Manoj Tiwary hasn’t played for India yet. Yet everyone, including the selectors, is sure he will. But the Bengal youngster, elevated to the captaincy for the inaugural Twenty20 championships, seems unfazed by all the attention.
“I don’t think about the selectors or who is watching when I am playing. Once I am in the middle, only the game is important,” he says nonchalantly to a journalist, when asked about performing with the national selectors present.
On the eve of the event, he had spoken about how much he enjoyed pressure and how he approached it as a challenge.
It hasn’t been all that long a road to success and the Bengal captaincy, but Tiwary’s calm self-assurance shows that he has his feet firmly grounded.
“I seriously took up cricket in 1998, when I was 13,” said Tiwary. “I started going to a coaching centre before Manavbindra Ghosh took me under his wing.”
“For years, I travelled over an hour a day from Howrah to Behala for practice. My coach thought I had the potential to take up cricket seriously and I decided to follow his advice.”
Behala, is of course, where Sourav Ganguly comes from, but the 21-year-old said his coach, colleagues and family were his biggest influences.
He does take note of the expectations from him, after a stupendous domestic season, where he was second of the run-getters (after Robin Uthappa, who had 854 runs). Tiwary had 796 at a stupendous 99.50.
But expectations don’t fluster him. “People have expectations. But I don’t think of these as burdens. I enjoy it and take it as a challenge to do better.” What is his biggest strength? “When I am out on the field, I know I am best. My positive attitude, aggression, and self-belief are my biggest strengths. I have to work on my bowling and fielding though.”
In what might be some interesting bit of trivia one day, Tiwary started off as a leg break bowler. “I started taking my batting more seriously when I became captain of the Bengal under-19s.” Two years is a remarkably short time then, for his batting to be taken so seriously by an India looking for hope. Tiwary’s journey might be just beginning.