Manoj Tiwary, a state minister who wants to take fresh guard in cricket

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A cricketer and a politician: Manoj Tiwary, former international cricketer, during the oath-taking ceremony of Mamata Banerjee’s government in last May.
Image Credit: Supplied photo

Kolkata: Manoj Tiwary, the former Indian batsman and one of the leading rungetters for his state Bengal, could have a ‘first’ against his name when the domestic season gets underway later this year. A Minister of State for Sports and Youth Affairs in the Mamata Banerjee 3.0 government, he could be the first minister and politician to be actively playing first class cricket for his state in the country.

Now 35, Tiwary – who became a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) by winning from Shibpur constituency in the bitterly fought assembly elections, has been named among 39 probables by the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) on Monday. They have been asked to report at a fitness camp at the Eden Gardens from Friday (July 23), and Tiwary says he is as excited as he used to be before the onset of a new season during his long career.

‘‘When I agreed to the offer from Didi (Mamata Banerjee) a few months back about joining the political arena, I had clarified that I would like to continue playing as cricket is my passion. I feel I still have a good five years of cricket left in me,’’ Tiwary said during a telephonic interview with Gulf News.

While the steadying influence of a senior middle order batsman like Tiwary would be extremely welcome for the state head coach Arun Lal, how challenging will it be for Tiwary to motivate himself – now that there are no chances for him to force into national reckoning ? ‘‘There will be no lack of motivation as my target is high. I want to win the Ranji Trophy with the Bengal team – something which I haven’t been able to do despite making the final thrice,’’ said Tiwary, who had donned the India colours in white ball cricket between 2008 and 2015 and is considered to be arguably the finest batsman from the state in the post-Sourav Ganguly era.

An ardent admirer of Kevin Pietersen’s style, Tiwary is often regarded as one of the unluckiest of cricketers as injuries have often put a spanner in his dreams of making it big in the national colours – while he was often ignored despite prolific runs at the domestic level.

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Manoj Tiwary (right) with Gautam Gambhir, the erstwhile Kolkata Knight Riders captain, during their stint with the IPL franchise.
Image Credit: PTI

Tiwary had a profitable 2019-20 season which saw him scoring his first triple century in Ranji Trophy and Bengal finished runners-up to Cheteshwar Pujara’s Saurashtra in the final. When preparations began for a truncated domestic season earlier this year after the long, idle phase of lockdown due to the first phase of COVID-19 pandemic, Tiwary sustained a ligament injury and could not be at his fluent best during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He made himself for selection for the 50-overs Vijay Hazare Trophy which followed – and the announcement of him starting a new innings in the political arena came soon after.

The state captaincy has changed hands with young Abhimanyu Easwaran taking over from him in the 2019-20 season. Asked if he would be comfortable to play under a young captain, Tiwary said he would be available to impart his experience in any way possible. ‘‘I have been helping out Abhimanyu as a senior player with bowling changes, field placements etc and will be available at hand to do so again. However, I am ready to lead the state again if need be,’’ Tiwary offered a straight bat.

It’s commonplace now for celebrities from other profession – though mostly from the entertainment world – to step into politics. However, a professional sportsperson’s challenge can be tougher as Tiwary is also a minister and may be trolled for even the slightest neglect of work at his own consituency ? ‘‘Over the last two months, I have built a core team who had been listening to people’s grievances and trying to do our best to provide the solutions. I don’t see a problem if the will is there,’’ he added.

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