Ankit Tiwari | Cricketer | How Vidarbha-bred cricketer Ankit Tiwari made the city his home in 2020 and shifted focus to coaching at the age of 29
Cricket coach Ankit Tiwari watches a trainee bowler deliver a ball at Central Maidan’s indoor facility in Thane (West). Pic/Sameer Markande
Mumbai cricket is replete with instances of players coming from other states to be part of the city’s reputed cricketing ecosystem. Some make it to first-class cricket, some don’t. And others like Karsan Ghavri, who arrived here from Saurashtra in the early 1970s, ended up playing for India.
Player migration is not rare. What is uncommon is a cricketer shifting to Mumbai to pursue a career in coaching. And that what Vidarbha’s Ankit Tiwari, 29, did
Tiwari, a former Vidarbha batsman, led his state team across all age groups—U-14, U-16, U-19 and U-23/U-25 (from 2008-09 to
In 2017, he took a sabbatical from the game to handle his father Santosh’s construction business after Santosh and his wife Anita met with a road accident. “After my dad and mum fully recovered, I returned to cricket in 2019. The same year, I scored three centuries for Majumdar Cricket Club in the ‘A’ division of Vidarbha Cricket Association’s Guzder League.”
SKCA coach Ankit Tiwari (right) with former Mumbai Ranji Trophy-winning coach Sulakshan Kulkarni at the SKCA-SGCA ground in Shegaon last year
Tiwari didn’t get carried away with his three centuries; didn’t believe it was enough to be back in the state squad. “By 2020, Vidarbha had tasted Ranji Trophy success twice and during that time, their U-19 and U-23 cricketers were also doing exceptionally well. I performed very well at the club level, but the value of runs made by other cricketers in BCCI tournaments was much higher,” he admitted.
With introspection came pragmatism and then a career-changing meeting. “In March 2020, I met Sulakshan Kulkarni sir after many years. He advised me to concentrate fully on coaching. It was a tough decision to take. I spent around two weeks thinking and deciding whether I want to continue playing cricket or coach in Mumbai. I decided to start my coaching career at the Sulakshan Kulkarni Cricket Academy [SKCA] in Thane,” said Tiwari.
The initial challenge was to serve at two sister academies— SKCA-Sant Gajanan Cricket Academy at Shegaon in Vidarbha’s Buldhana district and the Thane set up. “I received great support from Sulakshan sir and other coaches like Satish Kulkarni sir and Ramdas Parab sir in Mumbai. But it was a different experience altogether in Shegaon, because I was overseeing cricketing and administrative aspects all alone at SKCA.”
When Mumbai became his sole residence in early 2022, Tiwari indulged in coaching and playing. “Apart from coaching youngsters, I played in the Times Shield ‘B’ Division for DMCC (Dharamsi Morarji Chemical Company) [as a professional]. I scored 150 and claimed five wickets in my first game against Nirlon Sports Club.
“Me fully shifted to Mumbai changed a lot of things. I enjoyed my coaching more because the group of young players who I coached responded splendidly. There are no regrets at all. I am thoroughly enjoying grooming budding cricketers,” he said.
Apart from enjoying job satisfaction, Tiwari is also a relieved man considering his parents were worried how he would go about living in Mumbai. COVID-19 is never viewed as a blessing for what it did to the world, but Tiwari saw a silver lining. “The pandemic was a kind of blessing in disguise for me because I started my new innings with Sulakshan sir during that phase,” he said.
On January 17 this year, he married Sushma Mishra. “After my marriage, I have been to Nagpur for only three days. When you get used to the Mumbai lifestyle, staying elsewhere is boring. Mumbai keeps you busy all the time,” he stressed.
Dwelling on living in Mumbai, Tiwari said, “Compared to Nagpur, it’s a very fast life here, but I like it. Travelling in local trains gives me a different kind of experience and has taught me the value of time management. Vedant Ingle, my childhood friend, works in the corporate sector and stays in Andheri. We played together for Vidarbha in all age group teams and our bonding causes us to meet on weekends.”
The differences between his erstwhile residence and the current one are aplenty when it comes to cricketing matters too. Mumbai have claimed the Ranji Trophy 41 times while Vidarbha have won it twice in recent years. Tiwari shared his observations on both cricketing set ups: “I think Vidarbha has more talented cricketers than Mumbai. But as far as a positive approach and mentality towards the game are concerned, Vidarbha cricketers are far behind their Mumbai counterparts. Mumbai is the only place in India where you learn so many things about the game every day. Players from Vidarbha have a conservative approach and are satisfied with small achievements. Mumbai players always seem hungry for better results. The Vidarbha team seem satisfied with two Ranji Trophy titles, but even after 41 Ranji trophies in their cabinet, Mumbai want more and that is why three to four Mumbai players are in India’s playing XI.”
Sharing knowledge is at the heart of Tiwari’s coaching mantra. “Whatever I have learnt from this game, I want to teach it to the boys on a daily basis. I have not thought about coaching an IPL or Ranji Trophy team, but I am sure that if I am guiding cricketers with the right intention and improve their playing standard, cricket will reward me,” he said.
Tiwari’s coaching passion has seen him guide a school team in Mumbai too. “Apart from our academy [SKCA] he coached the IES Mulund School team, helping them qualify for the U-16 Harris Shield Elite Division in 2022 for the first time. He played a huge role in them making this grade,” Kulkarni remarked.
Normally, players get into the coaching sphere when age prevents them from scoring runs and capturing wickets. At 29, Tiwari is relatively a young coach. His mentor Kulkarni, 56, sees it as a positive. “Age is never a criteria for me. What is important to me is merit. Despite Ankit being young, I observed that he was a superb captain and a very good thinker and reader of the game. He is a qualified ICC Level-1 coach and his involvement in the game is commendable. His cool nature and good man management skills also played a key role in shaping him as a coach,” said Kulkarni, the former Mumbai Ranji Trophy coach and current Tamil Nadu head coach.
Tiwari’s cricketing roots are in Vidarbha, but his shift to Mumbai has borne fruit. Now, we look forward to his produce that will enrich city cricket.
Mumbai meri jaan?
Love about Mumbai: Positivity
Hate about Mumbai: Traffic
Expectations from Mumbai: To prosper in what I am doing and earn some good fortune
Did Mumbai live up to it? Absolutely. The people and their approach in their day to day life is something every person should learn from.
Will it remain forever home? Of course. I have set a goal for myself to bring my parents here in next three years.