Teenage batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal sold street food and lived in tents to pursue his cricket dream, and now he is playing with top stars in the Indian Premier League.
The 18-year-old left-hand batsman scored 400 runs in six one-day matches for India at this year’s Under-19 World Cup, but it was his IPL deal with Rajasthan Royals that turned heads.
He was snapped up by the Steve Smith-led Royals for $338,000 in the December auctions of the world’s richest Twenty20 tournament, making him the most expensive of a new crop of youngsters.
Life, though, was not always easy for Jaiswal, who hails from a small town in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh but moved to Mumbai at the age of 11 to hone his skills.
“Initially finding a place to stay (in Mumbai) was the hard part. I used to sleep in a dairy and then stayed at my uncle’s place but it wasn’t big enough and he asked me to find a different place,” Jaiswal told AFP from the United Arab Emirates, where this year’s IPL is being held.
“I then started to stay in a tent near Azad Maidan (a Mumbai sports ground) and would play cricket there during the day.
“I sold pani puri at night, to help earn some money for food,” he said, referring to a popular street snack.
Jaiswal also did some cricket scoring and worked fetching balls in club games to help finance his career.
His efforts started to pay off after he won a place in the Mumbai team and became the youngest batsman in the world, at 17 years and 292 days, to score a one-day double century.
But it was an even bigger day in the life of the Jaiswal family when the young batsman and useful leg-spinner was bought by the Royals for more than 12 times his base price of $27,000.
The Royals fielded Jaiswal in their opening game against Chennai Super Kings, but the opener scored just six runs and in his second outing, he was out for nought off Mumbai Indians quick Trent Boult.
– Dhoni respect –
But Jaiswal, who greeted Chennai captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni with his hands folded together in prayer, a mark of respect, before the game in Sharjah, says sharing a dressing room with big guns including Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Smith is a tremendous learning experience.
“It’s been great to talk to all the great players here. I’ve been talking to everyone and picking up things that would help me improve my game,” said Jaiswal.
“It has been good to have the support of skipper Steve Smith. He’s been very helpful and has been open to anything I’ve asked him. I’ve been trying to learn from his international experience.”
Jaiswal, who was player of the tournament in the U-19 World Cup in South Africa, where India were runners-up, credits coach Jwala Singh for helping him through his tough times in Mumbai.
“I started practising there (Mumbai) but my father, who runs a paint shop, said ‘Let’s go back home’, but I wanted to stay on,” said Jaiswal.
“One day after my practice I met coach Jwala and he offered to help me with my accommodation and work on my game and fitness. It helped me as a player.”
The young boy’s ambition struck a chord with Singh, who played state cricket himself but had to give up because of a lack of money and guidance.
“I saw in Yashasvi a younger me and thought God is giving me another chance to play well in my second innings of life,” Singh told AFP.
“I always believed he would play cricket at the highest level.”
As for what the future holds, Jaiswal — who, like many young Indians, idolises record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkar — will take it as it comes.
“My focus is to work on things I can control and not worry too much about the future.”