Manoj Tiwary has so far been considered for the shorter formats. But while on tour in the West Indies with India A, his focus will be on making a strong case for the middle-order of the Indian Test team. Tiwary tells Wisden India that the contenders for Rahul Dravid's slot in the Test team might be fierce competitors, but they are also close friends.
You've been in a strange position with the Indian team recently - travelling, but not getting a match. It must be frustrating. Do you feel a bit unwanted at times?
Yes, it is difficult to sit out for 13 games after scoring a hundred in my last match. But there isn't much I can do. That's the way life is. Yes, at times it does get frustrating, but you have to continue doing what the team wants you to do. The team management decides what the best 11 is and that's what goes out to play. I just do my best in the practice sessions, improve as much as I can, and be ready all the time. I think it's just a matter of time before I get an opportunity, and when that happens, I will get a big one.
On your first India tour, you injured your shoulder. Then you went to Australia and within 24 hours of getting off the flight, you had to face Brett Lee. Now this wait. Do you sometimes feel you are just unlucky?
At times I have felt that. I felt that in 2007, when I got the opportunity in Bangladesh and injured my shoulder. At the time, I asked myself why it had happened to me at that juncture when I was about to make my debut. Later I realised that the injury could have been much worse. As a professional cricketer, you can't complain. Whenever an opportunity to play for India comes along, you have to be ready, whether you've reached two hours before the game or a day before. In my case, I have been in this situation twice, once in Australia and once in England, where Sachin Tendulkar was injured and I got a call to go from London to Nottingham. I reached just two hours before the match.
You're a promising youngster who knows that slots will open up in the Indian batting order soon. Do you have that in the back of your mind?
I feel the domestic season is very important as far as filling up those slots is concerned. If the seniors retire in the next year or so, you have to keep scoring runs because you know so many youngsters are performing really well. The competition is very high. So you can't sit back and think that if in the coming years someone retires, then you will automatically get picked. You have to keep performing consistently.
When, say, Rohit Sharma scores big, do you feel that you must go out there and play a big knock as well? At some level, you are competing with men like him for a slot in the Indian team.
Not really. I feel very happy for him when he does well. In fact, I am a big fan of his batting. He is so talented. I wish I had some of his skills. Yes, I know that we are competing for the few slots on offer, but we are good friends and I do wish him all the success. I hope he keeps scoring runs. But at the same time, when my opportunity comes, I will do my best and hope the results follow.
Coming back to domestic cricket - Bengal has been doing rather well of late, and you have been a star for them. Tell us about Bengal cricket and where things are headed.
I have always felt that Bengal players have the potential and the ability to do well and win the Ranji Trophy. We have shown that recently by winning two trophies and proving that we can win the Ranji Trophy if we play properly. We have good players who are playing consistently now and getting on the field and doing their best.
Was Sourav Ganguly's presence in the Bengal dressing room in 2011-12 really an advantage?
No doubt about it. He is such a legend, and his experience and presence in the dressing room means so much to the youngsters. When you see him in the dressing room, you get motivated and inspired and you want to do well in front of him. Everyone gives his 100%, if only to impress him.
What kind of future do you see for yourself with the Indian team?
I just want to be as consistent as I can be and be a permanent member of the Indian side - whether Tests or ODIs or T20s. Whatever god has given me...whatever abilities I have...I want to work really hard and reach there. I can't afford to take it easy, because I have to reach the top.