Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

The Yashasvi Jaiswal Story: From battling hunger to developing an insatiable hunger for runs

The 22-year-old batting sensation has had a remarkable rags-to-riches tale. He's faced hardships and overcome the fear of failure to emerge as one of the rising stars of Indian cricket. The centurion in Vizag, who also scored a hundred on Test debut, says this is just the start

Published: Feb 3, 2024 08:08:17 AM IST
Updated: Feb 3, 2024 12:30:23 PM IST

The Yashasvi Jaiswal Story: From battling hunger to developing an insatiable hunger for runsYashasvi Jaiswal of India celebrates reaching his century during day one of the 2nd Test Match between India and England at ACA-VDCA Stadium on February 02, 2024 in Visakhapatnam, India. Image: Stu Forster/Getty Images 

The greatest of cricketers get nervous in the 90s. The fear of getting out when you are close to achieving a big milestone is common. But when you are Yashasvi Jaiswal—who has overcome every possible fear in life—how can you be afraid of anything?  

The 22-year-old was batting on 94 in the second Test against England on Friday when he walked down the track and lifted the ball over the long-on fence to bring up his century. It was Jaiswal’s second Test hundred after he started his career with a magnificent 171 against the West Indies on his debut last year. 

The opening batter kissed the helmet and raised his arms multiple times in celebration on the first day of the ongoing Test match in Vizag—perhaps thanking the sky that was his only ‘rooftop’ when he had no place to stay at the age of 10. Born in a humble family in Suriyawan, a small town in Uttar Pradesh, Jaiswal’s rags-to-riches story is one of its kind.

He was only 10 when he moved to Mumbai in pursuit of playing cricket. But the young boy had to struggle a lot to chase his dreams in the big city. Initially, when he had nowhere to go, a dairy owner provided him with a rooftop, but with a condition—the boy had to help him out at the shop. However, since Jaiswal was mostly playing cricket and couldn’t contribute much, the shopkeeper threw him out.

He was on the streets again—with a bat and a bag in his hands. He was left with no option but to move into one of the tents at Azad Maidan, a local ground in Mumbai. He lived alongside the groundsmen and sold pani puri in his spare time to earn his livelihood. 

“We told him to come back, but he said that he would return to the village only when he becomes a player… he was happy to stay in the tent,” Jaiswal’s mother Kanchan told News18 in 2018. “He used to tell me, ‘Main maidaan mein hi rahunga toh sab kuch aasan hoga, subah uthte hi mere saamne cricket hota hai [If I stay at the ground, everything will be easy… as soon as I wake up, I see cricket in front of me’].”

Jaiswal soon found himself caught in a web. On the one side, the youngster was struggling to make a living, and on the other, he was unaware about how to convert his potential into opportunity. Hundreds of children come to Azad Maidan daily in the hope of becoming a cricketer… standing out in such a crowd isn’t easy.

But as they say, ‘stars find their way to shine’. Jaiswal was spotted by Jwala Singh, a Mumbai-based coach. Stunned to see the youngster’s talent, Singh not only decided to train him but also provide him food and accommodation. “I wanted to help him because his story was similar to mine… even I came from Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai to play cricket, so I know the kind of struggle he faced. He was living in a tent with the groundsmen and local gardeners. I told him that I will provide you everything and take you under my wing,” Jwala had said in 2018 about his association with Jaiswal.

The fearlessness we see every time Jaiswal walks out to bat wasn’t always there. In fact, Singh says in his early days, the batsman was afraid of failures, especially of getting out. But with some motivation from Singh and his constant hard work, Jaiswal overcame it all. 

Also read: If 2016 was the year of Virat Kohli, 2023 was definitely the year of Shubman Gill

The left-handed batter’s first step towards success was when he smashed an astonishing 319 runs and took 13 wickets in a multi-day match of Haris Shield, one of the top school-level tournaments in Mumbai. He hasn’t looked back since. He scored tonnes of runs at the school level and then for the Mumbai U-16 and U-19 teams. This led to his selection in the Indian U-19 team in 2018.

During his first stint with the national team, the elegant batter emerged as the highest run-getter and steered India to the title in the 2018 U-19 Asia Cup. Jaiswal’s hunger for runs was unreal. He looked unstoppable, topping the batting charts in almost every tournament. The southpaw finished as the highest scorer in the ICC U-19 World Cup 2020 as well. 

By now, he had made a name for himself in domestic cricket, pilling huge runs for Mumbai in both the Ranji Trophy—the premier domestic tournament—and white ball events. On the back of these performances, he was picked by Rajasthan Royals for Rs2.4 crore in 2020 in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction. 

For someone who had lived in tents, this kind of money was crazy, but Jaiswal had come a long way in life by then. Fame and money hardly mattered to him, although he was extremely young. Jaiswal had walked through the hardest paths and all that he wanted was to play cricket at the highest level.

"Money doesn't matter to me at all. It was just important that I got a chance to play in the IPL. Money is a by-product of your success. If you do well in any field, you will get some reward, but to get good reward, you need to keep working hard and follow the right processes," Jaiswal told The Times of India (TOI) after the IPL 2020 auction.

He struggled a bit early on in the IPL, but he kept his spirit intact. He worked on his basics and continuously improved his game. IPL-2023 was the turning point for him. With 625 runs in 14 matches, he won the Emerging Player of the Season Award. Jaiswal didn’t just score those runs but also scored them at a staggering rate, including a record 13-ball fifty. He went after the bowlers from ball one, which made him the talk of the cricketing fraternity. 

His consistent performances and years of hard work bore fruit when he earned his Test cap in July 2023 against the West Indies. Jaiswal’s hunger for runs was different. He didn’t settle for less. His introduction to international cricket was glorious—he made a mammoth 171 in his first match, making him the 17th Indian cricketer to score a century on debut. "It was an emotional moment for me," Jaiswal said after the innings. "I enjoyed it quite a bit. This is just the start of my career, so now it will be about how focussed and disciplined I can be going forward. My effort will just be on how I can give a good start to the team. I will focus on my process and trust on what I have practised. I have to go and keep playing."

He soon made his debut in T20Is as well. In his short international career so far, Jaiswal has already left a lasting impression. He scored a brilliant 80 in the first Test against England last week before his century on Friday. The knock earned the youngster praise from all corners, including his idol, Sachin Tendulkar, who posted Yashasvi’s century-celebration picture with the caption “।।यशस्वी भव:।।” (Yashasvi Bhava), meaning may you succeed. 

As he himself acknowledges, this is just the start.