Rahul Tewatia's explosive batting in the ongoing IPL 2020 may have come as a surprise to many but those who have played with him for long know what he is capable of.
Tewatia played with a fractured foot in a Dehradun Gold Cup tournament, immediately after last year's IPL for his office team and smashed 197 against a strong Food Corporation of India (FCI) team that included the likes of Rishi Dhawan, who has played for the national team.
Praveen Thapar, who is a former Delhi Ranji player and captains the Income Tax Department team that Tewatia plays for, told IANS: "He (Tewatia) was hit by a yorker on the right foot during a game and suffered a hairline fracture. Our next match was against FCI and he didn't want to play. He kept saying 'I can't'.
"We insisted, saying he doesn't need to run but just bat. After much reluctance, he went on to bat and struggled initially as it was painful. He took singles only when the ball went deep and didn't take doubles.
"After the first five overs, when I went in, he said he couldn't continue. I told him to take it five overs at a time.
"He managed to get to his fifty and told me he couldn't continue. I pressed on. With 50 in the basket, he changed gears, starting to play his shots. His second fifty came in just 15-20 deliveries. Once he reached 100 in the 22nd over, he said he couldn't continue as the pain got aggravated. But I asked him to try another five overs, and then another five overs. He carried on. Unfortunately, when he was on 197, he went for a scoop and was brilliantly caught at short fine-leg. The shot was certain to fetch him a four or a double but the fielder plucked it out of thin air," added Thapar.
Thapar recalls another match played last year in December when Tewatia injured his hand during a tournament in Faridabad. The 27-year-old was struggling to bowl, with split webbing on little finger, but still bowled and picked three wickets, overshadowing better-known India players like Yuzvendra Chahal, Jayant Yadav and Aniket Chaudhary, who are his teammates at I-T department.
Thapar has seen Tewatia since he was 14 and also got him to play for Delhi's Malviya Club. "We'd use him at the top of the batting and he knew how to exploit the field restrictions."
Tewatia has been playing DDCA league since 2007-08. He was on stipend with ONGC back then.
Tewatia's childhood coach Vijay Yadav, a former India wicketkeeper, tells IANS, "He was always a graceful batsman but somehow players do get into the mould where they want to specialise in one thing. He always considered himself a leg-spinner and focused more on bowling. But then he began to take his batting seriously when he saw he will move forward only with it. Besides, his leg-spin wasn't of the quality of other two Haryana spinners (Yuzvendra) Chahal and (Amit) Mishra. So, I told him to focus on batting. I told him that only batting will take him ahead. For Haryana, I always saw him getting key runs and wickets. In 2016-17, we used him as a batsman for Haryana in shorter formats."
Tewatia went to Yadav's academy ground ahead of this season's IPL as there were no other grounds available due to Covid-19 and asked him to call players (including Nitish Rana) and started practising big, long shots. That was the focus. "I think if he had got opportunities to bat with Delhi Capitals or with Kings XI Punjab, he may have played this way earlier too," adds Yadav.
Yadav has a point as this IPL season, Tewatia has so far faced 124 balls in which he has scored 189 runs. In the previous five seasons, he got to face only 89 deliveries (in which he got 111 runs).
Shafiq Khan, a former Haryana Ranji player who has seen Tewatia play in Faridabad from early days, says it is the IPL that has raised the latter's confidence levels. "I think his confidence in batting went to a new level once he joined Rajasthan Royals in 2014."