Rahul Tewatia in IPL 2020: Much More Than A Mere Flash in The Pan
Here’s why Rahul Tewatia is worth watching out for.
When you first had a look at the Rajasthan Royals' squad before the beginning of the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), who were you focussing on? Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, Steven Smith perhaps, or even Sanju Samson or Robin Uthappa.
You certainly wouldn't have expected a certain Rahul Tewatia to stand out. Most wouldn't have even noticed the spin bowling all-rounder despite the Haryana-born having made his IPL debut way back in 2014.
It was his namesake and former Rajasthan Royals coach Rahul Dravid who first spotted Tewatia when he scored a breezy 90 for Haryana against Karnataka.
IPL Debut in 2014
The first IPL match that Tewatia played was for his current franchise Rajasthan. After featuring in just three games in his debut year, he was traded to Kings XI Punjab. The all-rounder then took the field in IPL 2017 but was soon traded to Delhi and is back with Rajasthan this year.
One cannot fault you for not tracking Rahul Tewatia closely, for he never played a full season in the IPL, nor did his numbers stand out. In fact, that the franchises picked him in the first place is interesting.
With a batting average of 17.27 in first-class cricket and a bowling average of 30.05, Tewatia is one of those all-rounders who you hope will go on to swap their averages in the two faculties as they get better at their game.
In T20s, his bowling average of 25.50 is nothing extraordinary but one that stands out is his batting strike rate of over 150. Coupled with this, Tewatia's earnest and impressive efforts in the lead up to IPL 2020 got him a nod in the starting XI.
Right Place, Right Time
In an intra-squad practice match, Tewatia hit four sixes in an over. This is when Rajasthan coach Andrew McDonald and Zubin Bharucha, the director of cricket, realised the all-rounders' potential and made a concerted effort to bring him in the game more often. Not that they had a choice.
Tewatia was the only half-decent Indian left-hand batsman in the RR squad who could tonk the ball and also deliver some quiet overs. It was more a case of being at the right place and at the right time for him.
Take Mitchell Santner for instance. Isn't he a better spin bowling all-rounder than Tewatia? But, Chennai Super Kings' balance has meant that he has had to warm the bench, and will continue to do so throughout the season.
Tewatia featured in Rajasthan Royals' opening fixture and had an instant impact, pocketing a three-fer against Chennai Super Kings. But it was his next game which saw him hog the limelight.
From Villain to Hero
Chasing a massive target of 224, Rajasthan were in a good position, having reached the 100-run mark in the ninth over for the loss of just two wickets when they decided to take a punt by sending in Tewatia at No 4 As luck would have it, Tewatia struggled to get going and could manage just nine runs off his first 18 deliveries, which the all-rounder describes as the worst 20 balls of his cricketing career.
Soon, the commentators began dropping all sorts of suggestions for Tewatia to get out of the rut – retire out, drag the feet out and get stumped, or at the least, get out hit wicket. But the obstinate Haryana boy did not tap out.
For those in the know of his character, the perseverance was not a surprise. He had once smacked 197 with a fractured foot in a domestic match. Giving up had never been an option for the all-rounder.
He persisted, and once got one off the middle, he showed his true colours. As Rahul Tewatia scripted history by blasting five sixes off the 18th over by Sheldon Cottrell, Rajasthan chased down the improbable target with three balls to spare.
It was courtesy of Tewatia's half-century, which eventually came at a strike rate of over 170, that RR were successful in registering the highest successful chase in IPL history. All thanks to the Haryana hero, Rajasthan clubbed 86 runs off the last quarter of their innings, which also became a record for the most runs scored in the last five overs of a successful IPL run chase.
Not a Flash in The Pan
Beyond doubt, it was a freak of a knock. To be on nine off your first 18 deliveries and then bring up a half-century off 30 balls doesn't happen everyday. But it also doesn't happen without skill, and Tewatia did not leave any room for doubt, that skill, he did have.
Four matches later, the all-rounder displayed his skill and temperament yet again when Tewatia (42* off 26 balls) paired with Riyan Parag to pull off another heist against Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has remained unbeaten in each of the last three matches, a sign of a batsman with a composed head on his shoulders.
Tewatia, who has picked up 20 wickets from 29 IPL matches at an average of 28.25 and an economy of 7.40, is a much more accomplished batsman than he is a bowler. The mantra of his batting success is a calm approach, contrary to his demeanour in day-to-day life, and uncluttered thinking. He is prepared to take it deep and backs himself to take the attack to even the best in the world.
Even when he was down in the dumps, in the match against Punjab, he told skipper Steve Smith in the strategic time-out about his plan to take Mohammad Shami and Sheldon Cottrell's overs for three sixes each. Then, Smith must have brushed the tall claim aside with a smirk, but Tewatia went on to do better.
Career Dictated by Circumstances
Tewatia's career, which started off as a leg spinner, has been dictated by circumstances. With Yuzvendra Chahal, Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav already in the Haryana side, he had no option but to work on his batting, so much so that it has become his stronger suit now.
In T20 cricket, wrist spin and big-hitting are coveted entities. Tewatia can do both. This holds him in good stead, even so, the dream of playing for India may be one too far off for the Haryana all-rounder. But then, the same was said before he bashed five sixes off the Cottrell over.
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