There have been some successful sportsmen who have taken to politics after quitting sports. As examples, we can see former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and our Indian cricketers Kirti Azad and Gautam Gambhir who became Members of Parliament. Then there is also African footballer George Weah who played for Europe’s top clubs such as Paris St. Germain and Chelsea and was the top scorer in the Champions league in 1995. Today he is the President of Liberia.
But there is one person who is juggling both careers at the same time. He is Manoj Tiwary the sitting minister of state for youth welfare and Sports in Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal. He is pursuing his cricket career and political career too with great success. On Friday he scored 136 not out to make sure that Bengal entered the semi final of the Ranji trophy championship.
His story is very unusual. Although his parents are not from West Bengal, he was born in Howrah district. He grew up to become an excellent cricketer. As a right handed batsman, he went on to represent Bengal and also Delhi Daredevils, Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings Eleven Punjab and Pune Supergiants in the IPL tournament. He represented India in ODI and T20 international matches. In first class cricket he has scored 5 double centuries and one triple century.
In the sports crazy city of Kolkata he is extremely popular. Since Sourav Ganguly is called Dada (elder brother), Manoj is called Chota Dada (younger of two elder brothers). In Kolkata anyone who is an excellent sportsman is considered a big hero. Hyderabad’s footballers can testify to that. Many of Hyderabad’s top footballers such as Shabbir Ali, Victor Amalraj, Md. Habib, Md. Akbar, Peter Thangaraj and others were welcomed and cherished in the city. The same goes for foreigners too. Iranian footballers Jamshed Nassiri and Majid Bishkar were hot favourites at one time. In fact Jamsheed decided not to return to Iran. Today he continues to live in Kolkata, is married to a Bengali lady and has a son who is now playing football too.
But outside the cricket field also Manoj believes in hitting hard. He does not hesitate to call a spade a spade. Unlike many other cricketers who take care to be on the right side of the government, Manoj can lash out if the need arises. Some time ago when some top cricketers had put out rehearsed posts on social media in support of the government after pop star Rihanna tweeted in favour of the farmer’s agitation in Delhi, Manoj was one of the exceptions. He wrote: “When I was a kid, I never saw a puppet show. It took me 35 years to see one.”
In 2021, Manoj Tiwary joined Mamata Banerjee’s All India Trinamool Congress party and was selected as a candidate for the Shibpur assembly constituency. His popularity helped him to win the election and justified Mamata Banejee’s faith in him. Later he was appointed as a minister of state for youth affairs and sport. It is a task that he has so far discharged with diligence and dedication while at the same time he has not lost focus on cricket.
He has often trained his guns on the ruling BJP with the same timing and power that he displays on the cricket field. When he first joined the TMC he declared: “I joined the TMC because my ideology does not match with that of the BJP. The BJP handled the lockdown very badly. So many people lost their lives. They didn’t care for how many migrant workers lost their lives. Tell me, if a lone man like Sonu Sood can do so much, why cannot the government which has so many resources under its control? “
“I do not like the kind of politics they indulge in. They make people fight over religion. Before every election they rake up Hindu – Muslim issues to gain power. This Jai Sri Ram slogan is used for their own purposes. I am a Hindu but I respect all religions. The BJP has been lying and cheating people and that is how they have come to power. I feel that whenever we see oppression we must speak out. Unfortunately I see everyone wants to remain a “Bheegi Billi” (scared cat).”
After scoring his latest century, he told the media: “I have always given 100 percent for Bengal. Those people who question my decision to play cricket even after becoming a Minister do not know the depth of my love for Bengal cricket. I have played in three Ranji trophy finals but never won the Cup for Bengal. This time I hope to do so. Life is never easy. It will always have problems. For me it is tough to balance two roles but I needed to prove that I could do it.” His fans are hoping that he will continue to score runs for Bengal and also hit sixes against the rivals in his political career.