IPL’s Never about the Kohlis & Warners. It’s the Rahul Tewatias & Ishan Kishans that Make It Special

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IPL’s Never about the Kohlis & Warners. It’s the Rahul Tewatias & Ishan Kishans that Make It Special

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

IPL 2020 has kept everyone hooked. There have been Super Overs, some fantastic hundreds, a lot of dropped catches, and some sexism. However, while previous IPLs have been defined by fireworks from powerhouses like Chris Gayle, Jasprit Bumrah, and Virat Kohli, one thing that has so far been the hallmark of this season is the rise of the underdog.

The Indian Premier League is a platform where young or relatively unknown Indian players get a chance to rub shoulders with international stars and make an impression. For many, it could be a ticket to the national side.

The tournament is not so much about Kohlis or Dhonis as much it is about the Tewatias and Kishans. And there can be no bigger proof of that theory than IPL 2020.

 Rahul Tewatia, Naam Toh Suna Hoga

Take the case of Rahul Tewatia, who has garnered a huge fan following overnight, post his heroics against the Kings XI Punjab. He was with Delhi Capitals last year and there’s a video doing the rounds where he asks Ricky Ponting to “acknowledge his four catches” during a game. Ponting does it in a mocking tone. Teammate Axar Patel taunts him, “Who asks for recognition like that bro?” Tewatia replies, “Bhai, apne haqq ke liye ladna padta hai.”

Tewatia has had a difficult journey. His T20 debut came in the IPL in 2014. Since then, he has switched teams but opportunities were scarce. He is already 27 and chances of making it to the Indian national team are growing slimmer. He has a lot riding on the few opportunities he gets. After almost six years, today, the word Tewatia has become synonymous with a comeback. His five sixes in an over, which helped his team Rajasthan Royals beat Punjab, has cemented his name in IPL history.

The Rise of the “Yorker King” 

Tewatia is not the only story worth telling this IPL. Thangarasu Natarajan is the name everyone’s saying. His string of yorkers in a pressure situation will make even Bumrah proud. But what’s even more incredible than his bowling is his road to stardom.

Natarajan could pursue cricket because of his grit and determination. His father worked as a porter at a railway station, mother as a daily wage labourer. His club in Chennai was 350 kms away from home. He had no weight training equipment and had to pull and push the wicket roller all by himself at his village in Chinnappampatti, Tamil Nadu. He played in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and that’s when he was picked for the IPL. But it wasn’t the end of his struggles.

Natarajan had warmed the bench for the entirety of the last two seasons of the League. He got a chance this time and has made the most of it, taking a wicket in each of his matches including that of Kohli. The 29-year-old from Tamil Nadu is being hailed by all as the “yorker king” today.

99 reasons to love Ishan Kishan 

Ishan Kishan’s father was admitted to the hospital on the day of the IPL auction due to high blood pressure. After securing a 6.2-crore-rupee deal, Kishan struggled to show consistency in IPL 2018. Coach Mahela Jayawardene summed up his game: “For Ishan, his emotions are way too high when he’s doing well… and then he has one bad game, he goes really low.” Many concluded that Kishan was going to squander all that talent.

The 22-year-old Mumbai Indians player was benched for the first few games of the IPL. When he finally got his moment in the middle, his team was tottering at 16-2 chasing a mammoth 202. He scored a blistering 99 and the rest, as they say, is history. Mumbai Indians went on to lose the game in the Super Over against RCB but Ishan Kishan had won hearts. His image from the dugout will stay with fans for a long long time.

Super Saini 

In the same game where Kishan flourished, it was Navdeep Saini’s brilliant Super Over that helped RCB win. Yet, it was only a few years back that Saini was playing tennis ball tournaments and earning rupees 200 per match. Former Delhi cricketer Sumit Narwal spotted him, and called on former Indian player Gautam Gambhir to have a look. Gambhir then fought with the Delhi and District Cricket Association vice president at the time, to get Saini on board. There was a time when DDCA officials were distributing pamphlets to keep him out of the team.

However, with every opportunity he got, the son of a Haryana government driver made strides, whether it was with the Delhi team, India A or the Indian national team. Today, the entire cricketing world is rooting for Navdeep Saini.

2020 has been the “worst year ever” and we are all desperate for a comeback. IPL 2020 is proving to be quite the inspiration. May we all be able to pull off a “Tewatia” in our lives.

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