'I know how to play and how to score runs; it is just that I am waiting for the opportunity. Whenever it comes, I will grab it with both hands.'
Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary speaks to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com
Manoj Tiwary is a man on a mission. In a career plagued by injury, the Bengal batsman hasn't found favour with the selectors and sealed a spot in the Indian team despite making a few comebacks since his debut in 2008.
After a good showing for India 'A' in Australia and a gritty century in the Duleep Trophy, the right-hander is backing himself for a call-up to team India.
Back in 2007, when he was first picked for India for the tour of Bangladesh, he sustained a shoulder injury during practice and missed the trip. when he made his ODI debut at Brisbane in 2008, his stay at the wicket was restricted to 15 minutes and 16 balls; Brett Lee sent down a quick yorker and bowled him for 2.
Tiwary played three games in the next three years before making a mark with a century against the West Indies in the fifth ODI in Chennai in 2011. Shockingly, he was dropped for the next game!
He returned to the team when India toured Sri Lanka in July-August 2012 and hit a half-century (65) in the fifth ODI, but again got the axe.
There was another comeback for the tour of Bangladesh earlier this year when the World champions sent a second-string squad, but he failed in the only opportunity he got.
After a good showing for India 'A' in the Quadrangular A-Teams One-Day series in Australia, where he scored 173 runs and picked five wickets, followed by a century (100 not out) for East Zone against West in the Duleep Trophy, the 28 year old is confident of making his way back to the Indian team.
Are you happy with your showing in the last few months?
I am looking forward to the coming season. I started off this season by scoring a hundred on the first day of the Duleep Trophy. I would rate that as one of the best three innings of my career because the track was not easy to bat on. It gave me a lot of confidence.
Before that, the Australia tour also went well; I scored a lot of runs, picked wickets and contributed in the field as well. I am happy with the way my game is going at the moment. I just want to carry it forward.
Performing in Australia gives a lot of confidence. When you do well on difficult pitches with a lot of bounce you find it a lot easier on the pitches in India.
You had a nets session with V V S Laxman in Kolkata. Can you tell us more about it?
I wanted to work with him since he was in Kolkata for three days. I got to know he was keen to work with me and that is why I approached him.
We spoke about our batting, the left shoulder and backfoot play. He told me when I play from the backfoot my right has to be parallel while playing the short ball. He wanted me to work on these two areas.
He told me to just prepare myself for Test cricket, because if you do well in the longer format, the ODIs and T20s will take care of themselves. You can do well in the limited overs format with lesser technique as well.
I was happy to work with him. It was important because I recently changed my batting stance. The new batting stance is paying dividends; I have been scoring runs since I changed it.
Laxmanbhai saw my batting in the nets; he was happy with my front foot movement and the compactness in my game. The only thing he wanted me to work on was my backfoot play.
His main emphasis was that I should only think about getting selected to play Test cricket. He told me not to worry about things not in my hand, like selection, and just focus on my game and think about the positives.
After coming back from the Australia tour, I worked on my batting technique a bit. I started lifting my bat. I used to watch all the great players how they lift the bat and how the bat comes down straight. I also tried it and applied to my batting; it has worked really well for me.
Do you also speak to Sourav Ganguly?
I always speak to him whenever the opportunity arises. He is now the secretary of the CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal) and it is very easy to approach him. His advice has always been to score runs whichever game I play.
I have always looked up to him. The way he played cricket, the way he made comebacks... I have always admired that.
He has a great cricketing brain and comes up with good ideas to work upon your game. He always encourages me because he likes my batting.
He tells me it is just a matter of time before I get opportunities at the highest level.
You had so many injury lay-offs in your career. Did you ever give up?
The only option I have is coming back and doing well. Obviously, injuries have come at the wrong time for me, but it is part and parcel of any sportsperson's career. The injury lay-offs were not easy for me.
Going into rehabilitation for a few months was very frustrating as well, but somewhere inside me I knew that I had the game to make a comeback.
Age is on my side, and I am thankful to the selectors for showing faith in me after coming back from injury.
,p>They have given me the responsibility of leading the India 'A' team against Sri Lanka, the West Indies and in Australia earlier in the year which obviously makes my thought process very clear that these people are there for me if I do well.
It shows that they are banking on me, showing faith in me. It motivates you to go out there without having any added pressure.
My mindset is now to go out there and play to my best and score runs. As far as dealing with injuries is concerned, my shoulder injury happened a long time ago in 2007; that was the first major injury in my career.
I used to cry a lot. I didn't know what to do, how to deal with the situation, but the family support was there; close friends also helped me out.
I used to watch a lot of motivational videos to learn how successful people made a comeback from injuries. In recent years, I have got injured a few times, but now I have enough experience to deal with the situation.
Getting dropped after scoring a century in the ODI against the West Indies in Chennai in 2011 must have hurt a lot.
Obviously, I was very keen on playing after scoring the hundred, but somehow I didn't fit into the playing eleven for the next match and I completely understood the situation.
You can't do much about the situation; you can only work on your game during the off period. It was not easy.
After scoring a hundred you want to play because your confidence goes well and you feel you belong to this level. This is one of the experiences you go through and you learn a lot from it.
You can learn a lot being part of the team and sitting outside as well, by observing and watching people and things.
It was a new experience, but I learnt a lot by watching great players going out and play.
Since you said making it to the Test squad is your priority, have you decided to change your approach for the upcoming season? You are a naturally attacking batsman who likes to go after the bowlers.
If you watch my career closely, when I came onto the scene in 2004-2005, I was very aggressive. Over a period of time I knew if I had to make it to the Indian team I had to score a lot of runs and big.
My aim always has been to play Test cricket. Keeping that in mind, in day matches I always think of scoring a big innings. If you go through my career, I have scored a lot of big runs, including five double centuries in first class cricket.
If you score big runs it means you have been at the wicket for a long time. If your technique is not right, then you don't survive for that long.
I agree I am aggressive, but I maintain the balance between being orthodox and being aggressive. I know how to play the long innings during three or four-day matches. I have done well against all touring teams in recent years, including England and Australia.
I know how to play and how to score runs; it is just that I am waiting for the opportunity.
Whenever it comes, I will grab it with both hands.