There was nothing new that Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Tewatia was struggling even to clear the 30-yard circle when the need of the hour was a bucket of sixes against Kings XI Punjab at Sharjah in the 2020 IPL. Batsmen do struggle once in a while. Who can forget Yuvraj Singh whose struggle with the bat in the 2014 World T20 final was one of the main reasons behind India’s defeat by Sri Lanka!
Fans who grew up in the 80s and 90s need no reminding what batsmen, particularly the non-powerhitters, at that time usually did when they badly struggled: more often than not they stepped out of the crease on the pretext of a swipe and got out stumped. Basically, they found one way or another to return to the dressing room.
Yuvraj though was an out-and-out power-hitter and had helped India win the 2007 World T20 and 2011 World Cup with great individual performances, so the thoughts of getting out deliberately probably never occurred to him. His 11 off 21 balls that day cost India dear and kept them at least 25-30 runs short in Dhaka.
Tewatia brought those painful memories back on Sunday — in a way. He became the butt of all jokes during the early part of his stay at the crease as he threw his bat wildly at the ball several times but the desirable connection couldn’t be made, do what he would. From TV commentators to cricket fans... everyone was having fun at his expense as the target of 224 slowly appeared impossible to reach. A commentator even went on to suggest the inclusion of a “strategic retirement” rule in case a batsman felt not up to the challenge.
However, Tewatia got 10 more balls than Yuvraj and it turned out those deliveries towards the end actually saved him from being painted as a villain. Off the last eight balls of his innings, the left-hander hit six sixes, including five off West Indies international Sheldon Cottrell in an over, before getting out for a match-winning 31-ball 53.
The one thing about Tewatia that shone all through his ordeal was his feistiness. Despite being all over the place and right in the eye of mocking criticism, he showed no desire to deliberately get out. There wasn’t a single moment when he appeared rattled and unsure of his ability to send the ball into the stands.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say he put on a mental toughness clinic, from which several players can learn — one player particularly by the name of Rishabh Pant.
No India player has been more ridiculed in the last one and a half years than Pant. First his ridiculers wanted him out and MS Dhoni back to the white-ball teams post the 2019 World Cup. Then when Dhoni announced his retirement from international cricket last month, it’s actually Sanju Samson whose case for the wicketkeeper-batsman’s role is being pressed with great fervour in the ongoing Ieague by experts and fans alike.
Pant batted well in Delhi Capitals’ first two matches and played an important hand in those wins but he got out when Delhi needed him most during last night’s encounter against Sunrisers Hyderabad. All he had to do was play out the last few deliveries from the in-form Rashid Khan’s quota and attack in the next three overs. He was circumspect before that but undid all his good effort with that ill-timed shot. With his wicket, Delhi’s all hope went down the drain.
Going forward every time Pant finds himself in a similar situation, all he needs to do is cast his mind back to Tewatia’s exploits and try inculcate those precious lessons into his approach.
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