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Manoj Tiwary would find himself in the top-ten list of the sportsmen who evoke the feeling of sympathy. Injured shoulder on eve of his debut game against Bangladesh, a toe-crusher from Brett Lee after landing jet-lagged in Australia on his eventual debut, and left to warm the bench after hitting a hundred against West Indies on his comeback. Even the IPL world hasn’t been kind to him – he last played in 2015. A talented batsman but somehow things haven’t gone quite his way.
Those who know Tiwary will tell you that he will take on anyone on field. He will go all out to take a stand even though the consequences could be damaging. In 2014, when Mohammad Shami was benched by Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL, Tiwary lost it. He demanded to know why Shami was not picked. Both players found themselves kept away from the dug out. The same Shami of course has now become India’s numero-uno bowler but the episode gave a bad image in IPL circles for Tiwary. Perhaps, as a result of all that, he was not picked by any IPL team since than. In last year’s IPL auction nobody bid for him though he says it might be because he wasn’t fully fit.
Cut to now. Tiwary has been playing at the zonal Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. The IPL talent scouts are watching from the president box, and as auction day is around the corner — February 20 — the T20 tournament’s significance is obvious.
There is pressure of playing to impress the scouts and get ‘sold’ in the auction but Tiwary has other pressures too. It was from his wife this time. “Aaj toh biwi bhi bol de thi, ke run nahi maroge, toh kal ka match nahi dekhonge. (Today, even my wife had said, if I don’t score today, I won’t see tomorrow’s match!). “Itna pressure tha but I think it came on a right time. I hope I get chance to play IPL this year. I was injured last time so that is why teams might have skipped my name,” he says. On Thursday, Tiwary came up with an wife-pleasing unbeaten knock of 75 off 43 balls and he was supported by Jharkhand’s Virat Singh, who struck a 48-ball 74 to ensure East Zone clinched a convincing win over star-studded North Zone side by eight wickets. East had to release its two players Ishan Kishan and Shahbaz Nadeem as they had to join India A which will take on Australia from Friday. Whereas North had rested Ashish Nehra, and released Rishabh Pant to India A.
With 160 runs to chase down, East had lost wicket-keeper opener Shreevats Goswami to Pradeep Sangwan’s first ball while Ishank Jaggi top edged an attempted pull to Yuvraj Singh at short fine-leg. Tiwary got some breathing time to settle down courtesy Virat Singh who took charge of the run-flow, slamming three consecutive fours off Umar Nazir.
Tiwary finished off in style by slamming two back-to-back sixes against left-arm spinner Manan Sharma. Earlier, the star-studded North Zone team didn’t have a good day out. Openers Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir and later Unmukt Chand all got out on identical score of 20.
Yuvraj Singh looked in sublime form, hitting three sixes off Pragyan Ojha. He had slammed four sixes in all in his 24-ball 38 but fell to Amit Verma and Ojha bounced back to take three wickets. The result of these games though is almost inconsequential as everything is about IPL. This valentine season, all the players wish for is, to catch the eye of talent scouts.
Brief Scores: North Zone 159/9 (Yuvraj Singh 38; P Ojha 3 /33, A Verma 2 /18) lost to East Zone 162/2 in 16.3 overs (Virat Singh not out 74, M Tiwary not out 75); West Zone 140/9 (D Hooda 32; C V Milind 3/ 41, M Ashwin 2 /24, V Shankar 2 /21) lost to South Zone 141/5 in 17.4 overs (V Vinod 36, M Agarwal 70).