“Every day if I put in everything that I’ve got, I get closer to where I want to be.”
He’s not your regular 20-year-old - carefree and devoid of responsibilities. He’s a pure methodist at heart, someone who’s used the obstacles life threw at him to fuel his ambition with a rigorous approach, dedication that’s second to none and above all, his love for the game. Barely out of his teenage years, young Yashasvi Jaiswal has already had quite an eventful journey in what promises to be a rewarding career ahead. And if there’s one thing that his life struggles have taught him, it is to look at the silver lining even when the dark cloud makes everything around look gloomy, and keep chasing the dream.
It is what he did at the IPL this year. Having been retained by Rajasthan Royals ahead of the season, Yashasvi’s happiness knew no bounds. But with that there was also the pressure to perform in a team full of potential match-winners, with fierce competition for places. There he was, at our pre-season camp in Nagpur, gearing up for his third IPL season with a franchise that had shown immense faith in him. He looked calm, confident, was focused on his preparation, and felt at home at the Royals’ High-Performance training centre - where he has spent considerable time honing his skills.
“I felt very proud of myself when I heard that I was going to be retained. It gave me a feeling that I needed to work harder because I have a bigger responsibility. I should improve myself as a person and in the game of course, and win matches for Rajasthan Royals,” said Yashasvi, recalling the day he first heard the news of his retention.
Though, it wasn’t the best of starts to his season this year. In his first three outings, the southpaw aggregated just 25 runs and had to sit out a few games thereafter. It wasn’t until our 11th league match that he finally returned to the Playing XI. And how!
“I was focusing on my daily routine and process and was in a really good headspace. With Zubin (Zubin Bharucha) sir’s help, I worked really hard on my game every day and he would always push me whenever I was down. Everything I’ve learned is through communication with great players and coaches here - they have helped me to think about how I can improve my game, be better on and off the field and how I should manage my fitness,” he said, when asked about what was going on in his mind during this period.
The second half of the season unfurled his true genius with his biggest weapon apart from the willow - his mind. His comeback knock (68 vs Punjab Kings) was an exhibition of visually delightful strokes in a fairly steep chase. But more than that, it was a gentle reminder of how determined and resilient he really is, and the mayhem he’s capable of when he sets his mind to something. The celebration after reaching his fifty was more of a reassurance to himself than to the world. Deservingly so, it fetched him the Player of the Match award as the Royals went on to seal a dominating win.
That confidence-booster of an innings then led to some more useful knocks - including his crucial fifty against Chennai Super Kings that laid the foundation for an important victory - one that propelled us into the Top 2 and into Qualifier 1. But even in the games where he scored only a handful of runs, it looked like Yashasvi had found his mojo back, and the timing couldn’t have been better. The results were starting to show for the team.
”He spends a lot of quality time training and practising in the nets. Very happy for him,” captain Sanju Samson had said at one of the post-match presentations.
It’s true. Yashasvi belongs to a rare breed of hustlers. His teammates would attest to the fact that he’s usually among the first ones to hit the nets and the last one to leave. A typical day at training involves him batting against certain fields that he would anticipate from bowlers in the match, putting himself in hypothetical situations and gauging his own reactions, or just repeatedly practising the same shot until he’s satisfied with it. But most importantly, he goes out there seeking answers to a fundamental yet critical question, “What do I want from this practice session?”
And it’s not just his left-handed batting brilliance that he wants to be known for. As someone who loves bowling leg spin and idolises Shane Warne, Yashasvi’s goal is to become the ‘world’s best all-rounder’. It is why he spent hours with fellow Royal Yuzvendra Chahal in the nets this season, learning the tricks of the trade and striving to get another step closer to the dream.
It’s also not just white-ball cricket that the youngster has in sight. The way he seamlessly switched from the euphoria of playing an IPL final to delivering in the Ranji Trophy in under a week says a lot, not only about his mental fortitude but also his hunger to perform exceedingly well in the longer format of the game.
“I was mentally ready because if you want to play for any big team, you need to be on your toes.”
On his toes, he was. A record hat-trick of hundreds from his bat in the knockout stages helped Mumbai storm into their 47th Ranji Trophy final. The youngster ended up amassing nearly 500 runs in just three matches with a whopping average of 83, and a bouquet of adulation for showcasing his range as a run-hungry go-getter, irrespective of the format he plays.
Ask him to describe himself in three words and he’s almost quick to answer with “brave, honest and smart”. There’s no contesting that. From living in makeshift tents on a cricket ground to selling pani puris and milk packets for a living, this dreamy-eyed boy from the bylanes of Uttar Pradesh’s Suriyawa town showed enormous courage in a city like Mumbai, where cut-throat competition leaves even the most talented teens in the shade. He has been honest with his craft, and his personality has been a reflection of what he truly brings to the table. And under the tutelage of the coaches and fellow teammates at the Royals, he continues to grow as a cricketer, and as you’d often hear him saying - as a human being too.
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