Sri Lanka v India, only Twenty20, Pallekele August 6, 2012

Tiwary reveals difficult bench days

No one expected Manoj Tiwary to walk in for the pre-match press conference ahead of the solitary Twenty20 international. Once he arrived, it was to be expected that he would be asked more questions about how he handled his long spell on the bench than about tomorrow's game. Tiwary did not disappoint. He spoke frankly but not bitterly, clearly but not with hurt. He spoke about how difficult a time it was, how he had kept himself motivated by watching videos of other sportspersons, and how, on getting two chances after 14 games, he had made them count with a half-century in the fifth ODI.

"It was not very easy when I got an opportunity to play after sitting out for so many days," Tiwary said. "My focus was on how I can improve my game during practice sessions and be ready since I knew that someday I will get a chance to play. The effort was to maintain a good mindset. It is not always easy [to do that]."

Tiwary used the word "mindset" a lot, saying that his focus was on being in the proper frame of mind. He could have easily lost his confidence after being ignored in favour of Rohit Sharma, despite the latter's lack of runs, despite the former's century in his previous ODI before this series.

"Those who play in the first XI get more practice during the practice sessions so at that time it is a bit difficult to maintain your mindset," Tiwary said, and got a surprised stare from the team's media manager, as if he had let out a state secret. "It is important to be ready because these days the competition is so much that the moment you get an opportunity you have to grab it. I used to always focus on maintaining the right frame of mind and not lose my self-confidence and self-belief during that process. That was the preparation and the self-belief that helped me perform.

"Whenever I think about all these things like not playing, not getting an opportunity despite scoring a hundred I just analyse myself [and] as the days pass by you tend to improve mentally and you get experienced. When you look around, when you travel with the Indian team, sit with them, when you follow so much of cricket with so many things happening in front of you, you know how to deal with situations each day."

Tiwary had to keep himself motivated through each day of practice, through each day spent travelling around the globe without knowing when he would get a game. "My family has been supportive of me and my coach and some friends as well. I watch a lot of motivational videos from all sports and by looking at them I do get pumped up at times and it keeps my mind in the right frame. I always wanted to contribute to the team in the way other athletes around the world have in tough situations."

When the opportunity finally came, he found himself walking into tough situations as well. India were 60 for 3 and 87 for 3 when Tiwary came in, and on both occasions, he did not let the innings meander, making 21 off 38 and 65 off 68. He could not have been faulted had he batted for his place in the XI, but, to his credit, he didn't.

"The mindset was to stay positive. When a player is playing after a long time there is pressure to perform and plus the situation on the ground and the conditions [have to be taken into account] so you have to build the innings accordingly. I had it at the back of my mind that no matter what, I have to play according to the situation and if I get out while playing positively then no problem. The team and its requirement come first."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo