Injuries and bad luck seem to be synonymous with Bengal batsman Manoj Tiwary. He narrowly missed out on a Test debut in 2007 when he injured his shoulder during fielding practice in Bangladesh. He has suffered wrist, back and knee injuries side strains, each time when it seemed he was set for India selection or when part of the limited-overs squads. His latest injury came in June when he twisted his left knee during a football drill, which ruled him out of India's tour of Zimbabwe and the A tour to South Africa. After two surgeries following medical advice in London, Tiwary faces a four-month rehabilitation spell which will likely mean he misses most of the upcoming Ranji Trophy season.
Speaking to Cricketnext, the 27-year-old opens up on the frustration of being repeatedly injured and overlooked, the importance of being mentally strong and why he believes his time will come. Excerpts:
Another injury, more disappointment, more downtime. How tough is it to stay motivated?
It's not fun at all and you have to find ways to stay motivated. I read, I browse inspirational videos on the net. Most of all, I consider myself very, very fortunate that I get to play cricket as a career. I play the IPL, have played for India, I earn good money, I am recognised, it's a real privilege. When I read the papers or put on the TV, I see the plight of so many people - the underprivileged and disaster-ravaged and it saddens me because I know their problems are far worse than mine. So I don't complain.
Your history of injuries just gets longer. Doesn't it throw you off?
It's tough, very tough and you can easily get frustrated. But I am young and I genuinely believe the day is not far off when I get my chance. And then I will make it count. I work hard, I stay confident. My trainer and I are putting a lot of work to get me back to full fitness. Missing the Ranji season is hard to digest but I am confident of making runs again.
In times like this, when you are sidelined with injury, how important then is it to have a support system?
Incredibly important. Your mind can tend to wander into negative territory when you are down on your luck or injured, and so having a good backing is very helpful. In my case, it's been my family. I also have my secretary and trainer to thanks. It's at times like these when you realise who your friends are. There may be some who hang near you in the good times, but when the bad times come they easily disappear. I am very thankful that I have a supportive family.
Eight ODIs in six years. In your sixth, a maiden century. Then you are benched for eight months. What's going wrong?
It has been frustrating, of course, but I am a very positive person. It's my strength. I consider myself mentally tough. I've seen several hardships in my cricket career, and I don't need to remind anyone of the times I have been injured. Some of these have effected my chances of playing for India. It's obviously very difficult but I have found the ability to remain positive.
As for what's gone wrong, I really don't know. I've scored runs, I've even taken wickets. Look at my recent scores for India - 104*, 21 and 65. I've been part of many tours and squads, for which I am fortunate. There's been some bad luck in the form of injuries but I haven't lost spirit because I know my time will come. I'm patient ... I guess I will have to be when I'm injured (chuckles).
I was fit when the time came to name the squad for the Champions Trophy. Yet I was not named. I really believed I would be on that tour considering I scored a fifty in my previous ODI. This is not a complaint, but I would have appreciated some dialogue from the selectors as to what I am doing wrong or need to do. It's my humble request that I be informed where I am going wrong.
Is there perhaps a perception that you are a limited-overs player, not cut out for Tests?
Perhaps, but I really do not know where this would have come from. See my first-class record for Bengal, see my returns for India A. I have scored tough runs, good runs in pressure situations. My numbers speak for themselves. I'm averaging 60 in first-class cricket, I've scored runs for A teams before and I've played in the Emerging Players tournament in Australia, where it's equally tough to bat. I have faith in the runs I have scored for Bengal. Do I get frustrated? Obviously. It's not a good thing to see your name omitted time and again despite scoring well. I really don't know what perception I have made, but as long as I keep scoring runs I am confident my time will come. There is a lot I have to offer.
In that regard, missing India A's tour of South Africa was a big loss.
Yes, you can say that missing an A tour is a loss but I have scored runs for India A before and not been selected, so I don't want to stress on what I missed out on. I did not go to South Africa, the matter is finished. If scoring runs for India A was the criteria for selection then I have done that. The last two Test teams to tour India, I was part of the A and Board President's XI to play them and did well. I was the top scorer in both games [93 in the first innings against England in Mumbai, 129 against the Australians in Chennai] but still not selected, for some reason. Of course, watching my peers play in tournaments and series, at international and A level or domestically, is tough. I see them and know that I should have been there too. But I don't spend time worrying. Right now I'm undergoing physiotherapy and will miss most of the Ranji season, but I will be back. I am sure of that.
When you scored that ODI hundred against West Indies in 2011, did you feel it was a turning point? Or did the thought linger that you would be benched again for someone else?
Firstly, that innings came in a do-or-die match. It was the last match of the series against West Indies and India were to tour Australia later that year. Until then I had been in and out of the team and had not done anything. I played one ODI in 2008 and then my second match was in 2011 in the West Indies. In my comeback match, I was asked to open. It was the fourth ODI. It was not the ideal place for me to bat - and I stress here that this is not a complaint - because I am a middle-order batsman. I made just 2 and was down on confidence. In the fifth ODI I was back in the middle order and made 22. We lost both matches which made it tougher.
I then got one match in England and then when England came to India I played one match and scored 24 in the fourth ODI of that series, so I was under immense pressure to score in Chennai against West Indies. It was my last chance, and I am grateful to the support I got from Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Sehwag sat out that match so I could get a chance to bat and Gautam bhai allowed me to bat at No. 4. I owe a lot to Sehwag and Gautam bhai. That was a career-defining knock for me which gave me more confidence that I belonged at the top level.
And then you warmed the bench in Australia and Bangladesh...
What can I say? It was tough but I didn't lose hope. I trained, I batted in the nets. I worked on my bowling in domestic cricket, and I wanted to bowl more in the IPL. I know I can deliver with the ball. I've taken four wickets in an ODI which isn't easy. I believe I can offer a lot for KKR in the IPL with the ball, but I need to be given chances.
So you've made a conscious decision to work on your bowling to push your chances of playing for India?
Yes. I need to offer as much as I can to the team. I enjoy bowling and have taken wickets in domestic cricket. I consider myself an allrounder and I hope to make an impact with the ball too. As I said, I am extremely positive and I know my time will come.