At Kalyani on Monday, Manoj Tiwary rejoiced. He had scored his maiden triple century in first-class cricket in the Ranji Trophy match against Hyderabad. Coming in at 22/2 on the first morning, Tiwary stayed till the end, when Bengal declared.
Against the odds, he needed to make a statement; he is still the best batsman in the Bengal team. Stripped of the captaincy at the start of the season and snubbed by IPL teams, Tiwary had the challenge to prove to himself that he could still make a difference, and the senior batsman passed the test with flying colours. The second-highest score in the Bengal innings was Shreevats Goswami’s 95.
But Tiwary knows that his career-best 303 not out is unlikely to bring him back into the national selectors’ radar. No national selector was present at the venue. “When you have a national selector from your home state, you hope. We have seen that selectors back players from their respective states. But if someone is not backing the players from his home state, it hurts,” Tiwary told The Indian Express.
“I don’t know how much this triple hundred will change things. Looks difficult, because the current set-up of the Indian team, the way every player is performing so well… Let’s see. Anything is possible. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. So I’m not going to rule out anything. I believe in my abilities and I have always maintained that age is just a number. It’s just that I’m still cricket-fit on the field. I have to be consistent and the rest I just leave to god.”
The 34-year-old now has 27 first-class hundreds, including five double tons and a triple century. Milestone-wise, he will always cherish his innings against Hyderabad. But the 94 he scored against Mumbai in the 2006-07 Ranji Trophy final at Wankhede Stadium will continue to get the top rating.
It’s gonna be a gud night sleep for me tonight. Blessed to have scored my maiden triple hundred in first class cricket today against hyderabad 👍 Want to thank of all of u who all have sent their love nd wishes for me. Really appreciate it from the bottom of my heart 💓🤙 pic.twitter.com/jVc6NBXcEK
— MANOJ TIWARY (@tiwarymanoj) January 20, 2020
“Obviously, a triple century is something which I have achieved for the first time. Milestone-wise, I want to keep it at the top. But as far as challenge is concerned, I would say my 94 against Mumbai has to be the best. I batted against the likes of Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar. I was literally playing against the India attack at that time. And not only did I score runs, I dominated the bowling.”
That innings took Tiwary to the Indian Test squad. But on the eve of his Test debut in Bangladesh, he suffered a shoulder injury that ruled him out of the entire tour. His next opportunity came some months later, when he had been flown in to Brisbane and was thrown in at the deep end, against Brett Lee and Co on a fiery Gabba pitch. The Bengal batsman was completely undercooked.
In 2011, after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against the West Indies in Chennai, he had to wait for seven months to get his next game. Missed opportunities and misfortune have played peek-a-boo with Tiwary throughout his career. He wouldn’t have survived this long without being a strong character.
“I cried a lot. I’m a very emotional guy. Whenever I feel bad, whenever I feel emotional, I cry out my emotions. But I couldn’t ‘afford’ to be depressed, for there were so much responsibility on my shoulders – my family… I never wanted to escape from those responsibilities. I never allowed any negative thoughts to affect me. I had different things to look up to. I had important things to look after as well. At the same time, when I was dropped after scoring a hundred, I thought about retiring from international cricket. But eventually I couldn’t take that decision, because it wasn’t only my decision. I knew that the decision would hamper not only my career but also my family members.”
In Bengal’s Ranji opener this season against Kerala, Tiwary scored a half-century on a turner carrying back spasms. Against Andhra on a green Eden Gardens pitch, his 46 was even better. Conditions were heavily in favour of the seamers. In the previous match against Vidarbha too, Tiwary was the only Bengal batsman to take the fight to the opposition on a rank turner. A big innings, though, was due which came on Monday.
“I dedicate this triple century to my wife Sushmita. I wasn’t picked for the IPL and we had a lot of discussion. She has been motivating me a lot when the chips were down. Yesterday, I finished on 156 not out and she asked me to go for a triple hundred.”
Tiwary looked well set to surpass Devang Gandhi’s (a current national selector) record of 323 – the highest individual score by a Bengal batsman in first-class cricket. “I had the opportunity, but I played for the team’s cause. The team wanted to declare after my 300, and I was very happy with that.”
Brief scores: Bengal 635/7 declared (Manoj Tiwary 303 not out) vs Hyderabad 83/5 (Akash Deep 3/46).
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