It is safe to say that Manoj Tiwary has been one of the greatest cricketers from Bengal. Post the Sourav Ganguly era, he was seen as the beacon of hope for Bengal’s batting. Moreover, he went on to play for India as well.
As far as his international career is concerned, he made his debut for India in 2008 against Australia at the Gabba. Besides, Manoj Tiwary went on to be a regular face in the Indian Premier League and played as many as 85 games in the biggest T20 league in the world. His cameo in the IPL 2012 final is something that the fans cherish even today. He has played for several teams such as the Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals), Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) and Rising Pune Supergiant.
Despite announcing his retirement from cricket last year, it didn’t take too long for the 38-year-old to revoke his decision. He had revealed his plan of playing another season for Bengal, and giving everything for his state team. In addition to his cricket career, Manoj Tiwary is also a successful politician, and is currently the Minister of State for Youth Services and Sports of West Bengal.
He joined Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress party in 2021 and as a result, is currently the sports minister of his state. A domestic legend, an IPL champion, a former international cricketer and a politician as well! It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Tiwary is a successful cricketer and politician. The veteran recently had a chat with Arvind Kalyana Krishnan. During the interview, he spoke about the early days of his career, and some special moments from the same. Further on, Tiwary drew light on the current state of affairs on the Indian team, as well as some of the rising talents in the domestic and international arena. Below is Arvind Kalyana Krishnan’s interview with Manoj Tiwary.
You’ve played several outstanding knocks in your career, be it domestic, international or the IPL, which is your personal favourite knock as of now?
Yes yes obviously I do have a personal favourite knock. It was my hundred against the West Indies while playing for my country. Had won the man of the match award for that knock too. That was my best knock.
You’ve shared the dressing room with several legends of the game, could you draw light on a specific memory where you were starstruck/thrilled while playing with a certain cricketer for the first time?
Yeah Sachin Tendulkar of course. Sachin Tendulkar and even Sourav Ganguly. Sourav Ganguly because he’s from the same state as me. When I played for Bengal during the Ranji for the first time, and when I used to go to the ground….I mean it’s an obvious thing that I always wanted to play alongside Ganguly. I went on to play with him as well, and managed to get starstruck. Even as a youngster, I’ve watched several games at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. After that I went on to play with Ganguly a lot and after continuously playing with him in the Ranji, I remember playing a Ranji Trophy final against Mumbai, and saw Sachin Tendulkar in the opponent team and that too in a final. So when I saw Tendulkar in the final….I mean most of our generations chose cricket because of him. They played cricket after watching Tendulkar. So I was starstruck during that match. So yeah, we played that match and performed well in that match too. So yeah these are some memories that will always be remembered. Not only was I starstruck but with god’s grace, I’ve even played well whenever I’ve played against him.
In your opinion which are the best talents going around in cricket? Any youngster that has managed to impress you? Any youngsters in domestic and international cricket that have a bright future according to you?
Well there’s this player from Andhra Pradesh. His name is Shaikh Rasheed. In fact, we recently had a match against Andhra so I saw him bat for the first time. Although he scored some 32-odd runs but it looks like he has a lot of potential. He impressed me, and in the future I feel that he can play for India, and even play well for India. That’s of course if he’s on the right track. Like if he remains disciplined and trains properly. Our Abhimanyu Easwaran is another one. He’s from our (Bengal) team. So yeah there’s Shaikh Rasheed and Abhimanyu Easwaran and since the season has just begun, we’ll certainly be seeing several other talented players in domestic cricket.
As for International cricket, Shubman Gill can’t be called a youngster anymore as he’s been playing for several years now and has already established himself. Harry Brook is one of my favourite cricketers from the current lot. And I really like this player Rachin Ravindra. Love watching him bat. He’s pure class. Like Harry Brook and Rachin Ravindra are there. As I said, Gill isn’t a youngster and has already established himself. Well Cameron Green is good no doubt but I feel he’s meant for the shorter formats only. So I’d say, Harry Brook and Rachin Ravindra.
Thoughts on India’s chances in the upcoming ICC T20 WC 2024?
It’s gonna be very challenging for India in the upcoming World Cup is what I feel. It’s not going to be easy. However, India has the capacity and ability to win the World Cup. This is provided they persist with the players who want to play the tournament. Like the preparations should start now and there shouldn’t be too many changes in the team. Also, all the players should be available to play all the games. Like all the players that play the WC need to play all the games and series’ like this series against Afghanistan and even the IPL. The more they play the better prepared will India be as a team. There’s a lot of things actually, I mean to win a trophy you need to persist with a squad and select an XI perfectly based on the pitch conditions and stick to the XI.
In fact, we (India) did very well in the ODI WC in 2023 and were consistent throughout the tournament. We only faltered towards the end. You can say that several “external factors” played in the minds that led to the debacle in the finals…..Which I believe. But yes, learning from your mistakes is what you should do, like learn from the mistakes you made in the 2023 ODI WC and ensure that they don’t repeat it in the 2024 T20 WC. You’ve got to pick players who are in form, rather than going with the big names, I don’t think that’s gonna help the cause. Whosoever plays well in the tournaments prior to the WC should be picked is what I think, and they should be backed.
And see this competition between players and competition for spots…..It will be there forever. It is not like there’s ever gonna be “no competition” as India is one of the most populated countries in the world and cricket is a religion in India and is very popular. It gives you fame, money and a lot of other things. So more kids are getting into cricket, which means that more talents are coming on a daily basis.
Sometimes it’s quite unfair to the players who are not been seen on the television despite the talent. But yes, slowly slowly the T20 leagues and regional T20 games are helping players to come up and be seen on the television. So no matter how talented you are, there’s always going to be competition in the Indian team……Till cricket remains. But for the selectors and captain it is important to pick the right players and who have the ability to adjust according to the format and can play selfless cricket, which contributes to the success of the team rather than performances that satisfy their own causes and guarantees them a place in the team. This means that a player needs to have the ability to bat anywhere in the batting order when he represents the country. You cannot be just a specialist opener. Now in today’s day and age as well as in the future, you need players who can adhere to the team’s requirements. If the individual has to bat it the middle-order, then he needs to do that. Only then will you see the changes.