'I see myself making the Indian team very soon' - Tiwary
As Rest of India captain Manoj Tiwary walked into the media room with his entire batting gear intact, on the eve of the Irani Cup match in Bangalore, he resembled an armoured warrior. Tucking the helmet under his arm, he carefully placed his bat against a chair before occupying his seat.
Before the journalists could begin with their questions, Tiwary spoke up. "First of all so sorry guys," he said. "I was informed about the press conference a bit later. I missed my batting slot as well."
In an era of media-trained cricketers adept at saying the politically-correct things, Tiwary, by his own admission, is a straight talker. He once said there was "nothing off the record." Tiwary, 29, was just as forthright, discussing international prospects at this stage of his career.
"I see myself making into the Indian team very soon. I have that belief in myself," he said with a confidence that betrayed little arrogance.
It's easy, even if simplistic, to use a few epithets to describe Tiwary. Earnest. Hardworking. Frank. But at the top of the list would probably be 'unlucky'. There is a bit of John McClane from Die Hard in him for invariably finding himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. His villains haven't been as varied as McClane's; they simply answer to the name 'injury'.
"Last injury was one of the major injuries," Tiwary said. "It took a lot of months to make a comeback."
While recurring fitness issues among cricketers aren't rare, Tiwary has been dogged by injuries during potentially career-turning events. Like when he hurt his shoulder on the eve of what would have been his ODI debut in Bangladesh. He also missed the Ranji Trophy last season after undergoing two surgeries on his knee.
"I have decided that it is no point to think of all those injuries which have happened. I just have to look hard and work on my game," he said.
Then, where he wasn't injured, he was omitted after scoring his maiden ODI hundred against West Indies. Tiwary's most recent international game came last year when he was part of a second-string India side that toured Bangladesh for a three-match series. Having been benched for the first two games, he was picked for the last which was washed out after India's batting collapsed. Tiwary batted, but his innings lasted a mere six balls.
Tiwary admitted to ruing his bad luck, but conceded there was little he could do about it. "At times when I see fellow team-mates against whom I have played at junior level, at India A level and at international level, you feel bad about it but you can't help it," he said.
Tiwary then dropped a word that has a permanent place in his vocabulary: destiny. "I always believe in destiny," he said. "If I am destined to play for India again in the future then I will, but the only thing I can do is work hard and perform, and that's what I have been doing."
He nevertheless acknowledged he had not scored as many runs as he would have liked in the Ranji Trophy this season. "Yeah, this season I haven't been able to score big runs as I am used to it. But I give a lot of importance to how I am batting in the nets.
"I know big runs are down the line somewhere and eventually it will come. I can only think of how I can contribute to any team. Let it be state, club, India A or Rest of India."
Tiwary might not have said it, but he would be aware that leading a Rest of India side was as good a platform as any. Now for some luck to go with the preparation.
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo