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Have Mamata Banerjee’s Blessings: Bengal Sports Minister Manoj Tiwary Shortlisted for IPL 2022 Auction

Written by corres2

No prizes for naming cricketers-turned-politicians in India. It’s, however, another thing altogether to locate an MLA and sitting minister, nay party “star campaigner” in poll-bound states, to also represent his state in Ranji Trophy and get shortlisted for auction in IPL.

Cricketer and West Bengal sports minister Manoj Tiwary is setting a trend that, perhaps, has no precedence.

Tiwary has been shuttling between West Bengal and Goa over the past one month, at times, spending a fortnight in the poll-bound western state of India to spearhead political campaigns for the Trinamool Congress, and is yet seen sporting his whites for the senior Bengal Ranji Trophy preparatory games in Kolkata when back.

Tiwary has also been shortlisted to be among the 15 cricketers from Bengal who would be up for auction in the upcoming season on Indian Premier League (IPL) and is looking forward to meet that challenge of performing in the middle, if opportunity beckons.

“Balancing the two is difficult. Time management is the key. I train during mornings and practice with the Bengal team. Then I freshen up, go to my constituency and see to the needs of people. I then touch the sports department and I try and wrap up work by 5 pm. I am learning time management,” said the 36-year old MLA from Shibpur, an Assembly constituency in Howrah, during an exclusive chat with News18.

So, at what point did Tiwary decide that he wanted to perform simultaneously in both these apparently disparate yet seemingly full time jobs, that to, at their highest levels?

“Before I joined politics, I told Mamata Didi that I wanted to continue playing cricket for a couple of years more at least. I didn’t want to abruptly end my career because I am what I am today because of cricket. I am doing this with my party supremo’s blessings,” Tiwary said.

“I am not trying to set a trend for others to follow. All of this is happening by default. Because of the Covid situation, Ranji Trophy wasn’t played last year and was uncertain this year as well until the BCCI decided to go ahead with the tournament a few days ago. I used that opportunity to focus on my constituency and department work. Then, Abhishek Banerjee gave me the responsibility to go to Goa and campaign for the party, and before that in Tripura as well. I am enjoying that responsibility. In my short political career, the kind of faith the leadership is showing in me has made me take the task very seriously. I am looking forward to gaining maturity in politics as well,” said Tiwary who was part of the Team India squad for seven years.

“I believe that if you put your mind to something passionately, then you can achieve the seemingly impossible,” he added.

Asked about the circumstances in which he joined politics while still active as a cricketer, Tiwary said: “I made it a point to stand with my chief minister and fight the BJP because of the way they were trying to insult and humiliate her which I couldn’t accept. I watched her up close and saw how she has worked for the people of Bengal. I couldn’t allow people coming from outside and keep on insulting her. Also I wasn’t part of the IPL in the last two seasons. Didi called me and wanted me to be part of her team. She had asked me to fight the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well but I refused then since I wasn’t ready. I was also hoping then to get back to the Indian team which didn’t work out. All these factors came together and this time I couldn’t say no to her. It was a conscious decision.”

Talking of challenges in walking the tight rope between cricket and politics, Tiwary felt equal amounts of professionalism needs to be sprinkled in both.

“I find no difficulties in balancing the two as such but I am not able to visit my constituency as frequently as I would have like to. I have set up a team which is working at the ward level and they send the forms and files which require my signature to my home. I work on them at night or early morning. I wake up early if required. I cannot make my people wait for me to clear their files since they have voted for me and have a lot of faith in me. I push myself and manage myself,” he said.

Tiwary is clear about how to handle the eventuality of the two clashing. “I will act according to what my party leaders ask me to do. Right now politics takes precedence. If I can maintain fitness, I can always come back next season and play. But if IPL happens I will have to give priority to that. Didi has supported me and said you go ahead and play. So have senior sports minister Aroop Biswas and Abhishek Banerjee. I am preparing for the Ranji matches since we now know the tournament will happen,” Tiwary stated.

Any regrets while taking up the challenge? Well, Tiwary does have a few.

“I miss spending time with my three and a half year old son. During my political commitments outside the state, my circumstances prevent me to take the calls my family members try to make. I thank my wife and family for bearing with me, for their patience and support. But you need to keep your wife happy at home and make her understand that this sacrifice will bear fruits in future,” he said.

“If you can manage your home well, you can manage anything in life,” Tiwary smiled.

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