With a fine array of shots at his disposal, a strong technique and a solid temperament, Yashasvi Jaiswal is one in a line of batsmen who have been touted to play for India for a long, long time to come.
Many Under-19 batsmen, however, had been given a similar fate over the years. Unmukt Chand was to closely follow in on Virat Kohli’s footsteps. Vijay Zol was a future star, while Tanmay Srivastava, Kohli’s batchmate from the 2008 edition, was the best player in that tournament, and the next big thing in Indian cricket.
Yet something leaves the viewers awe-struck about Jaiswal; something that convinces that fanatics that the Uttar Pradesh-born will carve out a rich legacy for himself in the sport in the next decade.
Was it his fine slog-sweep off the bowling of Aamir Ali for a six that fetched him a hundred in the semis against Pakistan? The fearlessness and the ‘un-jittery-ness’ as he approached a milestone while taking on the arch-rivals at the biggest stage.
Was it his ‘3D’ game, as he leapt onto catches and scalped crucial wickets that brought curtains on the dreams of other aspiring stars?
No, it had to be the heartfelt image of him turning to the Gods above as he desperately uttered a silent prayer while the Colts in Blue were struggling to stay afloat in the finals of the 2020 edition against Bangladesh – a game where India’s batting plans went awry despite Jaiswal’s knock of 88 upfront.
The sincere scene reeked of a strong determination to win. It was an innocent visual of a young boy, who had struggled and struggled to reach the very top, and who wanted nothing more than to return home with the trophy.
‘Dreams Collided With Reality’
Jaiswal, though only 18 years of age, is not a new name on the circuit. He had been making waves on the domestic scene and became the talk of the town after his heroics in the Vijay Hazare trophy last year, when he became the youngest-ever in the world to score a hundred in List A cricket.
Two centuries and a double ton were hit in five innings. In the lead-up to the Vijay Hazare tournament, the cricketer had pitched in with a solid showing in school cricket, which in turn got him selected into the junior Mumbai team. A call-up to the Under-19 team to tour Sri Lanka followed, and though he flopped in the first two games, he showed the learning of the failures in the third match, as he smashed a magnificent 114.
On the next tour to Sri Lanka, for the Asia Cup, Jaiswal ended with the Player of the Tournament, and soon made his Ranji Trophy debut, to achieve the rare honour of playing both Under-19 cricket and FC the same year.
Before the Vijay Hazare double ton, the player had hit four hundreds for the Under-19 team against England and Bangladesh in the tough conditions of England, scoring 294 runs in seven games at an average of 42.
Jaiswal’s journey, though, has been anything but easy. Seven years ago, an 11-year old cricketer with huge dreams of playing for the country left his village in Bhadohi to find wings in the city of Mumbai.
Sleeping in a dairy in Kalbadevi initially, the youngster was asked to move out soon after as he refused to help with the daily work, with cricket occupying his time. He soon shifted to sleeping at tents at the Muslim United Club, where he started selling paani puri to earn a living. Taking up odd jobs helped Jaiswal survive on a daily basis, and he knew that if he had to give himself a good future, cricket had to be the answer.
Perfecting his straight drives and shadow-practising his cover drives for hours on end finally reaped rich rewards as he was bagged by Rajasthan Royals for a whopping INR 2.4 crore for the 2020 edition of the IPL, to complete a fairy tale of sorts. However, as Jaiswal stood near the boundary ropes on Sunday, an earnest prayer on his lips, one knew what he really desired on the day – ‘Bass, jeetna hai’.
Paving the Way, Only to Fall Short
Jaiswal was on a mission in South Africa – score runs, and help India to the title. Knocks of 59, 29*, 57*, 62, 105* and 88 in six innings show the unwavering focus of the youngster as he aimed to put his past experiences to good use and succeed on the tricky conditions in the Rainbow Nation.
His strokeplay and footwork, perfected by playing on damp pitches against the fast bowlers back in Uttar Pradesh, was immaculate. His boundary shots, especially his lofts and sweeps, were aesthetic and his maturity was impressive.
Against Pakistan, he played an anchor’s innings and pushed India to the driver’s seat. In the other games, he batted quicker and ended the edition with 400 runs and a strike rate of 85.71.
Jaiswal was also skipper Priyam Garg’s go-to man when the team needed a wicket. All the three wickets that the former scalped in the edition came when the opponents had piled on a partnership and were threatening to run away with the game.
He broke a stand of 87 against Sri Lanka. He came on to bowl after the Pakistani batters piled on 62 for the third wicket, and then, in the finals, when none of the other front liners were proving to be effective, Jaiswal, with his leg-break broke a 41-run stand between Parvez Emon and Akbar Ali, to give India a sniffing chance.
Always eager to contribute for the team’s win, always ready to raise his hands under pressure. Unfazed. Unruffled. Though his efforts might have fallen well short of the title, Jaiswal has been touted as a future star, and the Under-19 World Cup further convinced us why.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words.)