Taking up a profession in which the chances of reaching the peak is 11 in 1.2 billion, takes an immense amount of courage and everyone who takes up the revered sport of cricket in India, should take a bow for that. But, for Rahul Tewatia, chances of getting into his state team alone were very slim.
The overnight-star or the five-ball-star to be more precise, of the IPL 2020, Rahul Tewatia comes from the northern state of Haryana in India. The state team which has the services of two high-profile leg-spinners in India, Yuzvendra Chahal and Amit Mishra. Tewatia knew from a very young age that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He would always have to fight extra hard for a spot in the team. He knew he would always be the second preference. His 3-fers or even fifers would easily go unnoticed. When Tewatia made his first-class debut, it was during the summit of Amit Mishra’s career. Once he was starting to fade, up sprung Chahal who is 4 years younger to Tewatia. Such things could have easily made a dent in his confidence, but not Tewatia. He persisted with the thought “If I get a chance, I’ll prove myself.”
Tewatia is just another youngster, with the dream of playing for India. Nothing special about him or his leg-spin. He’s got the passion but falls well within the set of boys who haven’t got enough of the skill set. He is not a childhood prodigy like Virat Kohli, Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill. But, he’s got something about him, perseverance.
Tewatia made his first-class debut in 2013 and since then has only played 7 first-class games. The leg-spinner had to wait 4 more years to make the cut into a List A game. Yes, he was bought by Rajasthan Royals for 20 lakhs in 2014 but he has been a traveller since then, being traded from team to team. He played only seven games in his first 3 seasons in the IPL. Then he was bought for 3 crores Indian Rupees by Delhi Capitals only to play in 13 games across 2 seasons before being traded away.
Amidst all this, Tewatia never tried to run away from adversity. He never tried to play for another state where he could find a spot for his leg-spin and big hitting. Instead, he wanted to compete, win and own it. Not that he has won it already, but the fight is commendable. Already being in his prime age as a sportsman, he has not taken a shortcut despite being in danger of coming across as not ‘sorted’ as per the socially accepted standards. He still drives a Corolla, to which his dad has contributed while teens buy Range Rovers. But, for him, all the noise about being successful is shut out, just like his celebration against the Chennai Super Kings. He defines his own success.
Even the strongest fighters like Tewatia become tender at the hands of emotion that comes with the sport. March 24th, 2019, Delhi Capitals recorded a spectacular win in the season opener against a robust Mumbai Indians outfit. At the post-match team meeting, Delhi Capitals head coach, Ricky Ponting, commended the top-performers of the game as per the ritual he had introduced to the franchise. He praised Rishab Pant who had pulled off a brilliant knock with the bat, gave credit to Shikhar Dhawan and Collin Ingram for their contributions of forty-odd runs each at a moderate pace and Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada for their bowling. Ponting also added that Axar Patel would be excused for going for 42 runs in 3 overs without picking up a wicket because the conditions were unfavourable for spinners. Once Ponting was done with his speech and began to walk off, Tewatia stopped him and questioned as to why wasn’t he given the recognition for taking 4 catches in the field? All he got back was a sarcastic reply, “Boys, Tewatia took four catches and wants a pat on the back.” The dressing room burst into laughter.
That was the genuine longing for recognition from Tewatia, the innocent emotions which came out as a result of prolonged frustration. Not that he didn’t deserve it either. The left-hander scored 9 off just the 4 deliveries he faced which included a six and gave the strike more to Rishab Pant, picked up a wicket in just 1.2 overs he was granted and took four catches in the field. Only by the ones who are deprived of opportunities to prove themselves will it be understood what such an effort on the field means. How it feels to finally make an impact in a game. And, what’s wrong in asking for it? Maybe for the naturally gifted overachievers like Ponting, this may not be a note-worthy performance but for guys like Tewatia, feeling the very sense of why everyone plays the sport is golden.
Maybe he was aware of the threat of his valuable contribution with the very little space given to him going unnoticed. Because in the very next game, when Tewatia went for 20 in 2 overs and he was dropped. His replacement, Sandeep Lamichane, enjoyed the full quota of 4 overs which Tewatia did not get that entire season. The last time he bowled for Delhi Capitals he picked up the highest scorer of the match, Jonny Bairstow, and gave away only 10 runs in 3 overs. In the next game, he batted at No. 8 and remained not-out in the 2 deliveries he got, scoring 1 run. He was not given a bowl despite Lamichane going for 46 in his 4 overs in that game. The next was his last game for Delhi Capitals in which Tewatia did not bat nor did he bowl but was dropped for the rest of the season and traded away.
Maybe he had faced this so many times and saw it coming and that’s why he reminded Ponting of his little contribution.
Following the Ponting saga, Axar Patel walked up to Tewatia and mocked him saying “Who begs for recognition, bro?” Tewatia calmly replied to it with his words of wisdom, “Bro, you have to fight for what you are owed.”
How can one come back from this much of adversity? How can one make up his mind to calmly wait for the opportunity after being left out, looked upon and treated unfairly? How can one wake up every morning following a disastrous outing and say “it’s okay if I failed yesterday, I will do my best today and succeed”?
Well, that is the lesson in Rahul Tewatia’s story. He had hope, belief and faith. He had hoped that the tides would change, believed that his opportunity would come and had faith in his potential to succeed.
Even in the game where he smacked 5 sixes off Sheldon Cottrell to stage the best-ever run chase in IPL history, Tewatia was not given a chance. Sanju Samson refused to give him the strike as Tewatia kept missing the ball. But the tide did change, just in the span of an over. The tough guy believed in himself so much that he even told his captain during the strategic timeout, after digging himself deep into a hole having played 23 crucial deliveries for just 17 runs, that he still believes that he can hit 3 sixes off Mohammad Shami and 3 off Cottrell. And owing to the faith in himself, he struck 6 sixes from there on to go from zero to hero.
Just as one of his tweets from 2017 goes, “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” Certainly words to live by.