Manoj Tiwary refers to himself in third person these days, he also calls Mamata Banerjee “Banglar agni kanya” – Bengal’s firebrand lady. The former India cricketer, the son of a Class IV Eastern Railways employee who grew up in a single-room, tinned roof hut in Howrah, is learning the ropes of politics – his second big leap in life.
Named Trinamool Congress (TMC) candidate from Shibpur in Howrah for the forthcoming Bengal assembly polls, the cricketer-turned-politician says he had received an offer to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but things didn’t work out. “This time after I got the call from Didi, there were no two thoughts about it. After all, agni kanya Mamata Banerjee amake call korechilen (had called me),” he tells The Indian Express.
Called domestic cricket’s angry young man, Tiwary has had a history of run-ins with rival players, umpires, Indian Premier League franchise owners and administrators. An on-field spat with Gautam Gambhir, questioning the presence of a national selector in the dressing room, and an angry Twitter post on being sidelined by his franchise, the one-time Bengal Ranji captain isn’t known to let emotions bottle inside him.
Of late, he has been critical of the central government and was among the rare cricketers to support former Test opener Wasim Jaffer when he faced allegations of communalising cricket as Uttarakhand head coach.
“Manoj Tiwary will continue to call a spade a spade. When everybody is deserting Didi, those who were in the party for so long and now are running away, I didn’t want to take it lying down. This is in my blood. I will stand by a person who gives her everything for Bengal. I always wanted to work for people and contribute to society in this difficult situation,” says the 35-year-old who had been contemplating his future after a knee injury saw him miss the just-concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy.
আপনজনের ভীড়ে আমি। এই বন্ধন আরো দৃঢ় হোক। সকল সমর্থকদের ভালোবাসা আমার কাছে বড়ো প্রাপ্তি। এই ভালোবাসার রেশ আমাদের জয় আনবেই। মা মাটি মানুষ জিন্দাবাদ।#DidiShowsTheWay #AssemblyElection #WestBengal #JoyBangla pic.twitter.com/n8p2sjbdgB
— MANOJ TIWARY (@tiwarymanoj) March 14, 2021
Tiwary never got an opportunity to play Test cricket. He played just 12 ODIs and three T20Is and after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against the West Indies in Chennai, wasn’t given a game for the next seven months. He has called this a period of frustration and anger.
Not hiding emotions
After being snubbed at the IPL auction three years ago, Tiwary took to Twitter and wrote: “Wondering wat went wrong on my part after getting Man of a match award wen I scored a hundred 4 my country and got dropped for the next 14 games on a trot ?? Looking at d awards which I received during 2017 IPL season, wondering wat went wrong ???”
In 2013, after he was left out for a Kolkata Knight Riders game against Mumbai Indians and asked to stay at the team hotel, Tiway’s tweet – “2day is d worst day in my cricketin career…” – would go viral. Later, he would say that his “account was hacked”.
In May last year, Tiwary took serious exception to a KKR’s throwback tweet about their 2012 title triumph where he wasn’t tagged. Once again, he would let the world know that he was hurt. “Yes I, along with others have too many memories, emotions and that will remain forever but after seeing this tweet where u all forgot to mention n tag me and @Sah75official is insulting and this mrng tweet of urs will remain close to every knight Rider’s #disappointed,” he posted.
“Manoj will not compromise. That’s not in his nature. He asked for my suggestion before joining politics and I told him to walk the road of forthrightness. He has a reputation to carry, the image of a good human being at the foremost. Politics can damage that but I know Manoj for over two decades now and believe he will never compromise. If things don’t fall into place, he will quit politics,” Manabendra Ghosh, Tiwary’s boyhood coach, exudes confidence.
Aware and active
There’s always been a life outside cricket for Tiwary, be it his close proximity to the Bengali film industry or his dabbling with jingles on social media. He reads extensively and appreciates art.
“Politics, too, has always been a subject of interest for me. Farmer suicides pained me. Migrant workers walking 200 kilometres in the middle of a nationwide lockdown shook me to the core. I want to stand by our people and Didi has provided me with a bigger stage,” Tiwary says. Revert to a pretty recent tweet on farmers’ protest: “When I was a kid, I never saw a puppet show. It took me 35 years to see one”.
“Adaptability is his biggest strength,” reckons former Bengal off-spinner and Tiwary’s erstwhile teammate Saurasish Lahiri. “Manoj is very knowledgeable. He is a very cool-headed guy, very calm and composed. Very thorough about his job. At the same time, he is a very witty guy. He will always give the punchline.”
“Manoj loves to take responsibility. He is very hardworking,” Bengal senior team head coach Arun Lal observed.
Tiwary’s long-time Bengal dressing-room mate and neighbour at the Active Acres housing complex off the Eastern Metropolitan Bypass, Ashok Dinda too is in the electoral battle but in the rival camp. The pacer is contesting on a BJP ticket from Moyna. “He is my friend. I believe it will stay like that off the political field,” Tiwary predicts.