Kolkata: It must be frustrating being Manoj Tiwary, but when Wisden India caught up with him, we found a person who not only knows how to cope with setbacks, but also admit that compared to the problems so many others around him have, his problems are "nothing". In this chat, Tiwary throws light on those 'problems', on bonding with his Bengal team-mates, changing the lives of his family members and idolising Yuvraj Singh. Excerpts:
You are still a part of the race for the No. 6 spot in the Test team, but shouldn't your priority be to cement a place in the limited-overs teams first?
Yes and no. When I play a three-day or four-day game, I look at myself as a Test player. I have a great desire to see myself as a Test player. So when I go into bat in a longer format game, I try to bat for as long as I can. As for the shorter formats, I haven't got the opportunities on a regular basis, but I feel that it's only a matter of time before I get more chances. The captain (MS Dhoni) has told me that when he has the chance, he will try to give me a longer run so that I can play more freely.
There is a very long and tough season lined up and it's a crucial one for me. I don't know what will happen regarding the Test team, but I am happy as long as I can score runs against good sides. It makes me feel good within. If I don't get chances in the Test team right now, I know that it's not the end of the road for me because I have age on my side. I know that if I can bat the way I have been batting, then I will be contributing to my team (Bengal).
Should you be picked for the Indian team, it would mean you won't be available for the Bengal side…
(Laughs) No, no, but I always keep track of what's happening in Bengal's matches, even if I am touring with the Indian team. I haven't been able to play too many matches for Bengal or for East Zone in the last two seasons. In fact, I missed being part of the East Zone team in 2011-12 and 2012-13 when we have been Duleep Trophy champions.
Believe me when I say that along with wanting to play for India, I desperately want to win the Duleep Trophy and the Ranji Trophy titles too. Ever since I was a youngster, I have wanted to be part of teams that won big domestic titles. And now I have missed that chance as well.
East Zone, as well as Bengal and the other teams in the Zone, have been doing much better in recent times.
Yes, more and more talented youngsters are coming up, taking responsibility and analysing themselves much more than before. All of them know how important it is to perform well on a consistent basis. You look at Ashok Dinda from Bengal or Ishank Jaggi and Saurabh (Tiwary) from Jharkhand as well as a number of cricketers in Orissa – lots of good players are coming up and that's great.
I spend more time with the Bengal players and I see a lot of promise there, but we have a problem with consistency. Now that's changing a bit. If you look at someone like Anustup Majumdar, he has been around for a long time but it's only of late that he has become consistent. Then there is Shami Ahmed, who has done well for India A. There are some Under-19 and Under-22 youngsters coming up as well.
I am very excited about Rohan Banerjee. He has been injured, but he played a superb knock against Karnataka in Mysore on a seaming wicket a few seasons ago (Ranji Trophy, 2009-10). He scored a century (107) against India bowlers like (Abhimanyu) Mithun, Vinay Kumar, S Arvind and (Sunil) Joshi. There is a lot of promise in our ranks.
What do you see as your role in ensuring that Bengal and East Zone continue to do well – something like being a Dada (Sourav Ganguly) to the youngsters?
(Laughs) No, I can't be Dada, but from the time I got into the Bengal team as a youngster, I have always felt that talented youngsters need a lot of support and a lot of guidance. If you are talented but fail to make the breakthrough, you get demoralised. That's where they need support. Travelling with the Indian team and spending time with great players and great captains and outstanding human beings, I have observed and understood many things and I feel I need to tell the youngsters about all that.
Do the three players from Bengal – you, Wriddhiman (Saha) and Dinda – form a little group when you play together as well, like in the India A team?
To an extent, yes, but we are all driven by a shared desire to play for India. Actually, the three of us are quite similar in terms of our lower middle-class backgrounds and the hardships we faced as youngsters. We have all come up the hard way and struggled a lot, financially and otherwise, so we are all very tough mentally and don't want to give up what we have got. Cricket has changed our lives – not just of the three of us, but of our families and our relatives. Our fame and the money we earn are actually very important for our families. We understand the value of performing well. We understand that if we continue to perform well and move up, it will bring great joy and happiness to our families.
Coming to the Indian team, does the competition to get into the Indian team make you feel differently towards players like Suresh Raina or Rohit Sharma and others?
Not from my point of view. I take nothing for granted and I know that even if I get a long run with the Indian team, I can't take it easy. I am competitive to the extent that I know I need to score runs. But it's not like I wish that others should fail. It makes me happy when I see others score runs, and Rohit is one of my favourite batsmen. I love watching him bat. On the whole, I'd say we all share a good rapport. When we meet, we hang out together, we have dinner together and, yes, we play a lot of PS3 together also. In fact, before coming to meet you, I was playing PS3 with some of the boys.
You're basically a bunch of kids, aren't you, playing PS3 after a hard day's work …
(Laughs) Yeah, we are, aren't we!
And when do you fit in all the inspirational videos that you say you watch?
Yes, I do try to watch videos on YouTube – stories of struggle, of human endurance and triumph … and try to understand how I should cope with the hard times and hurdles. The one that touched me the most was one of Derek Redmond's 400-metre race at the Barcelona Olympics. He tore his hamstring, but decided to run anyway and complete the race. It tells you about the character of the man.
It essentially tells you that your problems are not as big as the problems some others have …
Exactly. That's exactly what I mean. I am blessed with two hands and two legs and I have no physical problems. I have enough money, people know me, but I see so many people who have handicaps and struggle to do what they want to do. They still don't give up. Compared to that, my problems are nothing, they are insignificant.
Like you have mentioned when it comes to Yuvraj Singh …
True. That's what I mean. It's not easy, is it? I would see his face when he was training prior to the World Twenty20. I saw the desperation in his eyes. He was desperate to make the team and play. He was the star in the 2011 World Cup and then, suddenly, he didn't know what was happening.
You have talked about him being one of your role models even earlier …
He has always been a big brother not just to me but to all the youngsters in the team. Yuvraj is a very large-hearted and generous person. He is always looking out for youngsters. He took me out for dinner in Sri Lanka during the World T20 – only me – and explained a lot of things to me. He realised that it wasn't easy for me to be sitting out of matches and wanted to help me. We talked about focus and concentration and things like that. That sort of thing makes a difference. He is an outstanding person.