Rajkumar Tiwary’s mind travelled back to Bangladesh 2007 the moment Gautam Gambhir revealed at the toss that he had made “two changes” to the team that played in the qualifier against the Mumbai Indians.
“(Laxmipathy) Balaji’s hamstring injury has not healed, Brett Lee comes into the XI. That means Brendon McCullum sits out and Manvinder Bisla comes in,” Gambhir told commentator Ravi Shastri.
Barring the television, the Tiwary family’s spacious first-floor apartment off Howrah’s Foreshore Road suddenly fell silent. Parents Bina and Shyam Shankar showed little emotion, but Rajkumar couldn’t believe his dear brother wouldn’t be taking the field for the Kolkata Knight Riders on their biggest IPL night so far.
| Manoj Tiwary’s family watches the match on TV. (Santanu Chatterjee)
“Manoj has been very unlucky on this score, you know. He was injured during practice hours before he was to first play for India in Bangladesh and now this. I am so disappointed,” said Rajkumar, getting up to go to the adjacent room.
Barely had Rajkumar left when father Shyam Shankar broke his silence to say: “Na, woh khel raha hain (No, he’s playing).”
So did the elderly gent hear something on TV that the rest of the room missed? The answer came just after the ad break.
“Look, here he is!” exclaimed Shyam Shankar, his finger touching the TV screen to point out one of the faces in the KKR line with the name “Manoj Tiwary”.
As claps echoed in the room, a smiling Rajkumar stepped out of his room to join the rest in celebration. “I am so relieved he’s got his chance,” he said.
Manoj had called his elder brother from Chennai in the morning to say that he was “well”, but didn’t mention anything about the team management deciding to bring him back into the XI. “He was with his teammates, so obviously he wasn’t willing to talk about KKR’s plans on the phone,” Rajkumar said.
Mother Bina had spent most of the morning in her puja room, praying for her son’s return to the team. Then the entire family gathered in the afternoon for a yagya organised by Bina and her husband for KKR’s success.
“Calcutta will erupt tonight if we win. This has been the Knight Riders’ best season in five years and the way they have played, they deserve to win,” said a business acquaintance of Rajkumar.
But with the Chennai Super Kings starting strongly, the mood in the Tiwarys’ living room seemed to be dipping faster than the pace at which Murali Vijay and Mike Hussey were scoring off Brett Lee. Rajkumar tried restoring hope with a remark befitting a cricketer’s brother. “This means the wicket is a good one. We will be able to chase well,” he said.
Vijay’s dismissal in the 11th over triggered the first celebration of the evening in the Tiwary home. “Yessss!” went Rajkumar, jumping for joy as a slower one from Rajat Bhatia snared the Chennai centurion who had blown away the Delhi Daredevils.
But wasn’t it too early to rejoice? “We will take it as it comes. For now, this (Vijay’s dismissal) is good enough for us,” quipped Rajkumar, seeing off Metro at the door.
Footnote: Tears of joy flowed in the Tiwary household after successive boundaries from Manoj sealed the Knight Riders’ first IPL victory close to midnight on Sunday.
As neighbours streamed in, Rajkumar said: “It was a dream finish for us. Manoj made an important contribution and we are so happy for him and the team. We will be waiting for his call.”