Imagine this. You are a boxer in a ring. You are being boxed and knocked off for the first 8 rounds to the point that each round feels like a knock out punch. You gather just enough energy to get knocked out each round. Then the 9th round, you emerge out of the shadows of your failure triumphantly and knock the opponent with one killer punch. Sounds like a Bollywood movie? Read on
Rahul Tewatia, walked in at No. 4, when everyone was expecting Robin Uthappa or Riyan Parag. The thought probably was to use Tewatia (who was the only left-hander in the RR line-up) to line up the leggies (Ravi Bishnoi and M Ashwin) who had just started to operate. KL Rahul responded by sending in Glenn Maxwell as a counter-match up and here’s what followed
Tewatia vs Maxwell: Round 1
Off Spinner bowling from over the wickets slanting across the left hander is usually supposed to keep the batsman quiet. This was Sharjah, where a six flows every 8 balls in this year’s IPL, so would these match up’s matter when the intent was to attack every ball?
Or so I thought. We had just had 6 overs of brilliant attacking cricket from Smith and Samson, where each over went for over 10 runs an over. Earlier in the day Gautam Gambhir had told us in this video, that Tewatia was someone to watch out for, so I expected fire works from get go
The first ball was a perfect defense, pushed back to Maxwell. One just hoped that Tewatia was not looking to ‘smartly play for NRR’ in the quest of reducing the margin of defeat, like CSK had done a few nights back, trying to chase a 200+ total. The next couple of balls, Tewatia scores a run and shows zero intent to attack. There is a palpable tension building in him, and he tries an unsuccessful reverse sweep which makes him look totally out of place. It helps that KL Rahul being a non-regular wicket keeper, has not collected it cleanly. Maybe it makes more sense to keep Tewatia than send him back?
Samson mistimes the next ball in attempt to undo the miseries of the over, and just gets a single. The Criclytics win% for RR has tanked from 42 to 27 in the space of 6 balls, and it’s the first over which has not gone for a boundary.
Tewatia vs Neesham: Round 2
On a day where leather was tonked at will, wickets were like gold dust. Jimmy Neesham had some gold up his sleeve with Steve Smith’s wicket in his previous overTewatia was still not attacking.
He was stroking the ball to extra cover and deep mid-wicket. He was waiting to get into the zone. Was Tewatia preparing to take it deep, or was he just on a damp-squib kamikaze mission?
Neesham kept Tewatia and Samson quiet in this over too, leading to a huge increase in pressure, while RR’s chances of winning was in free fall.
Tewatia vs Maxwell: Round 3
Having bowled the only boundary-less over of the innings, it made sense continuing Maxwell and throttling Tewatia, keeping Ashwin and Bishnoi for a little later.
The first 2 balls he faces, he is not given the length to get under and target cow corer, but the only solace is that he manages to feel better getting bat on ball, but the attacking intent for which he was sent is now looking like UAE’s desert mirage. Tewatia senses it, the dug out senses it, the opposition senses it and now he must show some fight. He steps out and Maxwell shortens his length, and the dot ball just exaggerates his struggle, by getting Twitterverse agitated. Tewatia’s Instagram posts are getting their first volley of abuse. Tewatia is struggling.
Tewatia vs Bishnoi: Round 4
KL Rahul can no more hide Bishnoi and Ashwin, against the left hander. Bishnoi anyway bowls more Googlies than the actual leg breaks, so it would not really be into Tewatia’s hitting arc into the leg break. Bishnoi does not seem a bad option at this stage. The RR dug out has worried faces staring at the field of play.
As a fan one is reminded of such moments, where a player struggles in the middle, pulls momentum down and is not able to also get out. We’ve seen it with Ravi Jadeja’s 25(35) against England in the 2009 T20 World Cup, Yuvraj’s 10(21) against Sri Lanka in the 2014 T20 final. We’ve also seen it more recently in the 2019 IPL with Robin Uthappa’s labored 40(47) against MI in a must win league game. He was the next batsman slated to come in, just incase Tewatia got out giving up. It was not a great moment if you were a RR fan with an elephantine memory.
4 Googlies angling out to the left hander. One Wide and 3 dots. Bishnoi has delivered the sucker punch, adding to count of 3 overs without a boundary and Tewatia’s presence in the middle was now generating memes by the minute. Bishnoi’s extra bounce and wide lines make it tough for Tewatia to make contact. At this stage, even the 30 yard circle is not challenged.
Tewatia vs Neesham: Round 5
There are talks of retiring-out doing the rounds on twitter. There is also jocular talk of Samson running Tewatia out so that the misery can end, and we can have a cricketing euthanasia moment. All of these talks are only on the virtual world of social media. The virtual world playing out at the stadium through the sponsors screen, however is showing a bunch of fans over-acting in rehearsed moments of joy and movements, which the commentators must say a few good words on.
Samson hits a six, and one wonders if its too late. He gets strike back to Tewatia. Are we back to feeling misery all over again?
Tewatia is trying hard to manufacture shots. He tries to sweep Neesham’s slower ball, drills full balls on the ground to the Long On and Long off fielder. Even Samson is not able to get under the ball, except for that one six. But the good part is that it was finally a 10 run over in the 14th, and the drought lasted 6 overs, with the last 10+ run over coming in the 8th over when Smith and Samson were timing the ball with consummate ease. The bad part is that Tewatia has taken strike yet again.
Tewatia vs Bishnoi: Round 6
A mistimed reverse sweep goes to extra cover and lands on the 30 yard circle, while the graphic on the television suggests that RR’s required run rate has shot to 18 Runs an Over. Bishnoi’s googly glut continues to fetch him one more dot ball. The misery has reached a point of no-return. The only thing to see if Bishnoi can get a wicket and add some useful fantasy points differentiators. At that point of no-return, Tewatia finds his mojo with a straight six. It’s calmed his nerves. He can now bat with lesser guilt and he tries a wild reverse sweep against Bishnoi’s predictable googly only to add to the dot ball tally. The camera pans to Steve Smith. Would he rue his decision to chase in Sharjah, when he could have chosen to bat first and create score-board pressure?
Tewatia vs Samson: Round 7
It’s rare to bowl a spinner at the death, especially a part time off-spinner to a well set right hand hand batsman in a ground with short boundaries. But Maxwell has earned the right to bowl, giving away 2 boundary less overs by getting to bowl at Tewatia largely.
Two sixes in the first 2 balls, and Samson is determined to give this chase a go, and that reflects in the next ball when a single is refused. It’s tough to be Tewatia right now. Tewatia has to take it in his stride and hope that Samson gets some momentum back in a non-existent chase. 1 more six and Samson takes strike for the next over.
Tewatia’s match up for this over is more against the non-striker for this over, as opposed to Kings 11 Punjab. Will that be the last nail in the coffin before Tewatia succumbs to a half hearted effort to getting out? Will that? Maybe.
RR’s win% at the end of the 16th over- 38%
Tewatia vs Shami: Round 8
With all that pressure on Samson to chase this down all by himself, Samson edged a slow bouncer to bring to an end a fine knock. It brought Uthappa to the wicket. This game was now all about collating valuable fantasy points if you already had Mayank and KL as your CAPTAIN/VICE Captain for the day. Or so we thought!
Tewatia had given up. His shots were slogs that were getting edges and were not going to the fielder. Uthappa finishes the over with 2 boundary hits which brings it down to 51 0ff 18. Not bad. Without realizing RR had knocked off 33 runs of the last 2 overs. 51 of 18 balls is still a very possible equation if you had someone like a Gladiatorial Russel staring into the eyes of bowlers. But with Uthappa and Tewatia, the hope was they use these overs to find the middle of the bat and useful match practice now.
Tewatia had been through 8 overs. It felt like 8 rounds in a boxing ring, where you took punches, bled, saw stars above your head and felt like a deer in the headlights. The only solace was that there was no audience to add more pressure to Tewatia.
Tewatia vs Sheldon Cottrell: Round 9
Despite the talk of dew in the air and Sheldon Cottrel thundering in to Tewatia, the thought in my mind was to be able to see a ‘Cottrel Salute’ this over to enliven up the proceedings. The first ball, Tewatia moved back and swung at a length ball, with the ball finding the SG sticker of his bat. A shot that did not find the ‘meat of the bat’, but with a 58 meter long leg boundary, it just managed to cross the line. Tewatia moved to 23 (24) balls and it looked like he was stat padding his way after the match had been lost.
The next short ball from Cottrell was effortlessly swung squarer this time finding the boundary. 30(25). Finally Tewatia heaved a sigh of relief. It wasn’t until he launched the next ball to long off for a six, did I bother to look at the equation. Tewatia was 36(26)* and 33 were required off 15 balls. Wait a minute, this suddenly came into the realm of being possible. The Criclytics win predictor had jumped to in the space of 3 balls.
Cottrell’s next ball was a misfired Yorker that got delivered as a full toss wide outside off stump, but in a sweeping motion, it was dealt with and dispatched to the square leg boundary. That shot just made the possibilities alive. 4 shots in 4 balls and we were having a ‘Carlos Brathwaite-Remember the Name’ moment. We weren't yet done. The last ball was pitched outside off and yet again Tewatia got under it and smoked it over square leg. 30 runs and 6 balls later, Tewatia had risen up like a phoenix from the ash. Cricket had just seen an amazing over and moment, and given this was Sharjah, I paused to think how it would be if the late Tony Greig were on air now. He’d scream ‘They are dancing in the isles in Sarjah’ and ‘Whaddaplaaya” on repeat.
Tewatia and Archer vs Shami: Round 10
The 19th over had begun with the momentum needle having swung widely towards Rajasthan. Shami started the over to Joffra. A while back the broadcaster Star Sports, ran a poll on who was the best T20 bowler amidst the two. Jofra saw the poll, while in the dressing room and laughed it away.
Here he was a few moments later, facing Shami ‘in the battle for T20 bowlers’. Two balls in Archer’s hitting arc and the equation came down to 9 off 9. A single to get Tewatia back on strike was not met with scorn. How life changes in an over!
Length ball and an upper cut for Six. 6 sixes off pace in 7 balls. Tewatia was on a roll and was taking it deep to get the game over by the 19th. One more swipe off Shami, but this landed in Mayank Agarwal’s safe hands. The carnage had been done. The game was dusted. Tewatia had gone from zero to hero in a matter of 7 balls, but his story of struggle in the first 24 balls needs to be seen and felt to, to contextualize his ‘Rocky Balboa’ comeback!
Tewatia in fact finished with the highest match win% impact, and the second best performance in the game. These 31 balls were the story of Tewatia’s struggle, told through numbers.
RR’s win% at the end of the 19th over- 92%
Match Report Card- Top Match Performances