During the strategic timeout, skipper Steve Smith had asked Rahul Tewatia what he was thinking. Rajasthan Royals needed 51 runs off the last three overs. Tewatia had struggled badly in his first 23 balls, scoring only 17 when the target was 224, and many had started to curse him on social media.
“I said if I get three sixes off (Mohd) Shami and (Sheldon) Cottrell, the match will be in our hands. I had confidence and he (Smith) said, ‘Ya, it’s as easy as that,’” Tewatia recalls about the game against Kings XI Punjab which became one of the biggest talking points of the IPL.
The world had given up on the chase, but Tewatia hadn’t. He knew that if he could somehow connect five big shots, the match would be on his side. However, circumstances were such that even Smith’s faith would have wavered.
Tewatia talks about those nervous moments. “I had the option to get out by playing one bad shot but the best way, I felt, was why not try. For me, the option of giving up is not there. It would have been the easiest option. I had to take the risk. Risk mein hi toh mazaa hai,” he turns philosophical.
“Smith had told me earlier that ‘we are promoting you to number four’. It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. For Haryana, I have been in such situations before and many a times the result has gone in my favour. I like pressure. I somehow enjoy it.”
His father would tell him later that a few commentators even wanted him to retire hurt.
In the next over, Tewatia hit five sixes off Cottrell, and made the commentators eat their words. It allowed Rajasthan Royals believe that they had taken the right call by sending him up the order and made the left-handed batsman from Haryana a major talking point. In that short span of time, Tewatia turned from a zero into a hero.
He is now back at home in his village Sihi, near Faridabad. He hasn’t informed anyone that he is around. If anyone comes to meet him, they are told that he is in quarantine.
Tewatia says that nothing has comes easy in his life. Even getting into the Haryana team was tough. The side already has three spinners in Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra and Yuzvendra Chahal. Adding to the difficulty quotient, their home base is Lahli in Rohtak, with a pitch tailor-made for seamers.
After graduating from junior cricket, Tewatia had to wait for his chances. “I have seen ups and down. I feel if you get things very soon, chances are they will go away in a short span of time,” he feels.
He doesn’t hesitate in saying that had his famous innings in Sharjah not happened, no one would have remembered him. Worse, they would have been cursing him.
The 27-year-old didn’t realise what he had achieved till he woke up the next day. Tewatia recalls how he was in the ‘zone’ even after the game, until team mate Mayank Markande talked to him.
“When I sat in the team bus, Mayank Markande was sitting next to me. He too had gone through this when he was part of Mumbai Indians and had taken the wicket of MS Dhoni. He said ‘bhaiyya, aapko nahi pata hai aapne kya badi cheez kar lee. You won’t realise it now but you will realise it tomorrow after you wake up,’ he said.
“When I hit the bed, I just went to sleep because match mein itna pressure aagaya tha ke ab sochne ke himmat nahi bachi thi (there was so much pressure in the match that I didn’t have any energy to think anything). When I spoke at home next day and our media team had line up a press conference, I realised that I had done something really amazing. But I know yeh sab chadte sooraj ko salaam hai (you are feted when you are at the top).”
Tewatia’s innings was no fluke. He had been batting well in the nets. During the lockdown, the Rajasthan Royals team management had clearly defined his role – that of a game-changer, a finisher. It’s a tough task, especially as the finisher doesn’t get opportunities in every game.
Tewatia doesn’t forget to mention the “extraordinary bonding” he developed with Ricky Ponting during his stint with Delhi Capitals. “He (Ponting) helped me correct my technique, footwork and backlift. During practice, he used to help me by giving throwdowns.
“I’m still in touch with him. He replies. I met and spoke to him. He is ready to share his knowledge. After that (Sharjah) innings, he messaged me ‘well done’.”
After the famous 53 against Kings XI Punjab, Tewatia also finished games against Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
But the Haryana all-rounder doesn’t delve in the past. He says what he did was history and he will have to start from zero again. However, when things go back to normal, Tewatia will hope to shine again.