IPL 2020: Rahul Tewatia emerges as the unlikely hero of Rajasthan Royals' historic run chase

Talk of a tactical retirement filled the commentary box, such was his woeful innings ... then out of nowhere he hit 30 in an over to turn the game

Rahul Tewatia of Rajasthan Royals  bats during match 9 season 13 of the Dream 11 Indian Premier League (IPL) between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on the 27th September 2020.
Photo by: Deepak Malik  / Sportzpics for BCCI

Let’s start with the minor details.

It was the highest ever run-chase in the 13-season history of the IPL.

Mayank Agarwal scored a 45-ball century, to emboss his growing reputation.

Sanju Samson, the prince of batting from Kerala, hit 85 from 42 balls, and took his tally of sixes in Sharjah to 16 from two matches.

Nicholas Pooran did the most sublime piece of fielding in the history of the universe. So good that his fielding coach, the all-time great fieldsman Jonty Rhodes, bowed down to him in Wayne’s World, “we’re not worthy” style.

Jofra Archer hit the first two balls he faced for six, during a run of seven sixes in nine balls in the frantic finale.

Rajasthan Royals chased 84 in the last five overs of the match – and still had three balls left over at the end.

All of which are mere sidebar stories to Rahul Tewatia. A jobbing, 27-year-old spin bowler who played one of the most extraordinary innings the world has ever seen.

At first, it was woeful. Properly wincing-in-your-seat, hope-it-ends-soon-for-the-good-of-everybody woeful.

He could not lay a bat on the ball. When he did, it would skew off an edge, and dribble away in some unintended direction.

On commentary Rohan Gavaskar put forward the idea about using a tactical retirement. And he meant it.

There seemed plenty of merit in that idea. Put him out of his misery, and we can all stop cringing.

That would have deprived us the most incredible turnaround, though. From “the worst 20 balls I have ever played” to the most memorable ending of his career.

Sheldon Cottrell, the Jamaican who was Kings XI Punjab’s big signing at auction ahead of this season, lined up to bowl with the game all but in the bag for his side.

Timid Tewatia, a forlorn figure, just tried to hit and hope. He got lucky. The first ball went for six. Then the second. Then another, and another, and another.

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Thirty off one over, and suddenly he had dragged his side back in it. He went, but Archer continued where he had left off, crunching deliveries into the empty stands.

Somehow, it was won.

“I think he was really brave,” Samson said of Tewatia, with whom he shared an odd 61-run alliance.

“He never gave up. He was so down, I could see that. But he never gave up, and he had the belief to come back and strike those 30 runs off an international player in this IPL.

“It was a great confidence booster, and I think in the coming tournament that will be really useful for us.”

Rajasthan’s brains trust were being pilloried for the decision for sending Tewatia up the order, but Samson pointed out he had made them proud – eventually.

“I think it was out team management, coach [Andrew McDonald] and [director of cricket] Zubin Bharucha,” Samson said of who took the call to promote Tewatia.

“We have been working really hard on Rahul Tewatia. He is a proper leg-spinner and the management saw the batting abilities he had in the practice matches we had, and the nets.

“The decision to send him up the order, I think it was a great move.

"It was a really brave move, and he made them all proud.”

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