Aadya Sharma relives Rahul Tewatia achieving the impossible for the second time in a month.
When Rahul Tewatia pulled off the unthinkable in Sharjah last month, the collective euphoria couldn’t hide an important question – was it a one-time effort? That was a heist for the ages, from a player who had given little evidence that he was capable of such heroics. But just like the Ocean series, he was back with a sequel.
Two weeks after turning into an overnight sensation, Tewatia did a ‘Tewatia’ again in IPL 2020, pulling off another incredible run-chase after a rather sedate start. It wasn’t statistically as brilliant perhaps, and wasn’t an incredulous lone effort, but it was definitely another come-from-behind masterclass, laden with dollops of self-belief, and a little garnishing of luck.
Chasing 159 on a sluggish surface, Tewatia walked in at the 12-over mark with Royals in the doldrums, reduced to 78-5, with even that an improvement on their 26-3 at one stage. With 81 needed off the last eight, Rashid Khan was immaculately spinning a web from one end. Tewatia had Riyan Parag, nine years his junior, for company, with only Jofra Archer and Shreyas Gopal to follow.
Unlike Sharjah, it wasn’t a 200-plus run-chase, but the boundaries were far bigger here. Tewatia couldn’t six-hit his way out of this one. He eased his way to nine off the first 14 balls.
And then, two sixes, off successive deliveries, flicked a switch of sorts in the run chase. Parag’s 97-metre crunch over mid-wicket gave some hope, and in the next over, Tewatia matched his partner, dismissing a waist-high short ball over deep mid-wicket. “That was a buffet ball”, said the commentator. That was just the appetiser.
By then, a more confident Parag had started cheekily ramping quicks. With the slowness of the pitch clear to see, Tewatia decided to get a little impudent himself. The cojones on the guy though – Tewatia decided to be cheeky against Rashid Khan, the No.1 T20I bowler.
#Tewatia = __________.
— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) October 11, 2020
Out came back-to-back reverse sweeps, one off a filthy full-toss, and another off a half-volley, both drifting on the leg stump and both dispatched to where a conventional deep backward square leg would have been stationed. The third one didn’t require a switch – it was drilled to deep extra cover – one bounce, into the colourful ad-boards. Was it a flipper? Did it matter?
The handful of masked Royals supporters, as well as his teammates in the dugout (barring a poker-faced Jofra Archer, of course), let out enthusiastic applause. They’d seen it before. Rashid, in his final over, had conceded one more than he had in his first three overs combined.
Oh, there was some luck too. Off the very next ball, Tewatia tried a late cut and found an under edge that ricocheted off Jonny Bairstow’s gloves and onto the stumps. Tewatia, oblivious, had jaywalked out of his crease. He was yards out, but the bails, the ever-so-controversial zing bails, lit up, but didn’t leave their groove. It was his day, once again.
And soon we were in the last over of the chase, nine needed off the last six. Khaleel Ahmed’s fiery first spell, where he had dismissed Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, was already forgotten.
Parag and Tewatia smartly diffused the chase by running hard in the last over, and Khaleel’s frustration spilled out. As Tewatia crossed ends, Khaleel walked past him, patting him repeatedly on the back, rather patronisingly. Tewatia’s bat had done enough talking, but he still had words to say.
When Parag hit the winning six, breaking a four-game losing streak, he joyfully burst into an impromptu dance. Tewatia, at the other end, was still seething. Words were exchanged again, first with Khaleel, and then with David Warner. Some animated finger-pointing followed and social distancing went for a toss.
“No big deal, we just got taken away in the heat of the moment,” Tewatia later said rather disarmingly. “I was batting in such a way, was in my zone.”
The beauty of Rahul Tewatia is that you just never know when that ‘zone’ will be activated, which only makes it all the more captivating to watch when it does. Could this heist series have more instalments to come? We can only hope.