Manoj Tiwary: The minister ready to take a fresh guard again

The former India batter, now 37, makes a U-turn on his retirement decision to have a shot at his Ranji Trophy dream with Bengal

Manoj Tiwary announces his comeback from retirement (Photo Courtesy: CAB)
Manoj Tiwary announces his comeback from retirement (Photo Courtesy: CAB)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

While Indian politics is not exactly a stranger to well known cricketers joining the arena, there have been no precedents of an active minister playing first class cricket with flair. Manoj Tiwary, who created a stir this week by retiring from all forms of cricket but then doing a U-turn on it on Tuesday, has been the founding member of such a club.

A former India batter and now the Minister of State for Youth Services and Sports in the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal, the 37-year-old led his state to a runners-up finish in the last Ranji Trophy final earlier this year. The ultimate symbol of supremacy in red ball cricket in the country, the Ranji title has remained a case of so-year-yet-so-far for Tiwary, who ended on the wrong side in as many as four finals.

The last one, billed as his last hurrah, saw Bengal capitulating to Saurashtra at the Eden Gardens. After taking to social media to announce his retirement, Tiwary was back at his familiar turf at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) headquarters on Tuesday, pledging another season for Bengal in red ball cricket only (read: Ranji Trophy). ‘’I regret that I had taken a hasty decision earlier, keeping my teammates and the state association in the dark,’’ said Tiwary, who played 12 One-day Internationals and three T20Is between 2008 and 2015 in an international career plagued by ill-timed injuries and selection woes.

While his U-turn on retirement has been trolled off and on in social media, there is no doubting his commitment towards the state’s cricket – seen as the sole motivating factor behind a comeback. Speaking to National Herald in an exclusive chat on Wednesday, Tiwary said: ‘’Yes, it doesn’t get any easier to get back to the grind with every passing year - the early mornings, training and gym sessions but it’s a conscious choice. I will join the boys in the pre-season training this week but then, let me clarify that I will be available only for those two and-a-half to three months of Ranji Trophy.

"You may call my decision emotional, but that’s the kind of person I am. After being convinced by my wife Sushmita and CAB president (Snehasish Ganguly), I thought it’s worth giving it one last try to realise that unfulfilled dream,’’ said Tiwary, widely acknowledged as the state’s best batter after Sourav Ganguly, and now only 92 runs short of the 10,000-run mark in first class cricket.

‘’Manoj Tiwary is not the most fortunate man in Indian cricket,’’ once wrote in the players’ profile – and not without reason. Not too many remember that he has a ODI century against the West Indies in 2011 and once ran Rohit Sharma close for a place in the Indian middle order, but the injury woes did not really help his cause. The arrival of IPL gave a bigger context to his career as Tiwary was a member of Kolkata Knight Riders’ title-winning squad in 2012 and also turned out for Delhi Daredevils (now re-christened), Punjab Kings and Rising Pune Supergiant.

A major change of direction came in his life when ahead of the 2021 assembly elections, Tiwary received feelers to contest the polls as TMC was on the lookout for suitable replacement for Laxmi Ratan Shukla, yet another former Bengal captain and now coach, who decided to quit politics. Tiwary agreed and got down to a hands-on role in the wards of Howrah district during the deadly second wave of pandemic.

‘’When I joined politics, I was given a carte blanche by CM Mamata Banerjee that I could play the game for as long as I liked. Hence, there was no need for me to seek the party’s permission for coming out of retirement,’’ he said.

However, Tiwary is aware of the need to multi-task if required for the 2024 Parliamentary elections. ‘’The elections should be taking place between April & May and the Ranji season will get over by then. I think I can deliver on my job of helping in campaigns in my wards of Howrah,’’ Tiwary signed off.  

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Published: 09 Aug 2023, 2:36 PM