The biggest name emerging from India U19’s World Cup campaign in South Africa is Yashasvi Jaiswal. The 18-year-old batsman from Uttar Pradesh, who is now Mumbai’s adopted son, enjoyed an incredible run in the biennial ICC tournament, ending it as the highest run-scorer and the Man of the Tournament award. The internet is abuzz with Yashasvi’s story of struggles – from living in tents to selling pani puris for a living. But not many know about the man who rescued the homeless young boy from his struggles, coached him and shaped him into what he is today. Mr Jwala Singh, Yashasvi’s personal coach for the past seven years, cannot hold back his euphoria after seeing his disciple reach such great heights. Cricket.com caught up with Mr Singh for a quick chat soon after the World Cup final. Here are a few excerpts:
You and Yashasvi must have had a chat before the final. What was it about?
Normally Yashasvi and I talk most of the times, especially when there is a special match. I had a long chat with him. I was with him in South Africa before the finals. I told him this game is very important and that he had to play to his potential here. I also told him that he had to do the basics right and that was all about it. This is all we spoke about.
Have you guys had any chat after the heartbreak of losing the final?
Yes, I spoke with him today (February 10). As you all know he did well in the World Cup. When you are performing well for your country you feel proud but at the same time, you wish India had won the tournament. So he was a bit disappointed about India’s loss. He won the Man of the Tournament but would have been happier had India won the World Cup.
What advice will you give him in context to his next leap in cricket?
In cricket nothing is permanent. I always tell him that this kind of events like the Under 19 World Cup happens every two years so there are a lot of players playing and performing well. I don’t like people using words like ‘Star’ for Yashasvi because he still has a long way to go. He has to keep working hard and keep improving his game. I try to be real with him. I always focus more on the process. The process has to be right. He has just completed the U19 level on the right note but this is just the end of junior cricket for him. Now he will play senior cricket which is very challenging. Senior cricket is full of established players who have already played all these junior tournaments. For a transition to the top level, Yashasvi will have to keep working on his fitness, his mental strength and focus on improving his skill all the time.
What do you have to say about his incredible performance in the semi-final and final? Did you train him for such high-pressure situations?
Normally I just ask him to not think that he is playing the World Cup semi-final or final. As a batsman you need to see the ball properly and you need to react as per the merit of the ball. If you start thinking so many things like it’s a big game then you will get nervous and that will not help you out. Just play cricket as cricket and look at the ball as a ball instead of focusing on the bowler and try to stay on the wicket as long as you can. So this is the mantra I give him every time. I think he followed this advice in the semi-final and final so I am happy for him.
Yashasvi broke a crucial partnership in the final. Has bowling leg-spin ever occurred to him as a trade he can practice?
See Yashasvi is not just a batsman. He is an all-rounder. We always see him as an all-rounder and discuss this with him because see there are a lot of people scoring runs so if you can bowl as well then that makes you more important to the team. Actually Yashasvi is a very good bowler, something that the world has not seen yet. He doesn’t get much opportunity with the ball because there are a lot of specialist bowlers already and they are taking wickets.
But if you followed Yashasvi in the World Cup, he bowled around nine overs in all three matches and gave 40 odd runs while taking three wickets. And all those three wickets were against the top-order batsmen – against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. So yes I have always groomed him as an all-rounder. Before the World Cup there was a quadrangular series in South Africa in which he took six wickets in two games and four in an innings. He is not a batsman who can bowl but he is a genuine all-rounder who needs opportunities.
How will you keep Jaiswal grounded with all the IPL glitz around him? Will that be easy or hard?
No, no he is grounded. He is just one among the many players in my academy. I do not give him any special treatment. I have also seen many hardships in life and I have also played at a good level of cricket so I know a lot of international cricketers. And in my academy players like Wasim Jaffer, Chaminda Vaas and Rangana Herath come for coaching so whenever they come to my academy I tell Yashasvi to go and chat with them. I ask him to learn from them how, despite being so internationally acclaimed, they are so humble. Keeping Yashasvi grounded is not that difficult because he has grown in an atmosphere full of hardships. And I always tell him to focus on just cricket and not involve himself in any other things. If there is anything outside cricket, I deal with it.
What does this break mean for the Jaiswal family given their financial struggles?
Yashasvi is living with me for the past seven years. Whatever struggles he had was before meeting me. Once he started living with me I have given him whatever I can. And his parents are really good. They don’t involve themselves much in decisions related to Yashasvi. They have told me that he is now my kid and I am his father and mother and it is my job to grow him up well. We do not think much about money. Of course, money is important for improving your lifestyle but right now we are just focussing on cricket and frankly speaking I feel we are still struggling but not thinking much about it.
What has been Yashasvi’s biggest learning from Rahul Dravid?
We all know Rahul is a great character, one of the legends of the game. When he got selected for India U19 I told him that ask Dravid sir whatever you want because what he will give you is not something everyone can give you. He often tells me about his chats with Dravid and what all he asked him. Yashasvi is lucky that someone like Dravid is coaching him and all the youngsters. His inputs have really helped Yashasvi.