England v India, 2nd ODI, Rose Bowl September 5, 2011

Tiwary scrambles to make it in time

By Monday evening, Manoj Tiwary had taken two domestic flights in little more than a day, and was faced with a long-haul journey to London. Still, he was anything but exhausted. On Sunday Tiwary left for his home town of Kolkata from Bangalore after his BCCI Corporate Trophy match was rained out. He had already heard about Rohit Sharma fracturing his right index finger the previous evening. He sensed he had a chance. The call from the BCCI official came late afternoon, informing him that he was booked on a Monday evening flight from Mumbai to join the Indian squad.

With Sachin Tendulkar being ruled out of the series on Monday, a development which caught even the Indian squad by surprise, there were strong indications from the Indian camp of Tiwary being rushed from Heathrow airport on Monday straight to Southampton to play the match. It might seem cruel on the player but with only six specialist batsmen left in the squad India don't really have much of a choice other than playing five bowlers and going a batsman light.

Nevertheless Tiwary is no stranger to being dashed across continents to join the team at the very last minute. In the 2008 CB Series in Australia, Yuvraj Singh was forced to return home due to knee injury and Tiwary was called in as reinforcement. He reached Brisbane less than 48 hours before the match against Australia, and walked in to face Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson with barely a day's break. It was his debut. The jet lag was evident as he was bowled by a searing Lee yorker for 2.

It took Tiwary three years to make an India comeback, returning during the ODI series in West Indies in June. In his first match of the series, he was played as an opener and once again failed. In the next he batted at his regular No. 4 position but could only muster 22. India lost both matches.

But Tiwary stayed confident. In the Emerging Players tournament in Australia last month he did well in the three-day games, finishing fifth on the run charts with 306 runs from three matches at an average of 76.5 including a highest of 188.

"I made a point to myself to become to be the highest run-getter in the three-day matches as well as in the Twenty20 matches (in the Emerging Players). That was my main motive," Tiwary told ESPNcricnfo, over the phone from Mumbai.

Tiwary said he was lucky that the Indian coach at the Emerging Players tournament Bharat Arun played him as No. 4, his favourite position where he has played through his career. In the previous Emerging Players tournament in 2009, he had batted in the lower middle-order, something that did not allow him to settle down.

Tiwary said setting goals and trying to achieve them has only helped him stay in focus. "Last year the domestic season had gone really well for me. I knew if I had to make a comeback, domestic performances along with the IPL would definitely count. And I got a reward by getting on the West Indies tour followed by the Emerging tournament."

In the Ranji Trophy, Tiwary had an aggregate of 525 runs from seven matches at an average of 75. He even had unbeaten double century (233) and three fifties. In the IPL, his 359 runs was among the reasons for Kolkata Knight Riders reaching the semi-finals.

If he does play on Tuesday, Tiwary would not have much time to think about anything except making sure he has got his protective gear in shape. If the flight is on time, Tiwary will land at 7.40 am and then rush to Southampton, another two-hour drive. "It is a big opportunity to grasp because not every time such opportunities come along and I have a good chance to do well against a good side (England)."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo