Rahul Tewatia. Remember him? He too has hit fives sixes in a row in the Indian Premier League. That was long before Rinku Singh found fame with the Kolkata Knight Riders last week.
Three years ago in Sharjah, when Covid-19 pandemic forced the IPL to move to the UAE, Tewatia hammered left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell to lift the Rajasthan Royals to a win over Kings XI Punjab (presently Punjab Kings). Today, the 29-year-old is scripting victories for the Gujarat Titans.
When Punjab’s Sam Curran threatened to derail Gujarat’s chase on Thursday with a tight final over, Tewatia came to the rescue. Needing 4 runs from 2 balls, he stepped across the stumps to scoop the ball to the fine-leg fence. Big relief as smiles and applause rang out in the Gujarat camp as they won by six wickets.
At the post-match presentation, Gujarat opener Shubman Gill called it Tewatia’s “love story” with Punjab. He seemed to like Punjab bowling, more precisely, the left-handed seam variety. In 2020, West Indies’ Cottrell suffered at his hands, and this time he outsmarted England’s Curran, the Player of the Tournament at the World Cup in Australia.
Last year, Punjab were again burnt by the blazing blade of Tewatia. When Gujarat required 12 runs from the last two balls, he coolly lashed Odean Smith for two sixes. That evoked memories of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s power hitting for the Rising Pune Supergiants in 2016. It was only bettered by KKR’s Rinku on Sunday.
Tewatia has been a journeyman in the IPL. After his debut for the Rajasthan Royals in 2014, he played for the Delhi Daredevils (presently Delhi Capitals) and Kings XI Punjab before being traded back to Rajasthan. That was when he found fame with his six-hitting feat. So when the new franchise Gujarat Titans were putting together a team, they had no hesitation in recruiting Tewatia.
That turned out to be an inspired pick. A regular in the Gujarat playing XI, Tewatia’s role is to provide the late-order fireworks. And he’s consistently provided the late thrust whenever the situation called for quick runs. His contributions were vital when Hardik Pandya steered Gujarat to their maiden title on their IPL debut last year.
Tewatia, who hails from Haryana, is a typical bits-and-pieces player. The breed that’s at risk of extinction with the implementation of the Impact Player Rule. That doesn’t seem to faze Tewatia, who continues his power-hitting business efficiently.
As a leg-break bowler, he could break a stubborn partnership or grab a couple of quick wickets to peg back teams that threaten high-scoring sprees. Five-wicket hauls can’t be found in Tewatia’s reume, but his bowling comes in handy. This season he hasn’t bowled an over; that’s more to Gujarat’s embarrassment of bowling riches, and the Impact Player Rule that gives teams an additional bowler. But Pandya will call upon Tewatia’s leg-spin later in the tournament when the pitches are worn out.
His batting too is a bit enigmatic. Tewatia won’t score centuries or too many half-centuries; he won’t figure in the list of high aggregates or averages. But you can spot his name in the Strike Rate column. His twenties and thirties that come off a handful of deliveries have propelled his team to victory or a winning score. That makes Tewatia a winner. A true finisher.
He’s called the ice man for a reason. Tewatia’s ability to keep cool under pressure is phenomenal. Ice, not blood, runs through his veins, said former Indian captain Sunil Gavaskar last year, while agreeing with former Australian opener Matthew Hayden’s assertion during a cricket show on Star Sports,
Blood or ice, it doesn’t matter for the Gujarat Titans. So long as Tewatia keeps finishing matches, Pandya will be happy. So will all the IPL watchers. Except for Sadda Punjab supporters.