IPL 2021: How Sachin Tendulkar’s ‘Desert Storm’ in Sharjah inspired Rahul Tewatia

Rajasthan Royals’ breakout star from 2020 reflects on his moment in the sun and forecasts brighter things for his franchise

Rahul Tewatia  of Rajasthan Royals  batting during match 26 of season 13 of the Dream 11 Indian Premier League (IPL) between the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Rajasthan Royals held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the 11th October 2020.  Photo by: Saikat Das  / Sportzpics for BCCI
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Say the words “desert” and “storm” to any Indian cricket fan, and they are transported back to a moment in time when Sachin Tendulkar was at his zenith.

To the time in 1998 when his run-gathering in Indian blue peaked with a spellbinding innings that took down the great Australians in Sharjah.

It is chiefly because of that innings that legions of devotees are drawn to the UAE’s oldest cricket venue, and by the idea of treading the same patch of grass as the Little Master.

And even, if everything goes right, perhaps tasting a little glory of their own in Sharjah.

“Who can ever get past that iconic innings - the Desert Storm, right?” Rahul Tewatia, the Rajasthan Royals all-rounder, said ahead of the resumption of the 2021 Indian Premier League in UAE.

“Sachin Tendulkar has obviously served as an inspiration to millions of cricketers, not just in India, but around the world, and it was the same for me.

“I remember watching that match very vividly, and of course seeing it multiple times over and over again whenever it was shown on the television.

“I think that phase in cricket was really crucial to how the sport grew. Here you had Sachin's India trying to challenge the mighty Aussies, and I think it inspired a lot of people in India.”

It is because of an extraordinary innings of his own in Sharjah that Tewatia now enjoys celebrity status himself. Clearly, nothing like the level of Tendulkar.

Sachin Tendulkar has obviously served as an inspiration to millions of cricketers, not just in India, but around the world, and it was the same for me
Rahul Tewatia, Rajasthan Royals

But his logic-defying counter-attack to win an IPL game that seemed lost for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab last season definitely marked him out as a player of substance.

That six-laden assault on Sheldon Cottrell was perhaps not a desert storm - but at least a Sharjah shamal.

“In terms of playing in Sharjah, we've had some discussions about those matches [involving Tendulkar] in the team, but I wasn't really expecting myself also to do something extraordinary as well,” Tewatia said.

“I just believed in myself and I think after having had a tough start, I finally got going and made the most of it.

“Let's just say I'm happy to have played that knock in such a special stadium.”

It is fair to say that one innings last year was life-changing for Tewatia. From previously being regarded as a journeyman pro, he has since earned a call up to the India squad – if not yet a full cap – and is now a vital cog in his franchise team.

“I think there has been a big change in most aspects,” Tewatia said of life post that game.

“To be really honest, I feel like people used to underestimate me before that innings, and now finally know what I'm really capable of doing.

“But in hindsight, I think the one most noticeable way would be that people and fans have started showing their support more towards me and even our team.

“That innings and that chase showed everyone that Rajasthan Royals are not the underdogs, we are here to win and win from any situation.”

That innings came early in a campaign which eventually petered out to a disappointing ending for Rajasthan.

Memories of it had begun to fade by the time his team dispersed UAE, but he was still feted on his return to his home town in the state of Haryana.

“There was a fair bit of time between the two things, but it was a very warm welcome,” Tewatia said.

“I had my family and friends at home who welcomed me, but the most striking bit was the presence of media outside my house.

“There must've been around 50-100 people gathered just outside my house in Faridabad, waiting for me to arrive and then to speak to me.

“That was really special, but also a bit overwhelming for the family I think because of the huge attention.”

He returns to the pink and blue of Rajasthan for the first time after the resumption of the league against Punjab in Dubai on Tuesday.

Even though they are now without the likes of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, Tewatia remains confident of his side’s prospects.

“Even though we have lost a few players who are of course exceptional players and amazing human beings, I think the franchise has done extremely well to bring in suitable replacements,” he said.

“The likes of [Tabraiz] Shamsi, who's the number one bowler in T20Is, big hitters like Glenn Phillips and Evin Lewis, and [Oshane] Thomas have come in.

“We will also have Liam Livingstone with us and the form he has been in, I think we are in for a great seven matches in the UAE. I feel really confident about our chances to make it to the playoffs and then even make a case for the trophy.”

Updated: September 20, 2021, 6:25 AM