Lived in tent, slept hungry, sold pani puri and now hits a century against Nepal. Who?
He plays cricket for India Under-19 and his name is Yashasvi Jaiswal. "A middle-order batsman who has remarkable temperament and extraordinary focus", as Mumbai’s Under-19 coach Satish Samant says.
Yashasvi lived with groundsmen in the Muslim United Club’s tent at the Azad Maidan ground in Mumbai. He was 11 years old then and the only thing that kept him going was a dream —a dream that lied deep inside his heart to play cricket for India.
It’s six years later now and Jaiswal hits a century against Nepal. The younger of two sons to a small-time shopkeeper in Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, Jaiswal moved to Mumbai to pursue cricket. His father did not object since he found it hard to feed the family. An uncle, Santosh, in Mumbai, had a house in Worli, but it wasn’t big enough for another occupant. Santosh had requested the owners of Muslim United Club, where he was a manager, if the boy could stay in the tent.
For three years, that tent became his home. He took pains to ensure that stories of his struggles never reached Bhadohi, as that would end his cricketing career. Occasionally, his father would send some money but that was never enough. He had to sell pani-puri during the Ram Leela in Azad Maidan and help sell fruits. But there were still days when he would go to sleep on an empty stomach as the groundsmen with whom he shared the tent fought with each other. Without them cooking, he would drift off with just dreams lulling him to sleep.
“I always used to see boys my age bringing food or their parents had big lunches with them. As for me, it was — make your own food, eat alone. No breakfast."
The days were fine, he recalls, since he was busy scrounging around for work and cricket, but the nights sometimes were too long. “I would miss my family and would cry. It was not just being homesick but going to the toilet was a hindrance to sleep. There was no toilet at the maidan, and the one near Fashion Street that I used was closed at night,” he says.
Before he got picked for Mumbai the U-19 squad, the Azad Maidan was abuzz with stories of the talented young batsman who needed support. Things turned around when a local coach Jwala Singh met him and took him under his wing.
An immigrant from UP himself, Jwala saw his early childhood in Jaiswal. “He must have been around 12 years and I saw him facing an ‘A’ division bowler with ease. I could relate to him. When I also came to Mumbai from UP, I didn’t have a house to stay in. No godfather, no guide. He is gifted. He has 49 centuries in the last five years,” says Jwala, who has played the junior age group for Mumbai and had a stint at the MRF pace foundation along with Zaheer Khan.
Jaiswal now stays in a small chawl in Kadamwadi, which he calls his palace. “Have you ever stayed in a tent? I bet you can’t stay one day there in summers. It gets very hot, sir. The heat generated by plastic is unbearable. We would often take our sheets and sleep on the open ground. Once, an insect bit me near my eyes and it was swollen. After that, despite the heat, I slept inside,” he says.
Asked about the pressures of higher-grade cricket, he scoffs. “You are talking about mental pressure in cricket? I have faced it daily in my life for years. Those have made me strong. Scoring runs is not important. I know I will score and take wickets. For me, whether I get the next meal or not, that’s important,” he says.
“I remember the days when I was almost shameless. I used to go with my teammates for lunch, knowing that I didn’t have any money. I would tell them, ‘paisa nahi hai, bhook hai’ ( I don’t have money but am hungry).”
When a teammate or two teased him occasionally, Jaiswal says he never reacted in anger. After all, they had never slept in a tent, never sold pani-puri, and never went to sleep on an empty stomach.
He was awarded a signed cricket bat by Sachin Tendulkar who was his roommate's father. Tendulkar's son Arjun Tendulkar and Yashasvi were the roommates. This batsman has now hit a century against Nepal. He scored 104 off 113 balls that included 8 fours and 5 sixes. Bhim Sarki caught him off Rashid Khan who took his wicket at 197/3 at 34.5 overs.
Source: The Indian Express