The 7th edition of Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-19 Cup 2018, which took place in Bangladesh from September 29 to October 7, will not only be remembered for India’s record sixth title win. The tournament showed glimpses of India’s future cricketing stars who might be the possible successors of current Indian star players like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah etc. These bright players impressed many cricket experts with their fantastic cricketing skills.
However, one cricketer who stood out among all these talented young lads was 16 years old Mumbai player, Yashasvi Jaiswal. His batting was prolific throughout the tournament and his scorecard read 104, 92, 37 and 85 in finals against Sri Lanka. He was also awarded the Man of the Series award for scoring the highest number of runs (318) in the tournament at an average of 79.50.
But Yashasvi’s rise to the top of the Indian cricket circle at the junior level is quite different from his other teammates. He not only had to compete with the other Indian youngsters working day-night to find a spot in the Indian cricket team but also with the difficult circumstances of the life that he was dealing with since the age of nine.
Struggling through childhood in pursuit of a dream
Yashasvi’s journey to accomplish his dream of wearing the Indian Jersey is no less than a Bollywood biopic. A 9-year-old boy from Bhadoi district of Uttar Pradesh, travelled miles of distance with his father to Mumbai, with a single dream in his eyes, to play cricket for India. In an interview to The Logical Indian, he said, “I just love playing cricket. I have always been a Tendulkar fan and wanted to play from the same place where he played. I came to Mumbai with my father and started going to Azad Maidan, where I met “Pappu Sir”, who was a coach over there. He watched my game and asked me to play for some time. My father wanted to take me back to Bhadoi with him, but I refused. I started staying at my uncle’s home. My uncle did not have good financial conditions, so he got me a job at a Mother Dairy. I used to work there throughout the day and play in the evening. I used to get tired by playing cricket and was not able to work properly for them.”
He further added, “One day, they asked me to leave the job. I had no money and job at that time. I left my uncle’s home as well, as I did not want to be a burden on them. Pappu Sir gave me shelter for two-three days in his home. He promised me a permanent accommodation in a tent in Azad Maidan, if I performed well in a match. I played well and got space in a tent along with groundsmen. Life in those tents was horrible. There was no light, no toilet, and drinking water. Especially, during the rainy season, our tents used to fill up with water. The groundsmen used to force me to work for them and sometimes beat up as well. I was hardly getting any money from my home. I started selling pani-puri in the evening. Sometimes, I used to roll cricket wickets or do umpiring in local matches to get some money. However, I did not want to leave that tent because it was saving my time to play cricket. My friends used to make fun of me working at a pani-puri shop. Sometimes, I used to feel insulted and run away from the shop with embarrassment.”
When he met his coach, friend and saviour
This see-saw battle with life continued for nearly two years and there was a time when Yashasvi almost quit his dream. He was not able to fight with the circumstances and thought of returning home, but fortunately, one day, he met Jwala Singh, his mentor and coach, who gave him hope to continue his dream.
Jwala Singh, a cricket coach who runs Jwala Sports Foundation in Mumbai, spotted Yashasvi in Azad Maidan one day and completely changed his fortune.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, the coach said, “It was in December 2013, when I found Yasashvi. We used to conduct local cricket tournaments to identify young talents and give them a platform to fulfil their dreams. One day, I was in Azad Maidan to look for some players to play in our tournament. I saw a young kid playing fearlessly against some good bowlers on a dusty wicket. When some big boys were struggling to even read the balls, this little kid was so confident and thrashing bowlers across the ground. I get to know about his poor condition from people and I asked him about his accommodation. I asked him to meet me the next day at my academy.”
He further said, “He is a natural talent and had good cricketing shots since I met him. However, he was lacking in mental strength. Many people had already guided him wrong in the past about his game. He was not confident of playing in big matches. That was the biggest task for us. We started preparing him and gave chance to play in big tournaments. He performed really well and attracted everyone’s attention. He scored an unbeaten 319 and registered bowling figures of 13-99 to register in Limca Book of Records. He has scored total 5 centuries in Harris Shield Tournament till now. He also toured England and performed well. He played Mumbai Premier League last year and bagged the Best Emerging Player award. He has scored 52 centuries and taken more than 200 wickets till now. He has also been selected in Mumbai Ranji Team this year.”
Jwala said, “I supported him because I was able to see a similarity between both of us. I also went through the same phase. I did not get the facilities and thought of giving him everything, thinking that God has given me a chance to help someone like me. I see Yashasvi as the second journey of my life and want to take him to the top.”
Yashasvi is already making headlines for his achievements but despite that, his success has not overpowered his goal and unlike his square cuts, his feet are firmly on the ground. He said, “I only have one dream in my life, that is, to play for India. I do not play for money. If I am able to fulfil my dream, I would like to help those poor kids who wish to play cricket and do not get all the facilities in our country.”
In spite of challenges and struggle throughout his young life, 16-year-old Yashasvi stands tall and proud. The Logical Indian applauds the indomitable spirit of Yashasvi Jaiswal and hopes that he becomes a part of the senior Indian cricket team soon.