Interview with Manoj Tiwary: "If opportunity comes, I am ready for it"
Indian cricket’s unlucky one, injury’s favorite child or perennially benched. There are many ways that Manoj Tiwary is described by those who know little about the competitiveness in the Indian cricketing circle. But for those who know the game, and know what it takes to reach the top – Tiwary is the epitome of toughness. From the struggles of a humble beginning to the highs of personal triumph, from the hopelessness of injury to the joy of wearing the blue jersey, Tiwary has seen it all.
As he embarks on the challenging path of making a return to the Indian cricket team, in a brutally honest conversation, he opens up about the Indian Premier League, the consequences of never getting an extended run in the national team, factors that shape the public perceptions about cricketers and his ambitions for the near future.
Manoj, it’s great to have you here on SportsKeeda. We would love to kick start this interview with your thoughts on how this season of the Indian Premier League panned out for you.
There’s not much to talk about, as you know, I got an opportunity to bat only on two occasions – both the innings being against the Knight Riders. I was very happy with my contribution in the first game, where I top scored for my team. But I wasn’t too pleased with my effort in the second game that I played in Kolkata, where I opened the innings. I could have made more out of that opportunity, scored big and made my team win.
In fact, you were timing the ball pretty well in the first outing against Kolkata at the Kotla, however, in the second game at the Eden Gardens, you were having difficulties in connecting your shots. Was the pitch slow? What was the difficulty?
See the reason was that I am not too used to opening the innings, and that played a role because in T20s you don’t get much time to settle down. Apart from this adjustment issue, there was scoreboard pressure – so I had to go for quick runs. But we must give credit to them for the way they bowled, they played four spinners apart from Umesh [Yadav] and [Andre] Russell, and bowled in the right areas. We were in a position where we could have won the match, but unfortunately, couldn’t.
The reason I started off with these questions Manoj, is because somewhere deep down you might feel that your two stints with the Delhi Daredevils have been disappointing. If you remember, first season, back in 2008 – you just batted in seven innings, and were part of a line-up that had the top order of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan and AB de Villiers. You hardly got a chance to bat then. Last season, you got a few games, but you were shuffled constantly. In the three seasons at Delhi, you have around 300 odd runs, whereas, in your four years at Kolkata, you have over a 1000 runs – so how would you contrast the experiences of playing with these two outfits?
Well, you know, it’s also got to do with the opportunity one gets to play in three or four games at a stretch. Obviously, when that happens, one doesn’t take extra mental baggage while going out to bat. But, when a player does well in one innings and surprisingly gets dropped next game onwards – it alters the thought process. It’s not easy, to be honest. It’s very difficult to explain to yourself where you went wrong especially when you played well in the previous game. It’s a question you have to train yourself to react to, and that’s irrespective of your experience in domestic cricket. When I was in Kolkata, I played for four years…
…and you got the number four batting position, regularly.
Yes, initially, I did. The reason I decided to make the shift from Delhi to Kolkata [in 2010] was because I wanted to bat higher up the order. I wanted to play as many matches as I could, and ended up playing some match winning knocks for my team.
Apart from Brendon McCullum, who is a big name, you were perhaps the only other regular from the Kolkata team, who was brought back into the squad in 2011, after the major reshuffle happened post 2010.
Yes, you are right.
So Manoj, while your Kolkata stint was quite successful in years 2010, 2011 and 2012. What happened in 2013? Your form dipped, your place in the batting order was constantly altered. And then, mid-season, there was this mysterious tweet from your Twitter handle that suggested that it was the worst day in your cricketing career. Could you shed some light on all this?
See, what happened, as I mentioned – no matter how much one has played, it is always difficult to adjust when one is dropped after playing well, or if one’s batting position is shifted all the time. It’s not easy because as a batsman, you go in to the match with a particular mindset. However, if you are told to bat lower down all of a sudden, and while I acknowledge that it is completely for the benefit of the team, it becomes difficult for the individual at times. In 2013, I batted at different positions all throughout, and it eventually became a challenge [that] I couldn’t overcome. Like every other player, I wanted to be the hero for my team, and was giving more than my hundred percent on the field. I even ended up cutting the webbing of my palm while attempting a difficult catch, in that very season.
As a result of my injury, I couldn’t play the next few games. After I was fit, and the physio gave me the green signal to play in Mumbai, historically, a place where I have done well – I wanted to play the game badly. But the team management thought I should take some more rest, I was very surprised to know about this, especially when the physio and I had practiced a lot the day before. I just couldn’t take it into my stride.
Also, honestly, I didn’t tweet anything. Somebody hacked into my account. Events transpired in such a manner that I was made to look like the person who tweeted it and followed it up with a damage control tweet. My phone was hacked. You know a lot of people always try to pull you down, no matter what, by doing a lot of tricks – like putting up wrong statuses and stuff.
It’s common these days, in all walks of life, people try to take advantage of your vulnerabilities…
That is exactly what happened, in a competitive environment like in India, wherever you go, there are multiple people who want to take advantage of you. So you have to be very careful. That season was a setback for me, as the Knight Riders lost confidence in my abilities and I was not retained. And what hurts is that it’s not just about me [that I was released]. It’s about the local Indian players, from around the cities that the franchises are based out of, who don’t get much chance in the Indian Premier League. This tournament was launched just to promote Indian talent, from youngsters to players in national reckoning. But unfortunately, I am seeing that we are drifting away from our main purpose of promoting young talent.
I keep hearing Shoaib Akhtar echoing the same sentiments on TV, and he is bang on target. My take is that if more players from what was earlier known as catchment areas, keep getting opportunities to perform in maximum number of games, I think it would help Indian cricket.