Pitch To Politics: Manoj Tiwary & Ashoke Dinda On New ‘Innings’
Tiwary and Dinda played for the same teams, live in the same building and even got married the same year!
Camera: Debayan Dutta
Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad
On 24 February, cricketer and former captain of the Bengal cricket team, Manoj Tiwary, joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Tiwary took the party flag from TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also inducted a spate of Bengali film personalities into the party, on the same day. She was addressing a rally at the Dunlop grounds in Bengal's Hooghly.
On the same day, in the evening, Tiwary's team-mate from the Kolkata Knight Riders, Bengal and Indian cricket teams, former cricketer Ashoke Dinda, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Dinda joined the saffron brigade at a public meeting in Kolkata in the presence of Union Minister Babul Supriyo, and Trinamool turncoat, Suvendu Adhikari.
Tiwary and Dinda delving into politics on the same day, is a continuation of many events in their lives which they've navigated together. In a conversation with The Quint, the two cricketers talk about how they've spent half their lives with each other, haggled with each other for marriage dates, and now, their new innings in politics.
Same Teams, Same Apartment Complex, Same Marriage Year, But Different Parties
"We have spent almost half our lives together", says Dinda, when asked about Tiwary.
Both the cricketers live in the same apartment complex in East Kolkata.
They've also played for the Indian cricket team, and on the same team in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Their longest stint together, however, has been in the Bengal team, where Dinda has played under Tiwary as captain.
“We also got married within a gap of 4-5 days”, says Dinda, recalling how he and Tiwary had mutually discussed the dates of the wedding, in order to avoid a clash. They both say that they knew about the other joining politics. They also say that they knew which party the other was joining.
"He had called me in the morning. But that same afternoon I had my joining and I had to leave, so I was in a hurry. A lot of other calls also came so I missed his call, but I had an idea that he would join BJP. What I didn’t know is that he’d do it that day. But it was on the cards for him because he’s taken retirement from all forms of cricket", said Tiwary.
He added that he had "great bonding" with the fast bowler and hoped that he "works honestly".
"I know Manoj. He has a different mindset but he's joined politics to do good. And so have I", says Dinda.
While Dinda has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, Tiwary continues to play only T20s.
One Wooed By Didi, The Other By Suvendu
In his conversation with The Quint, Tiwary says that he was approached by the BJP as well, but made his choice when he received a call from Mamata Banerjee.
"I got a call from our Honorable Chief Minister, Mamata (Banerjee) Didi, who said that this time I will have to fight for her. In 2019 (Lok Sabha elections) also she had asked me. She likes me and I know that. She has always given me love and respect. He always wishes me on my birthday and sends a card home. She also always encourages me", says Tiwary, who hails from the Howrah district of West Bengal.
On the other hand, Dinda, was influenced by a politician he's "grown up seeing"- former TMC minister, and now the BJP's star acquisition- Suvendu Adhikari.
Dinda belongs to Tamluk in East Midnapore, Adhikari's home turf.
“I know him for 14-15 years. There was this one time, when he was in TMC, I landed up at his place and said that we needed a road. The road was very bad in our area. Our house is a little far from the main road, around 4-5km. No car would go inside. Not even an ambulance. I told him once and he built the road”, says Dinda about Suvendu.
"When I saw that Suvendu Da has joined (BJP), I was encouraged. I told Suvendu Da that if he was in TMC, I might not have joined. I have seen him growing up and I want to work with him. When he came to BJP, my thoughts changed. I thought that I could work with Suvendu Da and Dilip (Ghosh) Da and choose this platform to strengthen them", he adds, asserting that he's a "big fan" of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
From Cricket To Politics: Why?
Tiwary and Dinda's entry into politics also speaks of the perils of a being a sportsperson, a field where one ends their career very young. Both the cricketers said that they knew it was time to join politics and "serve the people" when age caught up with them and they knew that a comeback to the Indian Cricket team would not be possible.
"I got hurt on my left knee recently. A T20 tournament, Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, just happened, and Vijay Hazare tournament is happening. Because of my injury I played one tournament after an injection. I was told it’d be pain-free. It was, but I was still feeling uncomfortable. Because of that my performance wasn’t great. I’m the kind of player and person who would not want to play another tournament with discomfort because that will hamper my performance and with that, I will also become a liability on my team. This is why I withdrew my name from this 50-over tournament", said Tiwary.
"When Didi asked me, at a time when all this was happening, I thought, no, you have to take a call. I’ve turned 35. You know what that means in Indian cricket", he adds.
Dinda, 37, has a similar story.
"I have been thinking about this for a long time. I played first class cricket for 16 years, played for India, played IPL for 10 years. As a fast bowler, I have given everything to my state, India, IPL franchise and office. Right now I’m 37. As a fast bowler, your body gives up at 37. And I’ve spent 21 years with cricket. So it’s time to take retirement and do something for the public", he said.
While Tiwary is likely to contest from Howrah, Dinda will probably also be fielded from a constituency in Midnapore. Both say that now that they're in the business, they will "not be like other politicians". Whether they both score the winning runs for their parties in this election, remains to be seen.
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