Exclusive Interview : I am training very hard & confident of making it to the Test team says Manoj Tiwary : It was a bright and sunny morning on 24th May 2015. The temperature was soaring at closer to 37 degrees Celsius, a very normal situation by Kolkata standards.
Mumbai Indians were to take on Chennai Super Kings in the Final of IPL 2015 at Eden Gardens, late in the evening.
I walked into Kalighat Club, not far from Eden Gardens, around 1130 hours and could see kids as young as 12 years of age, slogging it out at the nets. These were the ‘Sachins, Sehwags, Dravids’ in the making.
The coach, standing behind the net was shouting instructions at the young ones and correcting their flaws as and even needed.
A little further down, the big boys were going through the grind in this sweltering heat.
At a time when we all would normally want to stay indoors in the confines of an air-conditioned atmosphere, sipping down our favourite beverage, these guys were literally draining themselves out.
I walked towards the big boys. I found the person I was looking for. He saw me and signalled me to wait for a few moments while he finished his practice.
Around 12 noon, I saw the 178 cm huge frame walking towards a diminutive frame of mine.
Manoj Kumar Tiwary, 29 years of age, extended his well-chiselled hand towards me for a customary hand shake.
Since he had just finished his slog at the nets, we thought of sitting in the comforts of the air-conditioned changing room. Unfortunately the changing room was occupied by the youngsters who had returned from practice and also those who would be going in.
We then decided to settle down in the open portico. I would really appreciate the gesture of Manoj to sit in the open area even while wiping out the sweat with the pink coloured Turkish.
After customary exchange of pleasantries, we got down to ‘business’.
My posers to him:
- You are just back from your IPL outing. How has your experience been in IPL 2015?
Not much to say. Not really a good experience. I played only 5 games. Game against KKR did not go well. We should have won the KKR match. We were pushed to No 7 in the points table.
We have let our franchisee and the fans down terribly. We really feel bad about it.
(For the sake of statistics, Tiwari had played in just 5 matches in IPL 2015, remaining Not Out once, scoring 57 runs with 32 as the highest, averaging 28.50 at a strike rate of 101.78)
- You were initially signed for DD in 2008. Then you were exchanged for Moises Henriques and you moved to KKR in 2010 and remained in KKR till 2013. DD bought you again in 2014. Where was it comfortable for you, KKR or DD, given the team composition and your own batting position?
It all depends on the team management comprising of the coaches and captains how they manage their players.
First year I had no complaints, second year I broke my finger and missed the season.
For this switch over, I had to sacrifice Rs 3 million. I did not mind. I was looking for a better utilisation of my talents.
- You normally bat a No 4. Would you like try the opening slot or are you more comfortable with the middle order?
I can bat at any number, in any position. I am not possessive about No 4. As a professional cricketer you should be ready to bat at any position, in the interests of the team.
- How do you actually feel, if you are fully fit but have to just sit in the dugout and not get a game to play?
I feel angry. Feel disappointed. Feel like punching something. It’s the same with all the cricketers. If you are fully fit and raring to go, but you don’t get an opportunity and if you have to warm the bench, it is really frustrating.
- You featured only in 5 games this season. Do you think you were overlooked by the team management?
This is what I said earlier. It all depends on the coach/es and the captain how a player is utilised. The team management needs to know the potential of player and use him in the proper manner.
- Being in KKR, you got a number of chances to go out and express yourself. 2011 has been your best season. You had scored 359 runs in 15 games at a very healthy average of 51.28 with 61* as your highest score. This is your best average, thus far in IPL. In your four year tenure in KKR you had featured in 54 games. But being in DD you had featured only in 24 games in the same four year period. Do you think your talent has been underutilised?
Yes, the then skipper of KKR, Saurav Ganguly, knew my potential and provided me the opportunities to go and express myself. 2011 was a very successful outing for me. Again I would say that the team management need to understand the player’s potential and use him accordingly.
Just having the statistics does not necessarily mean a sure chance in the Playing XI. The combination has to be correct.DD could not get the combination right and so we suffered big time.
- You are a leg-spinner. Is your bowling being taken seriously? You have not bowled much in IPL. In fact in the 78 IPL games you played, you have bowled only 9 overs in all and taken just one wicket. Do you think your bowling efforts have been underutilised? Can you not be the surprise bowler that a captain would be looking for?
Leg spin is a difficult art. Leg spinners go for big runs but they get you wickets also. Yes, as a bowler, I have been underutilised.
This season I practised off-spin. But just practising for a short period it would be difficult to go and bowl in match situations.
Yes I could have been the surprise bowler but the captain needs to think so. Captain needs to take risk. You cannot just follow a set pattern. You need to look around and see who could do the job for you.
Yuvi is a great and effective bowler. He was also not fully utilised. Duminy has bowled well and picked up good number of wickets. But he did not even utilise himself fully.
(For the numbers sake, Manoj, in all the 8 editions of IPL has featured in 78 matches scoring 1,324 runs with 75*as the highest score at an average of 28.78 and a strike rate of 113.25. He has 5 half-centuries to his credit)
- You are being termed as the most unlucky man in Indian cricket. Do you agree?
No. I don’t consider myself to be unlucky. On the contrary I consider myself to be very lucky to have reached the level that I am now. When I started to play cricket, I never thought I would make it this big. I never thought I would ever be known.
Coming from an ordinary middle-class family it has always been a dream for me to be a cricketer. Saurav Ganguly was a great inspiration for me.
We were financially challenged when I started to play the game. With a very meagre salary, my father had to take care of a big family and provide for my cricket also.
He had taken huge loans to make both ends meet. I always wanted to do well in cricket and help my father financially.
Many discouraged me from playing cricket. They all wanted me to take up a job and settle. But my parents and other family members strongly stood by me and supported me.
My first match fee was Rs 1,200 and I thought if I could play five matches then I would get a tidy sum and help our family.
(For the numbers sake, Tiwari commanded an auction price of Rs 2.8 crores in IPL 2014 and picked up by Delhi Daredvils)
- In 2006-07 Ranji season you scored 796 runs at a very impressive average of 99.50. You got selected to the tour of Bangladesh. Everyone thought and expected you to don the Indian colours. Unfortunately you injured your shoulder in the fielding practice and returned home. Did you over stretch yourself in the excitement of India debut? How did you overcome the disappointment at that point of time?
Yes the expectation was that I would definitely make my debut but unfortunately that injury happened. It was a fielding practice session. There was a light drizzle. I always enjoyed fielding sessions.
(Manoj enjoying fielding session is the testimony of him being a great fielder)
I fell over the chest and got stuck. It was very difficult to even get up. Yes that was a great opportunity lost.
- Your moment of debut arrived in 2008 in Brisbane. You had a tough time against Brett Lee. How tough was it to face Lee in Australian conditions? You need to deal with a tough playing condition that is much different than that in the subcontinent. You need to face real pace bowlers. You need to face the Aussie sledging. How do you cope with it?
It was very difficult. I was going to play in a hostile condition. I was beating the jet lag. It was difficult to face Brett Lee. Yes I struggled.
- You scored your maiden ODI century in Chennai against West Indies in Oct/Nov 2011. You went in to bat at the score of 1 for the loss of 2 wickets. Rahane and Parthiv Patel got out on duck. You went and joined Gambhir in the middle. You were as good as an opener in that match. You had a partnership of 82 runs with Gambhir for the third wicket and a solid partnership of 117 runs with Virat Kohli. You scored 104 runs from 144 deliveries with 10 fours and a six. You had to retire hurt due to cramps. You ensured that India put up a decent total. India eventually went on to win the match. You were honoured with the MoM award. How was it to score the maiden century and make it count? A century for the team’s winning cause?
I would like to thank Virendra Sehwag for this. It is he who wanted chance to be given to youngsters, the series having been won 3-1.
This was a great opportunity for me. I went into bat with India in a precarious position. Rahane and Parthiv had got out on zero. I went in virtually as an opener to partner Gambhir.
I was suffering from cramps At my personal score of 85, my mind was blank. I wanted to retire. But again this was a godsend opportunity for me to score big and make a mark.
I did not want to give up. But on reaching 104, I felt I could not continue anymore and thought I would collapse. So I retired. But then I was sure that we were in a safe position.
(For the sake of record, India, batting first, scored 267 for 6 in 50 overs with Tiwari contributing 104 (126 balls, 4×20, 6×1, 82.53 SR) and Virat Kohli scoring 80 (85 balls, 4×5, 94.11 SR). India went on to win the match by 34 runs. Manoj was awarded the MoM)
- Inspite of this efforts, you were benched for the next fourteen games. How did you come to terms with that situation?
Difficult, it is very difficult to cope up with. I am still trying to find an answer. Why I was not preferred, I really don’t know.
(For the record, Manoj has featured in 9 ODIs, remained Not Out once, scored 253 runs with 104* as the highest score at an average of 31.62 with a strike rate of 76.66. He has one century and one half century. He also taken 5 wickets with 4/61 best at an average of 28.80 and an economy rat of 6.85. He has taken 4w once).
- You had successful Emerging Player series Down Under in 2011. You scored a magnificent 188 in a three-day match against NZ and good 59 against Australian Institute of Sport. You also did well in the T20 games. This performance got you in Team India squad to England in 2011. You went as a replacement for injured Rohit Sharma. You got a chance to play only in the second ODI and you scored 11 runs. That was a truncated match of 23 5overs, due to rain. But you came down the order and not in your customary position of No 4. Did this affect you?
No. I was willing to play at any position. It was unfortunate that the game got curtailed due to rain and I could not get many overs to play. In fact I got just about 7 deliveries to play and scored 11 runs.
(For the record this was the second ODI played at Southampton. Match was curtailed to 23 overs. Manoj coming in at No 7 came in at the fall of Dhoni’s wicket in the 21st over. He scored 11 runs that contained a boundary. India scored 187 in 23 overs but lost the match by seven wickets).
- How much is Ranji Trophy performance important for a player to get a slot in the national team?
Performance in the Ranji Trophy is very vital for any player to stake a claim in the national side. Its very crucial. It prepares you physically and temperamentally. So it’s that a player goes through the grinds in the Ranji
(At this stage, Manoj calls for ice cream to be served to both of us……Magnum Chocolata. A good gesture on his part to do so)
These days Ranji games are being played on green tops. It is not always easy to score big. But on a placid track like that in Rajkot, one can score a century, a double or even a triple century. But what is the use of such a performance.
However, in any case Ranji grind is a must.
- Do you think IPL performance has taken precedence and pushed Ranji to the back seat?
Yes initially it did. Some players have emerged out of IPL. But quite a few have been one season wonders. It’s now back to Ranji again. That’s the platform for launching a player and one has to go through the rigors of Ranji Trophy.
(For the records Manoj made his First Class debut 2004 against Delhi. Since then he has featured in 78 matches scoring 5,709 runs with 267 as the highest score at an average of 53.85. He has 19 centuries and 20 half centuries to his credit. He has also taken 76 catches. He has taken 20 wickets with 2/38 being the best bowling performance.
List A debut in 2004 against Delhi. Having played in 12 matches he has amassed 3,697 runs with 151 being the individual best at an average of 40.62. He has three centuries and 28 half centuries to his credit and has taken 62 catches. He has taken 30 wickets with 4/61 as the best performance).
- You made your first class debut in 2004. We are in 2015. You are yet to make your debut in tests. How has been you journey?
My journey has been an interesting one. Maybe I could write a book and that would sell like hot cakes. I would give full credit to my parents who stood solidly by my side, supported and encouraged me. There were quite a few distracters. But my parents stood firmly behind me. I am what I am solely because of them and their support.
We never had an easy life. As I said earlier, with a very meagre income my father had to take care of our education, run the house and also to provide for my passion, cricket.
Money (or the lack of it) made me completely focussed on my cricket and I wanted to excel, earn money from cricket and support my father. I am glad I have been able to do it.
- Yours has been a ‘start stop’ career. You have missed many opportunities due to injuries. In other times you find yourself in the squad but don’t make it to the Playing XI since somebody else gets the nod. Players like Kohli, Raina, Rohit, Jadeja, Rahane, Dhawan have all been able to cement their place in the team but you are still struggling. At 29, where do you see yourself in times to come?
(Smiles) Yes. Mine has been a start-stop career. But what else could I do. I have been doing well in the domestic circuit, of course 2014-15 has not been a great season for me, I have done reasonably well in the limited international chances that came my way, you can check the stats, playing in India A team, I have done well against all overseas teams that have come to India.
What more can I do. I can only train hard, practice hard and perform well in the chances that come my way. Rest is not in my hands. I still do not know why I was dropped after the century knock.
Recall the case of Maravan Attapattu.
(For the record, Attapattu on debut in Test scored duck in both innings. He was dropped. He went to FC and score runs. After 21 months he was given a second chance. He scored 0 and 1 in the test. He was dropped again. He went back to the FC grind. After 17 months he got a third chance. He scored 0 in both the innings. He was dropped. He went back to FC grind. Three years later he got his fourth chance. This time he came good and scored runs. Later he went on to score more than 5,000 runs and even went on to captain Sri Lanka)
- Do you look at yourself playing Test match for the country? With Virat being the captain of the test team and occupying the No 4 slot, how much of a chance do you stand?
Definitely I can. I am training hard, I am practising hard. Yes I am confident I would definitely make it to the test team. Let us not forget about Mike Hussey who made his test debut at the age of 30.
- You have been idolising Kevin Pietersen and trying to follow his style of batting. You prefer the ‘front foot’ technique and attacking the bowler by charging down the wicket. Has it been a boon or a bane for you?
Well, not exactly idolising him. I love his approach towards the bowlers. He would want to dominate all the bowlers and not allow them to settle. It’s the same with me. I always want to be ‘one up’ on the bowlers and attack them. I would not want them to settle.
But yes such a thing is not always possible and I know the defensive game also.
- You are called ‘chota dada’ as much as Saurav Ganguly being called ‘dada’ worldwide. How much do you enjoy the adulation and do you think you will also be able to carve a niche for you like Ganguly and make successful comeback in Team India?
Yes I like it. I really love the way people recognise me. But it would be very unfair to compare me with Dada. Saurav has been my greatest inspiration. I have been seeing him play from my childhood days.
I also know the situation in which he took over charge of Indian team and the kind of success he has been able to give to the team.
It was very unfortunate for him to be dropped. I have myself seen how hard he used to train and practice with the only intention of getting back into the team and what a comeback he made in South Africa.
Dada had always inspired me. Even now he keeps on telling me what to do and what not to do. I take his advices very, very seriously.
- You have been the pillar of Bengal cricket after Saurav Ganguly. How do you plan to take Bengal cricket forward? What do you think needs to be done to convert Bengal into a ‘powerful’ cricket team and make them count?
I want to take it as high as possible. I want to take it to No 1 position in domestic circuit. It is possible. We have the kind of players to achieve that. You might it happening in the coming season. Please keep a close watch.
- How much of an impact the coaches, be it Mohinder Amarnath or WV Raman have had on your batting skills?
Oh coaches are a great help. They all help in their own way. They all teach you. They all have only to give you. They don’t want to take anything from you. They are only givers.
Be it Binny Sir (Roger Binny), Raman Sir (Woorkeri Venkat Raman), Paras Sir (Paras Mambhrey), Mohinder Sir (Mohinder Amarnath) they all have helped me in improving my batting in their own way.
I am really thankful and indebted to my coach Manabendo Sir (Manabendo Ghosh) who has been instrumental in training since my young days and he has always been with me whenever I needed him.
- Would you be looking forward to be a part of T20 squad, more so since the tournament will be in the sub continent.
Why not? Definitely.
- Are you worried that your domestic performances are not being given due consideration?
(Some kind of disappointment seen in his eyes) Yes definitely. Check my statistics. Don’t they show that I know to play the game? Yes my domestic performance should be a yard stick of my abilities and talent. I want to use the talent given to me by God and serve the country as long as possible.
- How much have you been working on the fitness? What regime do you follow? How important is weight training? How much of cardio work you do in a week? What diet regime do you follow?
It is actually decided by my fitness trainer. He keeps a tab on my weight and based on that he prescribes me the workout, diet regime etc. I follow it 100%. I am physically fit. Injury is not something linked to fitness. Anyone can pick up an injury any time. But I am absolutely fit.
- What is your advice relating to fitness for budding cricketers?
Work hard, work hard and ultimately work hard. Be focussed. Don’t give in to distractions. There are too many distractions. Stay away from them and be focussed. Don’t go through the training just for the sake of it. Stick to your purpose. This is the most important thing.
- Have I missed out any questions? Would you want to ask me anything?
No you have covered everything.
- Any message for your huge fan following?
Have faith in me and keep supporting me. I promise I will never let you guys down.
- Wish you best luck for the coming season and hope to see you back in ODIs sooner than later.
Thank you so much
There was a small crowd of youngsters waiting to take his autograph and also selfies with him. He obliged all of them with a big grin.
I was wondering, well here is a guy who has done reasonably well in the limited opportunities that came his way.
As he rightly said, what else could he do. He can only train hard, perform well at every available opportunity.
Now the questions that come up are:
- Whether Manoj Tiwari has not been given due recognition for his talents?
- Should he not be given a longer rope?
- Has the selection committee been fair to him?
- Why was he ignored post his century in 2011 against WI?
At a time when player like Rohit Sharma has been awarded chances galore inspite of repeated failures unless Dhoni came up with the idea of promoting Rohit to the opening slot in the Champions Trophy 2014 and Rohit clicked.
In the present situation also Ravindra Jadeja who has not done anything significant in the trination series and World Cup 2015, Down Under and also in IPL 2015, gets the nod to tour Bangladesh next month, but Manoj Tiwari is left to slog out in the nets.
Has the selection process been fair?
Post my discussion with Manoj, while I walk out of Kalighat Club, I cannot but recall the kind of struggle, these guys have to go through, the sacrifice they had to make, the insinuations they had to face over the years to reach the level, thry have reached.
My respect to these guys went up few notches.