Cricket

Yashasvi Jaiswal, the 18-year-old who has lived for cricket alone

Yashasvi Jaiswal, 18, was declared the Player of the Series at the controversial finish to the ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa

Yashasvi Jaiswal, 18, was declared the Player of the Series at the controversial finish to the ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa   | Photo Credit: Courtesy ICC

Adjudged the Player of the Tournament in the Under-19 World Cup 2020, Yashasvi Jaiswal always had a dream, but not the resources, says his mentor, Jwala Singh

Yashasvi Jaiswal, 18, was declared the Player of the Series at the controversial finish to the ICC Under-19 World Cup in South Africa. Bangladesh carried the trophy, but Jaiswal took the individual honors by scoring 400 runs overall and 88 in the final. Though the unsporting behaviour of both sides has cast a shadow over his personal gain, his mentor, Jwala Singh says that as a teenager, Jaiswal lived for cricket alone.

He speaks about his journey from Bhadohi, 50 km from Varanasi, where as a boy, as young as eight, he’d rise before the sun and practise until it became too dark to spot the ball. His parents, Bhupendra and Kaanchan, earned just enough to feed their four children. Bhupendra sold paint and Kaanchan was a teacher in a private school. Cricket was an expensive game, and Bhadohi was known for its carpet-weaving industry, not cricket coaching. They worried about their son’s future.

Early pickings

One morning, when he was just 13, Jaiswal convinced his father to take him to Mumbai, though Allahabad would have been the logical choice. It was closer and had a history of producing reputed cricketers like Mohammad Kaif, who captained the Under-19 team that won the 2000 World Cup; and Hyder Ali, a Ranji Trophy veteren.

Given the selection challenges at the junior level in Uttar Pradesh, and the fact that Mumbai seemed to offer unbiased attention for someone starting out, Jaiswal decided to hone his skills outside his home state.

The Azad Maidan became his address as he found a ‘home’ in a tent, waking up to the sound of cork on wood. His world revolved around the Maidan, cricket, bat, and ball. In the beginning, he sold street food to make ends meet.

On a pitch where an established club cricketer struggled to put bat to ball, Jaiswal performed with ease, to the extent that his batting caught the attention of Jwala, a club cricketer himself and a self-proclaimed scout. Jwala saw a bit of himself in the young prodigy. “I had come from Gorakhpur at 13 and struggled to make ends meet in Mumbai. I did not want Yashasvi to suffer the same fate.”

Yashasvi Jaiswalduring the Vijaya Hazare Trophy cricket match at Aluru Cricket Stadium in Bengaluru on October 16, 2019.

Yashasvi Jaiswalduring the Vijaya Hazare Trophy cricket match at Aluru Cricket Stadium in Bengaluru on October 16, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Sudhakara Jain

When the two met, the boy was on the verge of giving up. “I want to go back,” Jaiswal would repeatedly tell his mentor, adding that he’d faced resistance from the locals who’d called him an outsider. It took a while for Jwala to convince the teenager to stick to his resolve.

Jaiswal found shelter in Jwala’s house. Jwala, who was engaged to be married, told his future wife about the boy, asking her to treat the boy like her own. He became part of the family, with Vandana taking care of nutrition.

Surviving it all

The hardships of surviving almost on the road in the city, gradually waned. Runs flowed and transformed into invitations to play in various tournaments. “Cricket became his driving force,” said Jwala, who became his godfather since Bhupendra had returned to Bhadohi, convinced that his son’s future was in safe hands.

Soon, former India captain, Dilip Vengsarkar took him under his care at Dadar Union, a cricket club. “I found him awesomely gifted. I got him to tour England (four years ago) with my academy (Dilip Vengsarkar Foundation) where he scored runs in almost every match,” he says. Vengsarkar’s friends, knowing that the boy had come from difficult financial circumstances, would give him money, to keep him in the game. “Yashasvi was a very determined player at such a young age (13) and could excel in all conditions,” says Vengsarkar. Then came the IPL windfall — a 2.4 crore contract with Rajasthan Royals and a place in the India under-19 team.

Unfortunately, Jaiswal and his teammates, earned the displeasure of fans on Sunday, when they almost came to blows with the players from Bangladesh. "Whatever happened wasn't good. Players can get emotional because there is so much at stake,” says the India Under-19 coach Paras Mhambrey, referring to the money, media, and star treatment the young players get.

“Cricket life for these U-19 kids starts now. We are not going to a war front. Let’s all be responsible,” said veteran player Amol Muzumdar, now a cricket coach and commentator. Authorities are now planning to guide players like Jaiswal on finance management and staying focussed on the game. The Bhadohi boy, hailed as the next big player in Indian cricket, would do well with such help.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2020 9:47:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/yashasvi-jaiswal-the-18-year-old-who-has-lived-for-cricket-alone/article30789999.ece

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