At the age of 27 years 131 days, with an average of 27.64 in the shortest format, you are in a situation where your team needs 124 runs in 11 overs - what do you do? Give up, give in or prove the world that you do not live by everyday logic, defying it all with just one innings?
Welcome to the world of Rahul Tewatia, one that has been criticised heavily more than it has ever gotten appreciation. Just two days before this encounter, his world was lit up in the most obvious way with his obnoxious celebration. Putting two fingers on his ears, Tewatia showed a glimpse into his world, where there is no place for unwarranted criticism or negativity, somewhat in a similar manner and fashion to Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho after he scored against Manchester United. He certainly shushed the Chennai Super Kings batsmen while also attracting all the illogical and unrequired criticism from the world of social media.
“Uncertainty is certain but fear and worry are optional. It’s a choice.” For several batsmen, walking in at Sharjah, with your side needing 124 runs, is a huge task in itself but for Tewatia, it was just another target on the board and he was most certain about himself. Quickly, though, the entire scene panned in front of him - batting at 5 off 13 deliveries, he had a choice to give up but that never crossed his mind and will ideally never again after yesterday’s knock, irrespective of the result of the game.
The reason that everyone talks about his innings is because of the former. Or that’s where the conversation initially kicked-off. An uncanny resemblance to struggling batsmen before, be it, Vijay Shankar or Yuvraj Singh, it was all new and still in the eyes of the Indian cricket fans. The odds were stacked against Tewatia and certainly, the popular opinion was already out - ‘He is not even fit to play street cricket.’ Now, this is not just a 12-year-old or a 55-year-old criticising him but the entire nation in unison. None of them knew of him, his journey or even his abilities before this encounter.
As Sidharth Monga rightly pointed out, he was a journeyman, a journey where there were more obstacles than there was an eventual purpose. It was like asking the laziest human to hike Mt Everest overnight but in his case, he always wanted to climb the mountain. His eyes, his pursuit and purpose were very well defined, “I will do the best for the team and in return, I deserve the respect!” How can one be certain of this? Well, in the 2019 season, he was still playing for the Delhi Capitals, his third team in the IPL after making his debut in 2014. In between, he had a stint with Kings XI Punjab, which even by the best of everyone’s memory, none can recollect.
Arguably, it was on that night in the Delhi dressing room he decided that he was done with the amount of credit that he got or, in retrospect, others got over him. To a certain extent, it was what defined him that season. He was never going to replace the veteran spinner Amit Mishra, who had an aura and mysticism attached to him. In equal measures, he was never going to be an Axar Patel, who would restrict runs like how Rahul Dravid would defend. He was never going to be brawny enough to become a titan of his own, much like Coutinho was during his initial years at FC Barcelona. And that coupled with the fact that he never played a big role in Kings XI Punjab’s 2019 season prompted the franchise to ship him away! That defined him more than anything, as a person who was good enough to be traded but not good enough to be picked ahead of Ravichandran Ashwin and Mujeeb ur Rahman.
Now, you might not wonder as much where this stark criticism for him came by. In the age of social media, none were spared, not even Yuvraj Singh for his attempt in the 2014 T20 World Cup, and perhaps rightly so. Within seconds, several tweets - sorry several thousand(s) - flocked the internet to give their 2 paise on Tewatia's performance. If you think that was enough, several well-known and renowned commentators picked up and casually played around with the term “retired out.” His struggle was definitely real, as he himself admitted in the post-match presentation as being the worst 20-ball period in his batting career. The magnitude of an IPL match bore its effect on the youngster and several of the sheep came flocking in.
They are in their right minds to do it because it was a struggle and he was in his right mind too, to ignore all of it. All that he focused on was not giving away his wicket. For him, all that mattered was the near immaculate self-confidence in his own abilities to pull it off for the team. In his situation, several other cricketers would have recklessly slotted it straight to the fielder and walked happily off, taking the pressure of their shoulder. He was having none of that, despite not being a proven hitter, in the IPL at least. Boom, a six kicked off his resurgence just the way the Royals came in for his services during the trade window.
Similarly, here too, just like the trade, the six went unnoticed. All eyes were on Sanju Samson, the man-wonder, who had scored 63 off 34 deliveries. Tewatia was just batting on 8 after spending 19 deliveries at the crease. The camera panned and showed a glimmer of hope in his eye, which until then was absolutely ruled out as being lost by the fans. Samson creamed Maxwell for three sixes at the other end before getting an edge, that ended his fantastic stay at the crease. Let’s leave it here, we know what happened!
The Internet broke in the span of just one over, the villain-now-turned-hero and everything suddenly looked bright like it was some sort of a fairytale. Tewatia was on 53 off 30 deliveries, smashing six sixes in seven deliveries. It was a fairytale for sure but one that had struggles and failure in equal measures. If the franchise did not bank on him, did not trust him to do the job up the order if they did not instill confidence in him, the game, a certain career and a lot of actions would have been tarnished or destroyed. In the age and era of T20 cricket, fans’ necessity to seek an immediate result is what has perennially destroyed the game, the sheer-impracticality of hoping for miracles.
Miracles happen, they happen for a very good reason. In this case, Tewatia’s self-belief coupled with his never-say-die attitude added a defined path in his journey; a journey which looked like it was finished before taking off in sublime fashion. Never ever rule a journey out before it starts! Rightly when he was seemingly destined to finish the game off for the Royals in his own fashion, he failed - that’s the uncertainty of cricket and that’s why it's loved by us! Everyone loves a redemption story, and this one is special.