It has been a week since the ICC U19 World Cup 2020 final was contested between runners-up India and winners Bangladesh. But the tournament’s top run-scorer, Yashasvi Jaiswal, has still not found time to resume cricket. All of 19, the young opening batsman is juggling between attending felicitations and obliging to numerous interview requests.
“Been busy adhering to the media schedule ever since returning from South Africa,” says Yashasvi, while taking a positive out of it. “Actually I needed a break too, so last four to five days I have not been practicing or training.”
Yashasvi’s parents flew down to Mumbai a day after he returned to India. While he is happy to have met his family after a long trip, he is also nostalgic about the other family he found in his teammates.
“The team became like a family in South Africa. We all really enjoyed there together. If anybody had a bad day on the field, we all would collectively back him. We are in our respective homes now but it still feels like a family,” he reminiscences, while also adding that each one of them tried to cheer up the other after the hurt of losing the World Cup.
“The atmosphere in the dressing room was good after we lost because each of us tried to cheer up each other. All of us had put in our best. After the first innings, the coach told us that all we needed to do was put in our best to turn the game back in our favour. We gave our best so we were satisfied.”
Maturity reflects in Yashasvi’s thought process. He wants to make the most of what he learnt in the World Cup, rather than lamenting over one bad game.
“We had a bad game, bad day, but it is okay, it happens in cricket. The goal is to improve ourselves with whatever we learnt in this tournament and move forward.”
Yashasvi dwells on the importance of getting exposure in international cricket and the opportunity of batting on different wickets as his biggest learning from the South African safari.
“I got to learn a lot of things from the World Cup. The pressure of playing at the international level, how to not let it get better of you, all this was a great experience. And it is always a good learning experience to play away from home, on different wickets.”
Yashasvi, who would not have imagined any stamps on his passport until two years ago, tries to explain the importance of playing abroad even better.
“You know, just the way we have cities like Mumbai and Kolkata in India, that same way South Africa has different cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town,” he innocently explains in a tone of euphoria. “We played at a lot of venues and also got to face bowlers from all over the world so it was an enriching experience.”
Mumbai’s adopted son, Yashasvi’s struggles to become a professional cricketer have been well documented. But the prize money that he won in the tournament has not deterred his focus from cricket.
“What I should do with the prize money will be taken care of by my sir (coach). My work is to play cricket so I just focus on that,” he says.
That Yashasvi was once homeless and was offered a roof by his coach seven years ago is no secret. The newfound stardom has not made him forget the days when he had nobody but his coach by his side.
“My coach is everything to me. My life changed after he asked me to move in to his house. I feel very lucky that he came in my life. He has made me a better human too. I am short of words to describe how special he is to me,” he says with immense gratitude.
While talking about his personal coach, he also acknowledges former U19 head coach Rahul Dravid’s influence in his game.
“I had asked Dravid sir how to absorb pressure and not let it affect my game. What he told me sounds like a very simple thing but it really works. He told me to just focus on each ball at a time and forget everything else. This input helped me.”
Yashasvi has not applied Dravid’s advice only for each ball, but also for each innings and each phase of his life. He is as unfazed about the hype surrounding him, as he is about the Man of the Tournament trophy breaking into two pieces after returning to India.
“I don’t think the U19 Man of the tournament award has warranted me a place in cricket. This was just a good platform to kick-off my career. I have to work very hard to ensure a smooth transition from here on. The challenge begins now.
I’m just focussing on my next tournament now and how I will prepare for it. I will leave the rest to God. If I work hard I will go far ahead. The rest is on the selectors. If they like my performance, they will keep me in the loop,” a busy Yashasvi signs off before obliging another interview request.