On the grassy Lahli track, run-making has always been difficult. Last Ranji Trophy season just a solitary century was scored here and then, as was the case on Wednesday, the quick bowlers made merry. But as he steadily strode towards that same landmark, few from the opposition West Zone side would have doubted that Manoj Tiwary had the ability to get that elusive Lahli ton on the first day of the Duleep Trophy quarter-final. With wickets tumbling at the other end, the question rather, was whether the East Zone skipper would run out of partners before he got to his 19th first class century. When the No. 9 Basant Mohanty was yorked by pacer Shrikant Mundhe, Tiwary, who had come into bat at number 4, was on 91.
Last man Ashoke Dinda stumbled out to the middle but was off strike in the over bowled the West’s best bowler of the day — Dhawal Kulkarni. Kulkarni got through the first four balls safely. On the fifth Tiwary got his foot to the line and on bent knee walloped it onto the cement seats beyond the extra cover fence. It was his sixth six of the innings that also had four boundaries. With a slash that stopped short of the third man fence, he collected a single, keeping strike for the next over. Four balls were again played out against Mundhe. The fifth was threaded to the vacant deep extra cover region and the batsmen scrambled the two that gave Tiwary his century – his first in nearly two years.
The helmet came off. He got a quick hug from his batting partner and a few congratulatory handshakes from the opposition. His celebrations were quick, but perhaps Tiwary might have savoured his moment a bit longer. The very next ball saw Dinda run himself out, looking to go for a non existent leg bye to square leg. Even as the evening shadows lengthened on the field, the innings was over. Tiwary was left unbeaten on 100 off 140 deliveries.
‘Story of my life’ he might well have thought. Not for the first time had the Bengal batsman appeared to have made his mark but for fate to chose otherwise. After his maiden century in his 6th ODI, he has played just three more games in as many years. Injuries, of the freak variety, have kept tripping him up. In 2007 ahead of his Test debut it was shoulder jolted in fielding practice. Last season it was a knee injury picked up during a football kickabout that saw him ruled out of the first class season.
This is the sort of cosmic mischief that can cause a saint to suffer a meltdown. Tiwary is merely a cricketer. In the 2013 edition of the IPL, he was reportedly vented his frustration on twitter after being left out by KKR for a game.
But that wasn’t the Tiwary who walked back to the pavilion on Wednesday. He simply put his bat under his arm and walked back even as a sheepish Dinda and the rest of the East Zone team clapped him off the team. “There isn’t any frustration. Over the last two-three years I have become more patient and more stronger mentally. One of the side effects of having to spend as much time in rehabilitation is that you have a lot of time to think about yourself. I’ve learnt to accept my fate. I’ve learnt to take setbacks on the chin. At least, I’m privileged that I’ve had a decent cricket career and a great family. There are people in our country who struggle to get a proper meal. So I don’t complain. As a human you will be disappointed when things don’t go your way. But there are two ways of looking at it. You can sit back, get depressed and quit or you can work on what you can. I prefer the other option,” he said after the day’s play.
Part of that new found tranquility comes from old self belief. “I believe in karma. I believe in destiny. And I believe that I am Test material.” he says. And while at 29, age may not seem to be in Tiwary’s side, he doesn’t think it is make or break time for his career. “I don’t see this as my third comeback or anything. It is just another game. You may say that each time I have to return from an injury, I have to start from scratch. But I have never been short of opportunities. I captained the India A side in Australia, against the West Indies in India and also in the Board president’s XI against West Indies. The selectors clearly see something in me that they continue to show faith in me. When you score you know people will notice you. I can predict that I am still in the reckoning” he says.
Brief Scores: East Zone 278 all out in 75 overs (M Tiwary 100*, L Shukla 54; D Kulkarni 3/62); West Zone 10/0 (A Tare 2*, V Zol 8*)