11-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal was thrown out of a dairy shop where he used to sleep. For three years, he lived with groundsmen in the Muslim United Club’s tent at the Azad Maidan ground in Mumbai.
During his hard times, the only thought that kept him going was that he wanted to play cricket for India.
It’s been six years now and Jaiswal is 17 years old, a middle-order batsman with remarkable temperament and is ready to join the India Under-19 team for the Sri Lanka tour. Mumbai’s Under-19 coach Satish Samant says Jaiswal has “extraordinary game sense and unflappable focus.”
The younger son of a small-time shopkeeper in Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh, Jaiswal moved to Mumbai to pursue cricket. His father did not object since he found it hard to feed the family. An uncle, Santosh, in Mumbai, had a house in Worli, but it wasn’t big enough for another occupant. Santosh had requested the owners of Muslim United Club, where he was a manager if the boy could stay in the tent.
For three years, that tent became his home. He did not let his family in Bhadohi know about his troubles, as that would end his cricketing career. Occasionally, his father would send some money but that was never enough.
He had to sell pani-puri during the Ram Leela in Azad Maidan and help sell fruits. But there were still days when he would go to sleep on an empty stomach as the groundsmen with whom he shared the tent fought with each other.
“During Ram Leela, I earned well. I prayed that my teammates would not come there for pani-puri. Sometimes they did and I would feel bad serving them,”
he says. He tried his best to keep some money coming in. He would score and play games with older boys to earn Rs 200-300 to survive a week.
The days were fine, he recalls, since he was busy scrounging around for work and cricket, but the nights sometimes were too long. There was no toilet at the maidan, and the one near Fashion Street that he used was closed at night.
Mumbai U-19 coach Satish Samant says Jaiswal will be the next big Mumbai player.
A local coach Jwala Singh met him and took him under his wing on hearing about this talented young man.
An immigrant from UP himself, Jwala saw his early childhood in Jaiswal.
“He must have been around 12 years and I saw him facing an ‘A’ division bowler with ease. I could relate to him. When I also came to Mumbai from UP, I didn’t have a house to stay in. No godfather, no guide. He is gifted. He has 49 centuries in the last five years,”
says Jwala, who has played the junior age group for Mumbai and had a stint at the MRF pace foundation along with Zaheer Khan.
Jaiswal now stays in a small chawl in Kadamwadi, which he calls his palace.
“I remember the days when I was almost shameless. I used to go with my teammates for lunch, knowing that I didn’t have any money. I would tell them, ‘paisa nahi hai, bhook hai’ ( I don’t have money but am hungry),”
he said. He has seen hardships, faced them bravely and now is on his way to fulfill his dreams.