The next time Team India plays white ball cricket, there’s every possibility that left-handed opening batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal will feature in that series. That’s as early as July-August when India will travel to America to play the West Indies.
The success story of Jaiswal – who’s just 21 and who has set the 2023 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) alight with his big-hitting – is as much a success story of Mumbai.
Tens of thousands of people land up at various railway stations and bus stands of Mumbai every day, hoping to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Some dream of becoming actors; some aim to be cricketers; the majority arrive in the City of Dreams with a hope of landing any possible job.
AN INSPIRING STORY
Jaiswal’s story is a lesson in not only never giving up, but it is also a mirror to those who complain that their life/job/parents/spouse don’t give them their due. He was barely ten years old when he moved to Mumbai to become a cricketer. His father is a shopkeeper in a small town called Bhadohi in Uttar Pradesh. The family barely survived on whatever his father earned from the shop, and agreed to send him to Mumbai where a relative had a small room in Worli.
Through family connections, Jaiswal found a place to stay – at a dairy in Kalbadevi in South Mumbai. All of a sudden one day, he found his luggage thrown on the road. The dairy owner said he cannot afford to shelter anyone who wouldn’t help out his workers in their chores.
FROM DAIRY TO TENT
The homeless lad again approached the Worli-based uncle, Santosh, who knew someone at a local cricket club named Muslim United Club. That connection allowed Jaiswal to move into the tent that the club had set up in the dusty Azad Maidan, overlooking CSMT (VT Station). Azad Maidan is one of the cradles of Mumbai cricket where hundreds of kids, hoping to achieve something in the game, slog it out from dawn to dusk.
Jaiswal, only 11 years old, lived in that tent on a dusty, insect-infested ground, for three years. Once an insect bit him near his eye and the eye was swollen the size of a tennis ball, but the youngster learnt to take such things in his stride.
BATSMAN AND PAANI-PURI WALLAH
Jaiswal’s father was not in the position to send him regular pocket money, and Mumbai, even for those living in tents, could be an expensive city. The young man found a way: he set up a temporary paani-puri during the Ramleela festival at Azad Maidan. While paani-puri fetched him some money, he had to swallow the indignation when his teammates would swing by and he had to serve them paani-puri. At night, with no electricity in the tent and mosquitoes sucking on his blood, he would miss his family and weep. Even going to the toilet was a problem; the one about 100 mts away would be locked in the night.
ENTER THE MESSIAH
In any city anywhere in the world, only a migrant will understand the plight of a fellow migrant. That could be the reason why Indians and Pakistanis in America and Europe forge a bond, even as their kin back home continue to spew venom against each other, mostly on social media.
For Jaiswal, things turned out when a local maidan coach, also an immigrant from Uttar Pradesh, Jwala Singh, decided to mentor him. Jaiswal was 12 when Jwala Singh saw him bat and concluded this boy was made for bigger things.
Jwala gave Jaiswal a roof over his head, and things changed for him after his selection for the Mumbai juniors team, followed by the India team for the Under-19 World Cup. For a boy who has slept in a mosquito-infested tent and on an empty stomach, facing a fast bowler is no pressure. He has seen life and its vagaries from close quarters.