Ranji Trophy: Manoj Tiwary pads up for return to familiar pitch
Manoj Tiwary is an all-rounder in every sense. Not because he has scored 8965 first class runs and taken 31 wickets, but because he dares to wear many hats. When Bengal cricketer Tiwary takes the field against Baroda on Thursday in a Ranji Trophy Elite Group B match in Cuttack, it will probably be the first time that a sitting minister represents his state in a first class cricket match in India.
He is currently a minister of state for youth affairs and sports in the Bengal government. He represents Shibpur in the Assembly, having won the 2021 elections on a Trinamul Congress ticket.
“I was very clear from the day I joined politics that I will continue to play the game. It is my passion and driving force too. I said this to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, and she not only gave me permission but also encouraged me to continue playing the sport I love most,” Tiwary, 36, told The Telegraph from Cuttack on Wednesday.
Manoj had a good Ranji Trophy outing in the 2019-20 season, he was the top scorer for the Bengal side with 707 runs. And also guided the team to the final.
He also played for Bengal in the Ranji finals of the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 seasons.
Though Manoj didn’t play much after the Ranji final in March 2020, the seasoned campaigner feels he is in good shape. “I have worked a lot on my fitness. I am in perfect shape to play for Bengal. My main focus is to do well for my state in Ranji Trophy,” he said.
“I have played a few practice games and club games as well. In the last few days I have been timing the ball well and I am confident of doing well for Bengal again. But yes, the start of the tournament is going to be important for the team and me.”
Tiwary has been playing for Bengal for nearly two decades but is yet to achieve his one important target — winning the Ranji Trophy. “I am ready to give my best. I want to win the Ranji Trophy for Bengal. I will try to be the highest run-getter for my team.”
He last played for Bengal in January 2021 in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy matches. Tiwary also played 12 ODIs and three T20Is for India.
As a public servant he has major responsibilities. “I have a team in my constituency and they look after day-to-day affairs. If anything urgent comes up, I am just a phone call away,” he said.
Coach Arun Lal is upbeat. “We have had some useful practice sessions. Players have been working very hard. We have a good mix of experience and youth and we are confident of getting an ideal start to the tournament,” Lal said.
Member of the U-19 World Cup winning India squad Abhishek Porel (wicketkeeper-batter) is likely to make his debut on Thursday. But another member of the U-19 India squad, Ravi Kumar, has to wait a bit, feels Lal. “We all are very buoyant about this prospect, he’s (Ravi Kumar) a wonderful talent but at the moment maybe he has to wait a while to make his debut,” Lal said.