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An interview with Yashasvi Jaiswal


Yashasvi_Jaiswal_India_Cricket16-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal is part of the long tradition of cricketers who outshone their humble origins.

Umesh Yadav – son of a coal miner. Mohammed Shami – son of a farmer. Irfan and Yusuf Pathan - sons of a caretaker of a mosque. Mohammed Siraj – son of an auto driver. These are just a few examples of current players.

However, Jaiswal’s story stands out because it was a struggle for survival. He had no roof over his head, nor food to eat.

“Despite several adversities, I had no complaints from life. I had no bed to sleep, no food to eat, but my dream to play cricket was undefiable. My dream kept me happy,” Jaiswal told HoldingWilley.

From being homeless to scoring the most runs in India’s recent U-19 Asia Cup 2018 victory, read Yashasvi’s story here.

The big move to Mumbai and initial support from his brother

The younger of two sons, Yashasvi’s father made ends meet as a small-scale shopkeeper in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh. The batting all-rounder was 11 years old when he moved to Mumbai to pursue cricket. His decision to move to the city of dreams meant that his father would have one fewer mouth to feed, and his brother - who also wanted to pursue cricket - would have to curb his dreams.

“Sachin Tendulkar was the reason behind my fond interest in cricket since childhood. My father, brother and myself often played the game together at our hometown”, recalled Yashasvi.

“My brother has been my biggest support system. He was the one who taught me the basics of cricket and it was him who convinced my father to let me move to Mumbai. Hum dono mein se koi ek hi khel sakta tha (Only one of the two of us could try to play professionally). Someone needed to be with our parents too. My brother sacrificed his dream of pursuing cricket for me. Right now, he is doing business in New Delhi.”

For Yashasvi, appreciation is always incomplete till it comes from his brother.

“I will never believe I played well until my brother tells me that. He is an honest critic. Since domestic games are not televised, I call him up after matches to discuss my shots of the day with him.”

Life in Mumbai – daily struggle for survival

Yashasvi had no one in Mumbai but his uncle Santosh, who was manager of the Muslim United Club at Azad Maidan. His uncle’s house, however, was too small to accommodate Yashasvi, so he worked at a dairy shop which gave him money and a place to sleep. For cricket, Yashasvi practiced at the Muslim United Club.

“My chores at the dairy shop involved cleaning the mess, preparing lassi and serving people. My practice at the Muslim United Club used to begin at 7 am, so I used to wake up at 5.30 am to clean the whole shop and leave for the club by 6.30,” Yashasvi said.

“After returning from practice I used to be too tired to do any work, so almost always I used to fall asleep. Then at 3PM I used to go for practice again and return by 6PM. I used to do as much work as I could in the evening, but perhaps it wasn’t enough for the shop owner. So one fine day, he threw my luggage out, saying I was not of any help to them.”

It was then that Yashasvi had to live in the tents at the Muslim United Club for three years. Life in a tent is a terrible way to live, but for the determined kid, having a home in a cricket club meant being nearer to the game.

“I used to enjoy life in the tent. Aisa lagta tha ki life mein kuch toh kar raha hu (It felt like, at least I was doing something in life). Many people don’t even know what they want to do in life. But I was happy because I was playing cricket, and that was all I wanted. Besides, staying in the ground meant I could practice for longer. Of course I faced a lot of problems, but my love for cricket conquered them all.”

Yashasvi does not like to talk too much about hurdles faced, preferring instead to focus on the positives. But when requested to talk about his time in the tents, he opened up.

“I lived with the gardeners of the club. There were no toilets, no electricity. During the monsoon season, we wouldn’t even have the tents to live under. Mumbai’s monsoon season is known for its turbulence, so you can imagine what it must have felt like in the tent.

“Since there were no toilets, every morning I had to wait in the queue outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) to use the toilet.

“I was forced to cook. So I used to make rotis every day. Luckily, I had learnt how to make rotis from my mother at a very early age, so that became my source of income at the ground.”

Selling pani puri and serving water

Apart from making rotis, Yashasvi’s other sources of income included selling pani puri and bringing water to people in the tents.

“There was this uncle who sold pani puris near the ground, and he would often join us for dinner at the tent because he couldn’t afford eating anywhere else. Observing my financial plight, he offered me the chance to look after his stall in the evenings. So from 6 to 9 in the evening, I sold pani puris and hoped that none of my teammates saw me doing such a job. I used to feel embarrassed,” said Yashasvi.

“The Muslim Club had a small ground, so the ball would often go out of the park. I made money by finding the ball and bringing it back. Or sometimes I sold balls outside the ground.

“In some games I made money from umpiring too. Or from rolling the pitch. In case of water shortage in the tents, I would bring water from outside and get paid for it.

“I don’t think I ever bought a cricket kit with my own money until I played professionally. I never had the money to buy one, and would always ask my seniors for their kits.”

The turning point in Yashasvi’s career – finding a personal coach and father figure

Jwala Singh, Yashasvi’s personal coach, first spotted him at Azad Maidan in 2013 when the young boy was facing division-A bowlers. This was at a time when Yashasvi, due to lack of better opportunities, was planning to return home. However, Singh spotted the talent in the boy. He became Yashasvi’s personal coach, and also gave the teen a place to live in his own house.

“I have been living with Jwala sir for the past five years. My quality of life changed drastically once I got a home to live in. Over the years, he has become like a father to me,” Yashasvi said with fondness.

“He looks after my finances as well. I am yet to receive the Asia Cup prize money but once I do, I’ll leave it on him to decide how it has to be utilised.”

Limca Book of World Records

Under the coaching of Singh, who has also coached Prithvi Shaw, Yashasvi played the famous Haris Shield school tournament. It was through this that he found himself in the Limca Book of Records after scoring an unbeaten 319* and registering bowling figures of 13/99 – the best combination of runs and wickets in a school cricket match.

Mujhe toh pata bhi nahi tha ye kya hota hai aur mera naam aayega. (I didn’t even know what this record was and that it would belong to me), but I was extremely happy.”

On the back of exceptional performances at the junior level, Yashasvi got the opportunity to travel to England in July 2015 with Dilip Vengsarkar for an exposure trip. He scored a century there too.

“It is every cricketer’s dream to play in England. It was the best experience of my cricketing career. I scored a century there and enjoyed a lot.”

The firsts of Yashasvi’s life – the experience of traveling by flight

The firsts of anyone’s life are special and memorable. Yashasvi’s first flight experience was one he says he will never forget.

“It was on the England trip when I boarded a flight for the first time in my life. Jaate wakt toh bahot maza aaya (I enjoyed a lot on our flight to England), but the return was what I will never forget.

“It was raining heavily in Mumbai that time. Baapre, jo upar niche ho raha tha flight baarish ki wajah se, main kabhi nahi bhulunga. (The turbulence on the flight caused due to heavy rains was thrilling. I will never forget that experience).

“I was wondering how come our return was so different from when we flew to England. I didn’t know rains can cause problems while landing. Uss din main socha ki main zinda rahunga bhi ki nai (I wasn’t sure if I would come out of the flight alive or not).

Ever since, the soft-spoken lad has developed a fear of traveling by flight during rains.

“I am very scared of flight journeys ever since the return to Mumbai experience. A few days back, the Mumbai team was traveling to Hyderabad, where it was raining a lot. The pilot tried to land the flight four times, and on his fifth attempt he informed us about the same. Main toh Hanuman Chalisa padhne laga, Jaan nikal gayi meri (I got so scared that I started reciting the Hanuman Chalisa).”

When Yashasvi met his idol, Sachin Tendulkar, and received a pep talk

Sachin Tendulkar’s son Arjun is Jaiswal’s Mumbai U-19 teammate and told him that his father wanted to meet the all-rounder.

Yashasvi was invited to Sachin’s residence after being selected for the U-19 Asia Cup.

“Oh, it was the best day of my life,” he gushed. “I was so nervous that I didn’t even click a picture with him!”

“He told me that the road ahead won’t be easy, and I will have to work twice as hard as I did.”

Yashasvi shared that Tendulkar explained the art of facing deliveries smartly.

“Sachin sir told me that every bowler gives a clue about which delivery he is going to bowl. Keep looking at the bowler and you will understand the clue I am talking about. Dhyaan se dekhna clue, samajh aayega (Look closely and you will come to understand).”

Tendulkar also gifted the youngster an autographed bat.

So, what next for Yashasvi?

Yashasvi was the top performer for the Indian cricket team as they defeated Sri Lanka in the finals of the U-19 Asia Cup earlier this month. The opener scored a 113-ball 85, helping his team to a total of 304/3, and he ended the tournament with 318 runs at an average of 79.5.

With such impressive figures, it doesn’t look like his Ranji Trophy call-up will elude him for too long, but Yashasvi doesn’t want to think far ahead.

“I am not thinking about Ranji Trophy selection right now. Just trying to play well in the domestic games I am playing right now. Rest is for the selectors to decide.”

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