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Tewatia demonstrates that he is not a one-hit wonder

A batter rarely musters a gorgeous, boundary-laden 59-ball 96 on a night when the story is dominated by a three-ball 13 not out. However, it is the strength of this man, who has the ability to finish games like nobody’s business. “What runs through his veins?” Sunil Gavaskar self-answered as he, like many others on April 8, stood in awe of what Rahul Tewatia had done against the Punjab Kings.

As illogical as Gavaskar’s comment was scientifically, there are few better words to characterise the ice-cold finisher Tewatia, who did another Tewatia. You may question whether it is appropriate to sobriquet someone like that, jargonizing a surname to describe a sporting situation, but Tewatia earned the moniker two IPL seasons ago when he converted a seemingly game-ending knock into a match-winning one to assist Rajasthan Royals, his then-current franchise, in pulling off one of the IPL’s most staggering, unimaginable heists.

On that night, millions made the error of dismissing Tewatia, who persisted to 5 off 10, 5 off 13, 8 off 19, and 17 off 23, before improbably completing with 53 off 31 in a knock that will live in cricket legend for posterity. Tewatia struggled to put bat to ball at one point, and while it would not have elicited such hatred on another night, when he was elevated ahead of known players to keep a daring 224-chase effort on track, he became an instant villain.

 

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Tewatia redeemed himself in perhaps one of cricket’s most extraordinary comebacks, whamming seven sixes — five of them consecutive against an ill-fated Sheldon Cottrell – to help his club post the biggest successful chase in IPL history. However, as the winning dust cleared, one lingering concern persisted: is he a one-time wonder? Bear in mind that as big a leveller as sport is, it can also be rather brutal. Numerous Tewatias wilted without ever blooming; some of them we know, while others we do not.

However, Tewatia does not appear to be the one to perish. On Friday, he lived up to expectations once more, this time with another Caribbean national — Odean Smith – facing the brunt of his attack. Gujarat Titans unexpectedly found themselves requiring 19 runs off the last over after having in command of the 190-run chase for the whole of the innings, courtesy to Shubman Gill’s 96, a match-winning effort in its own right that Tewatia nearly eclipsed with only a three-ball middle spell.

Gill smashed one six and 11 fours throughout his innings; another hit to the boundary would have taken him to his maiden IPL century, but he miscued a wide Kagiso Rabada full-toss straight into the clutches of extra cover, leaving him four short.

The Titans were now on a precipice, and the prospect of being demoted from Player of the Match to one of the best in a losing cause loomed big during Gill’s innings. Thus, how was the threat evaded? Or, more precisely, who dodged it? The man’s veins are filled with ice, not blood.

Smith began with a wide before Hardik Pandya was run-out for 27. Smith restricted Tewatia to a single on the following ball, but was guilty of giving a slower one right into David Miller’s arc, which was thwacked to deep square leg for four.

 

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The most egregious error, though, was an overthrow when attempting a run-out at his end on the following ball, which not only lost his team an additional run but also placed the marauder Tewatia back on strike, with the equation reduced to 12 required off two. In retrospect, Smith’s assassination proved fatal. However, fortune favoured Tewatia and the Titans this time, for fortune favours the courageous only.

Now, the arithmetic was straightforward, but only Tewatia could have pulled it off. After receiving one in his arc, he complied by sending Smith over deep midwicket, where the fielder was unable to return the ball despite putting a hand on it. Tewatia then anticipated the following ball well, sliding over to slog it over long-on from wide outside the off-stump for another six. And then he saw his squad again, reviving memories of that tragic night in Sharjah.

With one hit, he established a reputation, but he also established an expectation – the expectation of being able to do the unimaginable again; of doing a Tewatia. He is still far from completion less than a couple of years later, but it is evident that he was no one-hit wonder.