Human beings are addicted to stories. Tales that make us believe, tales that show us the way forward and lead us beyond the shadows into the light. Yashasvi Jaiswal’s story is one such inspiring account. It is the story of a battle-hardened teenager; someone who’s seen so much, and persevered enough at 18 to know what life can be like. There have been hardships and brutal lessons, which has meant that when the time came to prove his mettle on the field, young Yashasvi had a sound, mature head on his shoulders. The Mumbai, India U-19 and Rajasthan Royals player has had quite the fairy-tale start to his career.
Playing cricket had always been a dream, and playing in Mumbai a fascination. There was no other place in which Yashasvi would play. Mumbai for long has been the provider of an assembly line of fluent, stylish and successful batsmen, and Yashasvi set himself on the same path early on.
For the new Royals recruit, the first major highlight of his youth career was an outing in a Giles Shield match in 2015. An outing that saw him score 319 not out and pick 13/99 - an unprecedented all-round performance which was recognised by the Limca Book of Records. Many impressive performances followed, and consistency quickly became the hallmark of Jaiswal’s growth story. This consistency earned the left-hander a spot in the India Under-19 squad, with some strong displays in the 2018 Asia Cup in Bangladesh further solidifying his growing reputation among experts and fans. He was named the leading run-getter and player of the tournament, as a strong Indian team won in style.
The 2018-19 season saw Jaiswal make a low-key debut for Mumbai against Chhattisgarh in the Ranji Trophy. Bigger things, however, were yet to come. 2019 saw him maintain his consistency and score a bucketful of runs at the U-19 level with strong performances in both red and white-ball cricket. The India U-19’s trip to England saw another fine string of performances from Jaiswal, as he scored over 290 runs in seven matches against England and Bangladesh.
The performances at the U-19 stage had been assuring, but it was yet only potential. There are so many high-profile examples of youngsters thriving as teenagers, but never quite making it as a senior international cricketer. Jaiswal was, at that point, already being spoken of as a future star - the next big thing from the Mumbai school of batsmanship. These predictions were bold, and performances at the junior level had been satisfactory, but there was nothing yet at the senior domestic level to show for. He had only played one game so far. But the call-up to Mumbai’s Vijay Hazare squad was to be the turning point.
The national 50-over competition proved to be the platform where Yashasvi showed he was more than ready to take his game to the next level. He was a revelation, scoring 500 runs in the tournament, with one fifty and three hundreds, including a monstrous 203 against Jharkhand. That double-century came against a bowling attack featuring Indian internationals like Varun Aaron and Shahbaz Nadeem. It also registered the then 17-year-old as the youngest batsman in the world to score a List-A double hundred.
What followed was more or less expected. The hype surrounding the young left-hander was immense, and his name was now spoken about even in international circles. And those murmurs only grew louder in December last year, after the IPL auction. His scintillating displays had not gone unnoticed at the Royals, who secured him for a whopping 2.4 Crores after an intense bidding war with Mumbai Indians. The contest between the two teams was testament to his talent and the potential cricketing stakeholders in the country saw in him.
When asked about the move for Jaiswal, Rajasthan Royals lead owner Manoj Badale stated that he saw a long-term prospect in the teenager, someone who would play a key role in the team over the next four-five years. Post the auction, the world now knew his name, with fans and experts keeping a close eye on his performances. And with the ICC Under-19 World Cup coming up, the level of scrutiny was only going to go up.
Leading up to the tournament, Yashasvi showed further glimpses of his talent with some impressive fifties against Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and South Africa. Jaiswal began his World Cup like his usual self, scoring a fluent 59 with the bat, and picking up one wicket. This was followed by an unbeaten 57 against the Kiwis in a curtailed game. Against Australia though, is where everyone saw a different side to his game for the first time.
Against some disciplined bowling, Jaiswal had to find the perfect balance between caution and aggression, as wickets tumbled around him early on. The knock displayed a more determined side to the left-hander’s game, one that might have been instilled at least partly due to his personal experiences in his formative years.
Any match against Pakistan is a big game. A World Cup semi-final against Pakistan is massive. It’s an occasion for the mentally strong, those who can remain ice-cool in the furnace of a World Cup knockout game against an arch-rival. The target (173) in fairness was not a massive one. It was though, a tricky target, especially in a semi-final against Pakistan, who have a penchant for producing a jaw-dropping performance when they’re least expected to.
Yashasvi chose to make it his day, smashing an unbeaten 105 as India thrashed their rivals by 10 wickets. The innings was perfectly paced and balanced - a statement to the world that this was a batsman who knew his game, and had indeed arrived. The innings signified his batting prowess and his strengths. It signified the special talent the boy has and what he could do, might well fulfil all of that talent.
For the new Rajasthan Royals recruit, cricket has always been above everything else. It was cricket that brought him to Mumbai, living in a tent and eventually to the notice of the world. He’s climbed steps and taken big strides every time an opportunity has presented itself to him. It’s still just the start of a long career, and the pressure will only intensify hereon – but the start has been ever so promising. And if this is, in fact, a sign of things to come, then the young southpaw is on the right track, with a strong mind and technique to accompany him along the way.