Exclusive interview with Manoj Tiwaryy
EXCLUSIVE: 'I still dream of playing for India' - Manoj Tiwary
He hails from Bengal. When he was in his teens, he was great at both football and cricket. In the end, however, he chose cricket because it was a better option to get his family out of financial trouble. People still call him ‘Chota Dada’ as he represents Bengal like Sourav Ganguly does.
Yes, we are talking about none other than Manoj Tiwary. After a bit of scouring here and there, I finally managed to contact him. I was a bit nervous in the beginning; after all, this is a man I first watched on TV even before my voice broke.
He, however, calmed me down with his frank nature and humble demeanour. People say that he is very soft-spoken and down-to-earth and I realized that first-hand while speaking to him. This is a man whose name is known in all of Bengal. This is a man who has represented India on an international level and also has an ODI century to his name.
And yet, I didn’t find a single ounce of ego in him.
After playing just a game in the Dhaka Premier League with Gazi Group, Manoj Tiwary had to leave because, in his words, "I got selected here in the India B team to play in a tournament called Deodhar trophy, which is played between India A, India B and the winners of Vijay Hazare trophy. So I had to report here in Dharamsala, that’s why [I had to leave]."
In a phone conversation, he spoke in details when answering the questions that I asked him. The more he spoke, the more relaxed I was—he induced that in me with his composed words. He wasn’t a one-word-answer type of a person and he expounded his cricketing knowledge all throughout the interview, which you can read below…
Cricfrenzy (Cf): How are you?
Manoj Tiwary (MT): I am fine and you?
Cf: I am fine, too… So the first question: What is the difference between the domestic cricket of India and Bangladesh?
MT: I have played only two games [in the Dhaka Premier League]. This year, I have played only one game and few years back I played one game for Abahani Club. Obviously, the difference in conditions is there for sure. The conditions are pretty humid in Bangladesh and it becomes very difficult for any cricketer. It is also a bit challenge for any cricketer to play in Bangladesh because of the traffic…
Cf (laughs): Yes, Dhaka traffic is terrible!
MT: It is terrible! I haven’t seen such a bad traffic anywhere in the world! More than the game, it is a big challenge for any individual or cricketer to face the traffic and reach the ground and then play. And then again you have to think about going back to the hotel. Obviously, these two are the difference for sure.
That was on the lighter note. As far as quality of cricket is concerned… obviously, I would say that there is not much difference because in Dhaka Premier League, a lot of Bangladesh national team players play, which makes it more competitive.
[However] Dhaka Premier League is more inclined to making spinning-oriented teams because, from whatever I have seen and whatever I have observed, the teams are more based on spin, where they have lots of spinners in the team because of the nature of the pitch.
I feel, at times, the combination of the teams can be much, much better because sometimes I feel it would be easier in the innings if you have a good fast-bowling all-rounder. Nowadays, there is a field restriction of four fielders only outside [the circle], so it becomes very difficult for the spin.
If you have only two pacers in your team, it becomes easier for the opponents to score freely because no matter what, subcontinent players are very good at playing spin and that becomes very difficult for any team to contain if you don’t have a medium-pace all-rounder.
In the domestic cricket in India, the combination of the team is much, much better. They have more options obviously. Medium pace all-rounders are there to just make sure that if the first two fast bowlers don’t do anything or if one of them gets hit, then they [medium-pace bowling all-rounders] can come in.
Cf: What do you think about the local talent of Bangladesh?
MT: Obviously, there is a lot of potential because the two games which I have played in the DPL, I have seen a lot of youngsters in the team who did well.
Cf: Any particular player who you thought was amazing?
MT: Two years back I saw that Mossadek [Hossain] was there. He is a good batsman and bowls off-spin as well. Then in this team [Gazi Group Cricketers], I thought that Mahedi Hasan is talented. Nayeem [Hasan] is also there, the off-spinner. And also, another Mehidy Hasan [Miraz] from the other team [Abahani Limited], who plays for Bangladesh.
Basically, there are lots of talent obviously. The more they will play, the better they will become. And they all need proper guidance.
Cf: Could you elaborate on what proper guidance is?
MT: When I say proper guidance and monitoring, I always believed that whenever an association or the board identifies players who can become future stars for their teams, they should monitor those players and guide [them] in a proper way.
Not only in the cricketing sense, [but] on the physical aspect, on the eating habits and on the conduct as well—how to handle themselves off the field. They should also help those players become better persons.
It is not only about improving their cricketing skills, it is about taking responsibility of the potential players who they believe can do well [in the future]. So I think that if those things are looked after, then there will be a system where players will become more consistent and also the board will get ready players to represent their country.
Cf: What is your plans for this year’s Indian Premier League?
MT: The team is obviously very strong. A lot of players with potential. It looks very strong on the paper, but I believe cricket is not played on paper. Obviously we have to go out there in the middle and do the job for the franchise and having looked at the reputations of the players [in the Punjab team] it looks like a very strong team. We have very much covered all the bases, it is a good combination of youngsters and experienced players.
We have explosive batsman in the middle-order. In the bowling department, we have experienced campaigners, who have lot of variations as far as the skills are concern. So, [it] looks [like] a very strong team.
I am very happy to be a part of the Kings XI Punjab team. I must thank them for showing faith in me and giving me the opportunity to be with them.
Cf: You have always been a good player in the IPL. What are your personal goals in this year’s IPL?
Thank you. As far as my chances of playing are concerned, it all depends on the team management on how they want to utilize me. I am looking forward to be the part of the first XI from the very first game, so I am working hard on my cricketing game and trying to bat according to the situation of the format.
I want to contribute with the best of my abilities, whether it is the bowling, batting or fielding. So I want to have a great IPL this season and contribute in winning ways for my team.
Cf: Every player that plays in the IPL has one eye on the national team. Given that so many youngsters are knocking on the door, do you still dream of playing for the national team?
MT: Definitely! The dream is obviously there of making my comeback into the team and it will remain till I continue playing cricket because I feel that age is just a number. It is about being fit and performing consistently… that is what matters.
Obviously, I am pretty hopeful as well because if I have a good IPL, then you never know… I might be back in the Indian team.
Cf: Who is your most favourite Bangladesh player of all time?
MT: Shakib Al Hasan.
Cf: Is it because he was your team-mate at KKR or is it because he is a class player?
MT: Obviously, he is a class player. He is someone who has always been the number one all-rounder in Test, ODI and T20I rankings. So he is obviously my favourite. But having said that, there are so many others who I know and like as well.
I pick Shakib as the best, but apart from him Tamim Iqbal is also one of my favourites and Mashrafe Mortaza is also one of my favourites. Mashrafe Mortaza is someone I admire a lot because I know he has had a lot of surgeries on his knees and despite that, he goes out there and plays for his team while giving more than 100%--whether he is representing the country or the club games. I really admire him.
I like Mushfiqur Rahim as well because he has led the [Test] team very well in the past. He has been a consistent player for Bangladesh. There are four or five players I really like, but the best is Shakib Al Hasan.
Cf: It has been an honour for me! I was so young when I first saw you play for India. People used to call you ‘Chota Dada’ and I think that after Ganguly, you are the star of West Bengal. It has been a real honour for me!
MT: Thank you, Umid. It was nice talking to you!
Cf: Same here! I also hope that you make it to the national team some day. If you do, I will be the first one to call you!
MT (laughs): Thank you!
Cf: Thank you too!
Picture credit: Getty Images
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