Playing Tests for India my ultimate goal: Manoj Tiwary

Life will come full circle for Manoj Tiwary in Australia. The Bengal cricketer made his disastrous as well as an eventful ODI debut in the Oz land four years back. After just one failure, he was soon discarded from the team. Injuries also played their tricks with him. But Manoj kept fighting on, kept scoring runs in the domestic cricket and IPLs.

He eventually crawled back into the team again after the World Cup in 2011. The attacking middle-order batsman, who is a huge fan of Kevin Pietersen, finally declared his arrival on the international scene with a fighting century against the West Indies in the fifth and last ODI. Having seen the upheavals in the last few years, his only aim is to cement his place in the Indian limited-overs team.

Tiwary, in a conversation with’s Biswajit Jha, speaks about his preparation for the tour Down Under, India’s chance in the ODI tournament after the pathetic Test series and his own ambitions in Tests.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are your expectations from the Australian tour?

I want to grab this opportunity with both hands. I want to perform whatever role my team will assign me. From here it’s very difficult to say what will be my exact responsibility and where I will bat because we have huge strength in our batting department.

If I get a chance to play, I will like to score and help my team win matches. I look forward to contributing with bowling and fielding too. Actually, my aim is to do well in all three departments.

If Dhoni asks you your preferred batting position, what will be your answer?

Look, when you play for India you can’t say what’s a preferred batting position…but if my captain asks me, it will be No. 4 because I bat at that position for Bengal. But considering the batting strength of our national team, it would be very difficult to get that position.

As I told you, wherever I would be asked to bat, I would be happy to bat.

Don’t you think that batting at No. 5 or 6 is a huge task? You may come out to bat either at 25/4 or 280/4, both are difficult situations to bat and score runs.

Since it’s a team sport, it’s not possible that everybody would score big runs. When you are opening the innings, it’s a lot easier to score hundred but for us who are coming late a 20-ball 40 would be counted as big as a hundred. It’s all about contributing to the team’s cause.

But when are you batting late, you are always under pressure…

That’s true. But when are you playing international sports, there will always be pressure. Pressure is the main challenge to perform well in international cricket.

Have you done anything extra as preparation for Oz tour?

I have been practicing with wet tennis balls to get accustomed to the high bounce of Australian pitches.

You scored a century in your last ODI innings. How important was the knock for you?

The century really helped me as far as the confidence level is concerned. I have got the belief now that I could score runs in international cricket. It’s not that I didn’t have the belief in my ability. It actually helped me convince people that I belong to this level too.

You have been in and out of the team from 2007. What do you think is the main reason that you have not cemented your place in the team?

I have had a lot of ups and downs. Two injuries also played a huge role. But if you follow domestic cricket, you know that I have always been scoring runs. It’s a fact that I have lagged behind a little bit.

But I have always tried to play well and remain in the national reckoning. But thank God everything seems to be going well now. Now I am feeling good, mentally and physically.

You made your debut in Australia almost four years back. But your debut match was not a one to be remembered. You just landed in Australia in the morning and were asked to play. You were bowled out for 2 and subsequently discarded from the team. Does that memory still haunt you?

That was a long back. I don’t think of the past events. I live in the present.

As far as your bowling is concerned…sometimes you bowl leg-spin and suddenly you start seam-ups…

I am not confused. I am confident of my bowling abilities. When pitch helps spin, I bowl leg-spin and when there is moisture on the track, I bowl seam-ups. But I have decided to bowl leg-spin in Australia as there will be good bounce on the wicket and apart from that, the grounds are big too.

Can India make a comeback in the ODI series?

We are the world champions in ODIs. We will definitely do well in ODIs and hopefully win the tri-nation tournament there. Our ODI team has performed exceedingly well in the past couple of years.

After the retirement of some seniors there will be vacancies in the Test team too. How serious are you regarding your Test career?

Playing Tests for India is my ultimate goal. I play cricket to get a Test cap. For that I am trying my best to perform in the domestic circuit. It’s everybody’s ambition to play Test cricket and I am no exception to that. Test cricket is the ultimate test of your cricketing ability. I am working towards it. I always try to play a big innings. If the selectors think that I am Test material, I will be selected in the team.

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