Dubai: When Yashasvi Jaiswal erupted in joy after his slog sweep sailed for a six to take him to a century and India to their Under-19 World Cup final past Pakistan in Potchefstroom in South Africa on Tuesday evening — yet another star was born for Indian cricket.
Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and now another precocious talent in Jaiswal — it has been an awesome assembly line of Indian cricket’s batting talent which had been on display over the last few Youth World Cups. While the young Mumbaikar had been the flavour of India’s batting line-up throughout the ongoing tournament with three half-centuries until the semi-final, the temperament and aggression showed by him during the unbeaten 105 against the arch rivals left the pundits gasping.
“So wonderful to see the composure of young Yashasvi Jaiswal and the relentlessness of the bowlers to not just let the opposition get away,” tweeted Indian great VVS Laxman. Harsha Bhogle, the TV pundit, summed up the cricket fans’ mood better: “Some serious swag from Yashaswi Jaiswal.”
The cricket crazy Indians, many of whom were waking up to the sensational, rags-to-riches story of this 17-year-old who once slept in a tent with the groundsmen at Azad Maidan for three years and sold pani-puri, an Indian snack, to raise pocket expenses to join the nets — understandably got carried away. “Jaiswal beats destiny by 10 wickets,” wrote one on Facebook.
It was as an 11-year-old from the remote Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh that Yashasvi was brought to the maximum city of Mumbai to pursue his dreams of ‘playing for India one day’. A distant uncle of his requested the ground staff of Muslim United Club — his acquaintances — to let him stay there and life had taught him some of the toughest lessons in those three years — from fighting abject poverty to pursuing his dreams by playing cricket in the Maidan.
Things turned around for the better when Jwala Singh, a former club cricketer-turned-coach who also hailed from UP, spotted him in 2015 and took him under his wings. Singh, in fact, had opened the doors of his home to let him stay with his family till recent times when Jaiswal shifted to his ‘own’ place in a chawl in Kadamvadi.
It was in October last year that one got familiar with this somewhat tongue twister of a cricketer’s name (Yashasvi, ironically, means the famous one) when he became the youngest player in the world to score a double-century in a List A game for the Mumbai senior team. His hunger for runs had, by then, become a known fact as he had scored a double hundred two years before that in 2017 for the Mumbai junior team as well.
You are talking about mental pressure in cricket? I have faced it in my life for years
Lady Luck smiled on him when in the IPL auction in Kolkata in December, Rajasthan Royals snapped him for Rs24 million for the opener’s slot. The call-up to the Under-19 Indian team looked a done deal and he had justified the selectors’ faith by emerging as the highest scorer in the World Cup.
There is, however, that slip between the lip and the cup when the most gifted of talents tries to take that leap from the junior to the big league. If the Under-19 World Cup has gifted India a generation of stars like Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Kaif to the unstoppable Virat Kohli — it has also seen the likes of a Unmukt Chand — who captained India to glory but gradually faded away to near oblivion.
There will be, however, no dearth of advice from Jwala Singh, who had flown on the quiet to South Africa to watch his protégé perform on the big stage. ‘’Once in a generation can someone become a legend.
Jaiswal has that in him, which is why it’s so important for him to stay grounded,’’ he said in an interview after the semi-final on Tuesday night.
Well, this kid has certainly seen life and will know better. Just listen to his words on his art of dealing with pressure in international cricket after his selection for the junior Indian team: “You are talking about mental pressure in cricket? I have faced it in my life for years. Those have made me strong. Scoring runs is not important. I know I will score runs and take wickets. For me, whether I get the next meal or not, that’s important.”