Exclusive: That Sharjah match will always be special for me, says Rahul Tewatia

Rahul Tewatia hit five sixes in an over at a stadium famous for Tendulkar’s ‘Desert Storm’

Rahul Tewatia’s road to the Indian Premier League (IPL) success was long and winding. Having begun his journey in 2014, the Haryana all-rounder remained on the fringes with none of his stints at the Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Capitals and Kings XI Punjab (now known as Punjab Kings) producing profound results.

But after being brought back by the Royals, Tewatia’s fortunes changed last year in Sharjah.

Chasing 223 against Kings XI Punjab, the Royals lost their way after Tewatia, who grew up admiring the effortless six-hitting ability of Yuvraj Singh, laboured to 8 off 19 balls. With the team needing 51 off 18 balls, Tewatia found his mojo, hitting Sheldon Cottrell for five sixes in the 18th over to set the tone for the most dramatic win in IPL history.

That Sharjah knock proved the catalyst for Tewatia’s rise as he finished the 2020 IPL season with 255 runs and 10 wickets, eventually earning his maiden India call-up for the England T20I series earlier this year.

During an exclusive interview with Khaleej Times, the 28-year-old all-rounder says UAE will always hold a special place in his heart.

Q. You are back in UAE now for the remaining IPL matches. It was here last year that your performances earned you national recognition…

It feels great to be back in UAE. When I came here with the Rajasthan Royals last year, I had a great tournament. So you always feel positive about coming back to a place where you have done well in the past. That gives you a lot of confidence.

Q. A lot of big RR foreign players are missing this time. The responsibility on you will be even bigger. Are you prepared for the challenge?

Absolutely. My responsibilities became bigger in the team ever since I started doing well last year in UAE. I have a big role to play in the lower middle order as a finisher. That’s a big responsibility. Yes, we are missing some big players, but at the same time, we have got some very good replacement players. So the absence of some big players hasn’t really bothered us that much to be honest. The team that we have got now, is our best team. All the players in the team are capable of playing well and that’s why they are playing in the IPL.

Q. Tabraiz Shamsi’s arrival will strengthen the Royals’ spin attack. You are a leg-spinner and he’s a left-arm-spinner. Are you looking forward to bowling with him?

That depends on the team management on what combinations they want to play and who they want to play. But yes, he is the world’s number one spinner in T20 international cricket, so it’s great to have him in our Rajasthan Royals team. I am looking forward to working with him in tandem. I have spoken to him a lot during the training sessions. No doubt, he is a great addition to our squad.

Q. Your fearless approach to cricket is so amazing to watch. Have you been always a fearless player, right from the junior cricket days?

Yes, I have always been fearless in cricket, especially when it comes to batting. I have never been in two minds while batting. But yes, I also play according to situations because you have to be smart as well. You have to be able to make the right decisions at the right time.

Q. The Royals have a lot of talented young Indian players…

The Royals are always famous for giving opportunities to young players. They not only give you a chance but they back you and they give you that confidence. They let you express yourself so you can play freely. Even if you fail, they back you 100 per cent. That kind of backing is very important for youngsters. So when I returned to Rajasthan Royals, they gave me this role and they said they would back me to get the runs in the lower middle-order. So giving youngsters a chance and backing them is very important and the Royals have been doing that every year.

Q. Finally, we have to ask you this. You famously hit five sixes off Sheldon Cottrell in one over at Sharjah during that dramatic match. Was it the greatest moment of your life?

Yes, that kind of match if you get to play, obviously it becomes very memorable. In India, Sharjah is famous for Sachin Tendulkar. You know he hit those great centuries against Australia (The Desert Storm in 1998). So to go to that same ground, and hit those five sixes to help the Royals win that match, is obviously one of the sweetest memories of my life. That Sharjah match will always be special for me. I will never forget that.


Rituraj Borkakoty

A big fan of the Argentina national football team, Rituraj generally writes on sports. But he deeply cherishes the time he spent with his favourite musician from Assam, India, for an interview. And he loves to bring human interest stories to Khaleej Times readers.

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