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Tokyo 2020

"Big plans in mind": West Bengal's cricketer-turned-minister Manoj Tiwary is fired up for Tokyo Olympics

With 3 athletes from West Bengal headed for Tokyo Olympics, Manoj Tiwary reveals his excitement for the Games and his plans for Bengal's sporting future.

Crickter-turned-politician Manoj Tiwary (left) and archer Atanu Das

Crickter-turned-politician Manoj Tiwary (left) and archer Atanu Das 


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 19 July 2021 10:57 AM GMT

For a state that ritually wakes up to the smell of hot-off-the-press newspapers and warm cups of tea in earthen cups, West Bengal loves its 'Sports' section all-too-dearly, its residents ready to engage in a heated debate about the latest sporting achievements. In the coming days, the schedule of this average sports addict from Bengal is going to be chock-a-block with the Tokyo Olympics knocking on the door.

With not even a week remaining before the Olympics start off in full-swing, 126 odd athletes from India are already beginning to board the flight to the Japanese capital. Being the largest-ever Indian contingent to set sail for the prestigious Games, the state of West Bengal finds representation with 3 strong contenders heading to Tokyo.

Led by veteran archer Atanu Das who will be aiming for a maiden medal with wife and World No. 1 archer, Deepika Kumari, West Bengal will also have two Olympic debutantes. In keeping with Bengal's tradition of sending a paddler to the Olympics in almost every edition, a feisty Sutirtha Mukherjee will be routed for success in Tokyo. Meanwhile, Pranati Nayak, who became the second Indian woman gymnast, after Dipa Karmakar to book herself an Olympic ticket, will be featuring in Tokyo too.

Speaking to star cricketer and the newly appointed Minister of State (MoS) for Affairs of Sports and Youth of West Bengal, Manoj Tiwary, who belongs to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) camp, The Bridge got interesting insights.

Ever-cheerful, Tiwary who stepped in as the MoS of Sports in May, 2021 gushed immediately about the trio of Bengali's headed to Tokyo. "It's an incredibly proud feeling that these 3 individuals are representing India, firstly and we feel proud that they are from West Bengal," he mentioned.

In fact, Manoj Tiwary couldn't help but let his excitement get the better of him when the Deepika-Atanu pair conjured magic at the recently concluded Archery World Cup in Paris. While the 27-year-old Deepika made her way back to the pole position on the rankings as the No. 1 and picked up 3 historic gold medals in a single day at the World Cup event, it was the win in the Mixed Team genre that was particularly special.

Partnering with her husband, Bengal's very own Atanu Das, Deepika Kumari assisted perfectly to win the gold in the Mixed Team Archery Recurve category and created history.

"I did speak to Atanu a week or so back when he won the World Archery Mixed Team event gold with his wife, Deepika. Extremely happy that they are doing this well and bringing laurels for the country and to our State," said Manoj Tiwary, while showering adulations about Bengal's daughter-in-law, Deepika and her mind-blowing talent with the bow and arrow.

Having been the state from which the maximum number of participants went to the Olympics for two editions post-partition, West Bengal can give itself a quiet pat on the back as it hopes to bring a medal home from Tokyo. With 3 players going to Tokyo and taking part in 3 different sports - it speaks volumes about the variety the State has to offer.

How does the State of West Bengal plan to celebrate these athletes?

Manoj Tiwary with Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee

Ever since 2018, West Bengal has released an order to award a lump sum prize money to all athletes from Bengal who were doing both, the state as well as the nation proud at the grandest of platforms like the National Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and most importantly, the Olympics.

Although this order has not been implemented in full-force due to the ongoing pandemic situation, the state is ever-willing to honour and celebrate the wins of these talented players and award their efforts with most-deserving cash prizes.

- For wins at the Olympic Games (Team and Individual Events)

Gold MedalOlympic GamesRs 25 lakhs
Silver MedalOlympic GamesRs 15 lakhs
Bronze MedalOlympic Games Rs 10 lakhs
- For wins at the Asian Games (Team and Individual Events)
Gold MedalAsiadRs 10 lakhs
Silver MedalAsiadRs 7.5 lakhs
Bronze MedalAsiadRs 5 lakhs
- For wins at the Commonwealth Games (Team and Individual Events)
Gold MedalCWGRs 5 lakhs
Silver MedalCWGRs 3 lakhs
Bronze medalCWGRs 2 lakhs

- For wins at the National Games (Team and Individual events)
Gold MedalNational GamesRs 3 lakhs
Silver MedalNational GamesRs 2 lakhs
Bronze MedalNational GamesRs 1 lakh

Tiwary, who is still keeping busy learning the ropes as a newly-appointed MoS, is full of excitement for the Tokyo Olympics and finds himself indecisive about who to place his bets on at the Games.

"I want to wish every individual all the very best. All of these athletes must have worked really hard to book a Tokyo ticket and I just wish that this Indian contingent can win a lot of medals - the expectations are obviously more than what we had in the previous years. That will define the progress we have made from the last Olympics to this," Tiwary puts forth.

Asked to pick a favourite, the cricketer-turned-politician lets out a chuckle before saying, "There are so many potential medallists like PV Sindhu, Mary Kom and Atanu-Deepika, a lot of people stand a chance this time, I don't want to really pick here," Tiwary confessed.

With 3 promising candidates headed from Bengal to Tokyo, Tiwary is yet to converse with Pranati and Sutirtha regarding their Olympics qualification. However, the 35-year-old cricketer has his reasons for not doing so either as he mentions, "Being a cricketer myself, I know the headspace athletes enter before the Games. Therefore, I haven't talked to all of them at length, I might perhaps...but I believe that right now they should keep distractions at bay and focus on their training and let the results speak for themselves. The celebrations can wait for the results to come," Tiwary explained from his own experience.

Bright plans for the future of sports in West Bengal

West Bengal's Atanu Das and Jharkhand's Deepika Kumari

With big dreams in his eyes to revolutionize the domain of sports in West Bengal and work in tandem with the current Sports Minister of the State, Aroop Biswas, Manoj Tiwary has a lot of plans for the development of sports in Bengal.

"I have been discussing with my senior, the Sports Minister, Aroop Biswas, about having a long-term plan of improving more and more infrastructure for the Olympic sports related disciplines. Over the last decade, a lot of development has been done thanks to the new Government in West Bengal," Tiwary duly notes.

However, much like life, sports has also been victimized because of the pandemic and a lot of plans have had to be put on hold, forcing a delay in swift execution.

"It's unfortunate that because of the pandemic nothing has happened much in the sports field. It's pretty sad. We already have such infrastructure at our disposal but it can't be used to its full extent because of the pandemic situation," Tiwary laments. "I'm planning to sit with the seniors and devise a plan by which we can have more and more athletes from Bengal representing the country at such high levels like the Olympics," he resolved optimistically.

With a cricketer in control of the state affairs of sports, West Bengal can rest easy about the growth it is about to see in the coming months as Manoj Tiwary will let his dynamism speak for itself.

"I personally believe we have a lot of talent in our country but it all comes down to providing the proper guidance and infrastructure and other necessary stuff required for them to reach the top level. I have a lot of projects on my mind currently and in due time, it will come to the public, hopefully," the 35-year-old cricketer who has donned the jersey of many IPL teams like Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils, Rising Pune Super Giants and Kings XI Punjab revealed.

With a lot of work coming their way, Tiwary is planning to get hands-on with the ideas.

"The track and field is something I've personally been more focussed now, to start off with. We are trying to create more infrastructure. There is a plan of putting a running track at the Rabindra Sarovar lake campus. I will be visiting a few places outside the city and check for scopes of development. A hockey stadium is also being built in West Bengal - a lot of plans in the pipeline now," Tiwary states, a tingling excitement in his voice, before he signs off.

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