hyderabad's (SRH) 18-year-old Samad sent one of the seven balls he faced against Delhi Capitals so high into the night sky that it had the commentator exclaiming: "The youngster from Kashmir, it is gone back to Kashmir. BOOM."
Samad is from Jammu and Kashmir, the strife-torn state with limited scope for building a cricket career. Before Samad, Parvez Rasool and Rasik Salam from Jammu and Kashmir had played IPL without much impact. Unlike Padikkal who joined last year but didn't get a game, this is his Samad's first IPL season after SRH bought him for Rs 20 lakh.
"I knew it (he would hit a six). He is a hard hitter, doesn't take the pressure, whether the bowler is bowling at 150 or 130kmp," said Samad's father, Farooq, referring to the 145kph ball of Anrich Nortje his son sent into the stands.
Due to a hard lockdown to combat Covid-19, Samad's father found himself giving throwdowns to help his son prepare for IPL. They set up nets on the terrace of their house in Sidhra, Jammu. "It was a complete lockdown in March and April. Then, slowly we started practice on our rooftop; put a mat and covered the sides with a net. I kept throwing balls at him and his elder brother Tayyab, also a cricketer, bowled. Later, Samad got permission to train at the state association's ground at Science College," said Farooq.
With SRH struggling with the middle-order, Samad, who made 12 on Tuesday, could fit in as power-hitter. "We knew what Samad is capable of; I have seen him hit some long, long balls, very impressed. It is great to give the young guys an opportunity, where else to show your talent… if you do it against the world's best, (then) inside you, you know that you are able to do it," said SRH captain David Warner.
"He is adjusting to the team environment very well. He is training well, he is doing everything we have asked. The thing which has impressed me about our young players is their enthusiasm, passion and they want to learn."
For Padikkal, IPL continues a sensational season. He was the top-scorer in the Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament with 580 runs in 12 games. He was Karnataka's highest run-getter in the Vijay Hazare and Ranji Trophy too. On his IPL debut, against SRH, Padikkal attacked more. In the second game, against Mumbai Indians, Padikkal showed how well he gets into position to play shots when he is calmer.
The pick of his shots was the pull off Bumrah, getting on top of the bounce and middling it with perfect body rotation. It was the rotation that took Bumrah by surprise and had the pundits taking notice. Perfecting it took hours of practice in Bengaluru with Padikkal's fitness trainer Irfanullah Khan
"We had started one-and-a-half months before the IPL. The focus was on transfer rotations and power training. RCB trainer (Shankar) Basu Sir had given him some protocols and we followed them."
Padikkal has been working with Irfanullah for four years. The first thing the fitness trainer did was to make the tall player work on his footwork. It helped in being more decisive in meeting the ball with a forward stride or going back for backfoot play. "(We used) Very small biometric jumps, like hurdle jumps, bog jumps, we got some pogo jumps," said Irfanullah.
Ever since Padikkal joined coach Irfan Sait's academy, the Karnataka Institute Of Cricket (KIOC), in Shivaji Nagar, Bengaluru, it's been a steady rise. "He was in a total control of the pull shot," says the KIOC head coach, Irfan, opening the discussion with the mention of the hit off Bumrah.
While Samad's attacking instincts and power game are a natural fit for the T20 brand, in Padikkal you see the full range which comes from step by step cricket education that the advanced coaching programme of Bengaluru provides.
It was on display in the two half-centuries he has scored in the IPL. "Both innings have its merits. The first one (56 runs vs SRH) was special because he overcame that nerves. After the match when we spoke to him, he said he was a bit nervous but after he got the first boundary he felt fine.
"The second one was a very responsible knock where he showed game awareness to play second fiddle to Aaron Finch, then bat with a legend like AB de Villiers, see the fall of Virat Kohli's wicket, so both are different in character and have their own value."
Last February, Padikkal and Samad crossed swords in the Ranji Trophy quarter-final. Samad blasted an attacking 50-ball 43 in a tense fight for the first innings lead; Padikkal scored a 33-ball 34 in the second to set up Karnataka's victory.