In May 2007, a 21-year-old Manoj Tiwary, in the aftermath of the 2007 World Cup debacle, was handed a maiden call up against Bangladesh, but his tour was agonizingly cut short by a shoulder injury, which eventually delayed his debut. But what if Tiwary had stayed fit and made his debut in 2007?
Eager to avenge the World Cup heartbreak and start a fresh chapter in their cricketing history, team India are keen to go the ‘fresh blood’ route and so hand a maiden cap to 21-year-old Manoj Tiwary in the three-match ODI series versus Bangladesh. Having created a ripple on the domestic circuit through his performances in the 2006/07 Ranji season - 796 runs @ 99.50 - Tiwary takes to international cricket like duck to water and strikes an impeccable 91* in his maiden gig, having been promoted to No.3. Teammates and fans are left impressed by the youngster’s audacious strokemaking and to prove that his debut blitz was no one-off, Tiwary backs the first ODI showing with a quickfire 36 in the second.
The Bengal lad’s sumptuous showing proves to be enough to seal not just a series win for India, but also a place in the Indian squad for himself for the forthcoming tour of the UK. Tiwary’s inclusion, however, spells bad news for another prodigal youngster Rohit Sharma, who was in line to make his debut against Ireland.
Rohit’s loss, though, is Tiwary’s gain, and the youngster backs up his impressive showing in Bangladesh and continues his rich vein of form against both Ireland and South Africa to lead the Men in Blue to a hat-trick of series wins. Two fifties and a ton in his first 6 knocks sees Tiwary fix his place in the starting XI for the all-important seven-match Natwest series against England, but the return of a full-strength side means that he is forced to slot down the order and bat at No.6.
Tiwary struggles to adapt initially, and posts scores of 11, 8, 4, and 18 in his first 4 gigs down the order, but despite not being able to contribute with the bat, the youngster delivers a sucker punch in the 4th ODI with the ball - he claims the wicket of Broad and Bopara - to help India level the series. Yet another failure beckons Tiwary in the game five despite India going up 3-2 in the series, but the youngster plays a knock of a lifetime at the Oval in the penultimate match to send a statement and announce himself to the international stage. Chasing 317, the Bengal brute strikes an otherworldly 33-ball 47 and drags the team single-handedly over the line to hand the Men in Blue a famous series win in England.
Tiwary’s blitz at The Oval has the whole world talking, and it sees him even take Dinesh Karthik’s place in the World T20 squad, but in the blink of an eye, the dream turns into a nightmare for the 21-year-old. After a valiant 66 versus New Zealand in a losing cause, Tiwary becomes directly responsible for India’s abrupt exit from the tournament. He runs Yuvraj Singh out on the latter’s first ball against England, and drops the all-important catch of Graeme Smith versus the Proteas, and the two blunders are enough to see the Men in Blue lose both matches and crash out of the competition before the knockouts.
Despite starring in victories home and away against the Aussies, in the shorter format, the World Cup debacle continues to haunt Tiwary for the months to come. Yet his stocks continue to rise. He is named the ‘Emerging player of the year’ by the ICC, and he is also purchased for a whopping 7.5 crore in the inaugural IPL auction by his home side Kolkata Knight Riders, who fend off vehement bids from Delhi Daredevils and Mumbai Indians. Losing Tiwary means that Mumbai settle for the uncapped Rohit Sharma for his base price, but Delhi invest the money on another budding youngster, Ishant Sharma. Deccan Chargers fail to snap up marquee Indian talents, but they, however, more than make up for it by landing the coup of Brendon McCullum.
Tiwary’s signing means that the Knight Riders are touted strong favorites ahead of the inaugural IPL season, yet come the tournament, lack of firepower up top - KKR also failed to snap up Gayle - sees the Ganguly-led side struggle. They start the tournament off with an 85-run defeat and eventually end up losing 10 of their 14 encounters to finish bottom, just below seventh-placed Deccan Chargers, who despite boasting a flurry of talent, end up as a ‘team of individuals’. Joining the two sides in the bottom half are the Mumbai Indians, who benched the talented Rohit Sharma for the entire season, but soaring high at the top are the Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, who on the back of stunning performances from their seamers book a place in the final of the inaugural edition.
Come the final, Ishant Sharma replicates his heroics from the semis against Rajasthan and runs through the Punjab top-order, but an even more devastating spell of new-ball bowling by the Kings XI pair of Irfan Pathan and RP Singh sees the Yuvraj Singh-led Punjab side etch their name as the first IPL champions in history.
The success of the IPL delights the BCCI, but the board have a bigger target in mind - ending the country’s ICC trophy drought. Thus setting their sights on the 2009 World T20 that is just over a year away, the BCCI temporarily render the 50-over format irrelevant and shake up the selection process. All seniors (read: big names) are picked exclusively for the Tests, and featuring in ODIs and T20Is are the incumbent shorter-format stars and the breakthrough IPL youngsters, for whom the national games are viewed as an official audition.
Abhishek Nayar, Venugopal Rao, Swapnil Asnodkar, Niraj Patel, Yo Mahesh and Siddharth Trivedi, among others, are given extended runs in the side, but while the spark is evident, the promise fails to translate into results. India lose bilateral series’ against Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand, and head into the World T20 2009 in England with no limited-over series win to their name in 15 months.
Written off by experts prior to the tournament, India scamper to victory in their first game of WT20 2009 against Bangladesh, but tragedy strikes soon after, as Virender Sehwag is ruled out of the competition after aggravating a shoulder injury he sustained in the IPL. Rohit Sharma, despite not featuring in IPL 2009, is expected to be Sehwag’s much-awaited replacement, but the management, hours after the first game, drop a bombshell and unveil Tirumalasetti Suman, who had notably ended IPL 2009 as the highest-scoring Indian in Deccan Chargers’ title-winning campaign, as the last-minute addition to the squad.
Questions are raised over Suman’s selection after the Hyderabad batsman’s uninspiring 25 (34) against Ireland, but the sea of negativity is single-handedly washed away across the side’s last two games by one man - Manoj Tiwary. Redeeming himself for his missteps in the inaugural World T20 two years ago, Tiwary strikes a stunning 80* (43) in the penultimate Super 8s match against England and follows it up with the run-out of danger man AB de Villiers against South Africa. Tiwary thinks that his direct hit has earned India a place in the semis, but, as fate has it, the moment of magic turns out to be much more, as the Men in Blue, after fending off the Lankans in the semis, go on to beat Pakistan in the final to lift their first ICC Trophy in 26 years.
The date is February 6, 2010, and the Man of the Tournament in India’s World Cup triumph, Manoj Tiwary, is bracing himself to don the Indian whites for the first time in his life. But he, unfortunately, will have to wait for the special moment, though, as having not put a single foot wrong in his entire career, he finally puts one and twists his ankle, paving the way for Rohit Sharma to make his international debut.