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Yashasvi Jaiswal and the fast track to success

Last updated on 13 Jun 2022 | 03:14 AM
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Yashasvi Jaiswal and the fast track to success

Across formats and games, the talented young batter has shown a remarkable ability to upskill his game, and he's not done yet

“I want to be the world’s best all-rounder, that’s my goal. I am serious! I’m not joking.”

From most 20-year-olds, that statement will be looked at with raised eyebrows. But there’s an earnestness with which Yashasvi Jaiswal says it that makes you believe – not whether he can or can’t be the world’s best allrounder, but that he wants to be.

Jaiswal is young enough to not even have been born when VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, and Harbhajan Singh were scripting the Eden miracle of 2001. But already in three years of cricket with Mumbai, India Under-19 and Rajasthan Royals, he’s shown a remarkable ability to continuously upskill his game.

Back in 2019 playing in his first Vijay Hazare Trophy tournament, Jaiswal blasted 564 runs in six innings at an average of 112.80 and a strike rate of 104.05. He then went to the Under-19 World Cup and hit 400 runs in a tournament no one else touched 300 in, and was the Player of the Tournament.

A shoulder injury and Covid-19 meant the next time Jaiswal played was straight in the high-pressure environment of IPL 2020, with bubble-life still very new. Only 40 runs were scored in three innings that IPL, at less than a run a ball. But Jaiswal was back in 2021, with a strike rate that had jumped to 148.21 in ten games. He began IPL 2022 also tepidly and was dropped from the side, but came back for the last seven games averaging 33.28 at a strike rate of 137.05.

He's done the same for Mumbai. Surprisingly enough, Jaiswal has played only two Ranji Trophy matches for his team. His debut came in January 2019. He had to wait till the quarterfinals against Uttarakhand in June 2022 for a second game, and he promptly hit his maiden century.

“You need to keep scoring runs, that’s the thing with Mumbai cricket,” Jaiswal says. “That’s why I’m so tough mentally, because I know I have to be on my toes all the time.

“I feel like I need to focus on what I can control. I cannot control the weather, the pitch, the pandemic and stuff like that. I need to stick to what I can control. So I thought, ‘Okay it’s fine, whatever’s happening is happening. Lage raho.’”

Being mentally tough came naturally perhaps, to a boy who saw life’s struggles up close: practicing in Azad maidan in Mumbai during the day and selling pani-puri to his teammates in the evenings when he first came to the city. From there to being a pre-auction retention for his IPL franchise, Jaiswal has seen plenty in a still-young career. A conversation with Shikhar Dhawan – Jaiswal was naturally drawn to an aggressive left-hand opener – put things in greater perspective.

“Now I have the knowledge that I have to say these things out loud,” Jaiswal says. “Then I’ll get even better. What you see and hear is what you become. I spoke to Shikhar paaji recently and that’s what he told me. ‘If you think that way, only then will you become that way. If you don’t think then how will you become what you want?’

“He always motivates me, tells me how to approach things. Cricket is there, but the stuff off the field is also very important. If you sit with him, the vibes he will give you, you can’t stop smiling. He’s just an amazing human being. Amazing. Whenever I see him, I just feel happy.”

Jaiswal’s time with the Royals has also been fruitful. There’s the wisdom of Kumar Sangakkara to draw on. “Whenever I’ve spoken to him, till today I’ve never heard something negative from him,” Jaiswal says, the admiration evident in his voice. “Everything is positive. He understands how to convey something positively. He always tells me, ‘You have to take a brave decision in the middle.’ This game is all about… you can’t just go and tap the ball around for ones and twos. I mean you can do it when the situation is there, but you have to take brave decisions. And he just tells me to enjoy the game and work hard.”

There’s the fun element with Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler. “Sanju bhai, Jos bhai… He’s a mast aadmi. Too good. It’s great fun playing with him,” he says. “The way they push you is also fun. Like when we’re batting, Sanju bhai hits a big six, so I’ll try to hit one further. If he hits a certain shot, I’ll try to hit that shot. The way I hit offspinners straight, I’ve picked that up from Sanju bhai.”

And, to circle back to the all-rounder aspirations, the leggie Jaiswal has two excellent teachers in R Ashwin and Yuzvendra Chahal. “Recently I’ve worked a lot on my bowling with Ash bhai and Yuzi bhai. They are really nice and they are amazing human beings. Whenever I needed to go and talk to them, ask about my bowling, they would help me out.

“When I was playing Under-19 I bowled in every match. I bowled in Under-23 for India also. Only Ranji and IPL I haven’t bowled as much. But I’m still bowling in Vijay Hazare and sometimes in Syed Mushtaq Ali. So then why can’t I be the world’s best allrounder… I’ll just try my best and I will be if I work hard.”

The self-belief it takes to utter that is what has helped Jaiswal through the ups and downs, of cricket and life. And Covid-19 brought a silver lining, in adding to his mental toughness.

“If you see, I’ve been alone all the time. If I’m going to UAE I have to be alone in a bubble. Then I was in Ranji Trophy, alone in a bubble. In Vijay Hazare,” Jaiswal says. “That’s the best thing I’ve learned in this bubble life, I started knowing myself more than anyone. That’s the beauty of this bubble. I keep talking to myself, there is nobody else! I was depending on others earlier, that was not right. I’m an adult, I need to be independent.

“It’s still tough bhai! Seven days quarantine, then three days soft quarantine… then you have to go and play. It’s tough brother! But you have to take some positive from it, so that’s what I took. I think this Ranji Trophy match was very important for me. Mumbai cricket is such that I got a chance to play after three games. So for me, it’s really important, these performances.

“It is the same when I played in the IPL (in 2022). I played three games, then I got dropped for seven games and then I came back again and started playing. Same thing for this match also, because in the three league matches I was out, and now I came back and in my mind, I was like, ‘I need to do it, I need to do it.’ I was playing well in the first innings but I just got out playing a bad shot. Thanks to the Mumbai team they’ve shown faith in me and given me a chance to keep playing. They believed I can do the job for them, and I am ready.”

Jaiswal has moved his family to Mumbai now, from Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh. When it’s put to him that children of middle-class families normally would take years before they had the means to set their parents up comfortably, Jaiswal agrees. “I am so blessed. Thank you god, and thank you cricket.”

And he heeds his family’s wishes too, even if it means waking up at 5.30am – like he did during the first covid lockdown.  

“I didn’t do anything, stayed home, ate and slept. Watched days turn into night and night turn into day!” Jaiswal laughs. “My body clock had changed. I would sleep in the morning and wake up at night. I wasn’t scared but my family wouldn’t let me go out. They were like, ‘You might get it (covid) and from you someone else at home might get it. You’re young, you’ll manage it, but what about the older people?’ So I listened to them.

“I focussed on core training with exercises you can do at home. In the morning I would go running. I would leave at 5.30 am and be back by 6.30 am.”

He might have a few more 5.30 am wake-up calls in the future, the kind where you wake up early to prepare for big matches.

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