(This story was initially published in May 2023, and is being republished on 12 July 2023 as Yashasvi Jaiswal makes his Indian debut, in Tests.)
Conquering the City of Dreams
Yashasvi Jaiswal knows Mumbai like the palm of his hand, having been a resident of the city of dreams for the past eleven years. Perhaps it is for this reason, or possibly, owing to the city’s knack for expressing endearment towards any player who presents a visual treat, there were not too many frustrated, bewildered faces when the youngster was inflicting, albeit very elegantly, and not with the injection of brute force, misery upon misery on the city’s own team, Mumbai Indians.
For the faithful at Wankhede Stadium, 30 April could not have been any better. A ‘Mumbaikar’ scoring a century (124 off 62) – which also happens to be the highest score of IPL 2023 thus far – followed by the home team’s triumph.
As Jaiswal went on to collect the award, the crowd was well in place to cheer for him – a son of their soil, be it an adopted one. He knows Mumbai like the palm of his hand, but on the flip side, the city, too, is familiar with those hands.
Hands, which might now be guarded by expensive protective wear, and used to wield high-calibre willow, but not very long ago, were used to pierce through fried puff-pastry balls, inculcate mashed potatoes in those, with a dip in tamarind juice. Hands, which now lift shimmering trophies, were once selling pani puris.
And Then, the City of Joy
Eleven days later, he would experience a replication – except this time, the city of dreams will be replaced by the city of joy. Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, albeit often staunch and loyal in their support of the Knight Riders, have always, much like Wankhede, exhibited the tendency of appreciating greatness when they spotted one.
11 May presented one such occasion – of greatness being on display. In a ground where a former left-handed batter, who exuded class, was regarded as ‘prince,’ another left-handed batter, exuding nonpareil elegance for a 21-year-old, was adding fans to his ever-growing list, in thousands.
He went on to score 98 runs in 47 deliveries, whilst recording the fastest IPL fifty in the process, as despite knowing their team is practically out of the competition, the Kolkata crowd were vivacious – applauding the spectacle they had just witnessed.
The Journey to Mumbai
Hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Bhadohi, Jaiswal always had the promise, except that his hometown lacked the premise – a platform to make it big.
“My seniors suggested that I come to Mumbai, saying that my talent will get wasted at Bhadohi. My father was a little apprehensive at first, because I didn’t have a place to stay, but an uncle decided to help out,” he said, during an interaction with The Quint.
Bhupendra Jaiswal, a small hardware store owner, and Kanchan Jaiswal, a homemaker, had every reason to be apprehensive, for whilst the city does provide platforms to millions, but not before toil, labour and the occasional deceit.
“My uncle had told me that I can stay at his place, but will need to help him out at his dairy shop. I used to clean the place before going for practice, but would get too exhausted after returning, to attend to the shop again. He was not happy, and one day, totally out of the blue, he evicted me from the place,” Jaiswal informed.
The Journey Within Mumbai
Opting not to cause his family any further troubles, with problems in the household being a dime a dozen, he decided to embark on a journey – no, not metaphorically, but quite literally!
I didn’t inform my family about getting evicted by my uncle. I packed my bags and went straight to the Azad Maidan, where I met Imran sir – who runs a club called Muslim United. He gave me an opportunity in a game, and I performed well, they were willing to allow me to live inside their tent.Yashasvi Jaiswal
A solo trip, not in the aesthetic but in the arduous sense, worked out just fine for Jaiswal. He had a team to play for, and a place to stay at – two of his biggest worries did not exist anymore. The problems were but a thing of the past, or so he thought, before being proven wrong again.
“The tent I was living in used to get so hot that I often couldn’t get any sleep. Then, during monsoon, it would get flooded. I was also bullied by the gardeners who used to live there. They often beat me up,” he said.
Being His Own Light
Stuck among bullies, in a tent which had no electricity, Jaiswal knew very well that he would need to be his own light. Besides playing cricket, with each game paying anywhere between Rs 200-300, he would also sell pani puris, just to make ends meet.
Misfortune had played its part, and so did agony. It was about time for destiny to enact its role, which it soon did.
After three years of living in a tent, Jaiswal found an unexpectedly life-changing avenue. “I was engulfed by problems. There were so many issues, and with no help from anyone, that I thought I have exhausted all of my patience and will. Then, I met Jwala sir and my life changed completely.”
Singh, a cricket coach who himself had to endure hardships aplenty, saw Jaiswal batting in a December 2013 tournament, and knew that the kid is made for the top echelons.
After knowing about his situation, Singh came up with an offer – Jaiswal would not have to worry about anything ever again, but it would not be a one-way road. In return, the coach would need unflinching, unwavering dedication from his ward.
The journey from then, till this far, is extensively documented. It is, however, the first chapters of his journey that will ignite fires across the nation, and beyond.
As Yashasvi Bhupendra Kumar Jaiswal himself once said:
“Never give up – make it your motto. Irrespective of how mad the situation was, I chose not to give up. Don’t think about results, future will take care of them. Your job is to improve yourself by staying in the present.”