On Wednesday, 17-year-old Mumbai opener Yashasvi Jaiswal became the youngest batsman in the world to score a double hundred in a 50-overs game with an innings of 203 in 154 balls against Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at Bengaluru.
Six years ago, at the age of 11, Jaiswal was staying with groundsmen inside the Muslim United Club’s tent in Mumbai’s iconic Azad Maidan after he was thrown out of a dairy shop where he slept earlier. He was also selling pani puri. And chasing his cricket dream.
Today, as the famous maidans buzzed with speculation about the emergence of Mumbai’s next big batsmen, a strong endorsement came from Wasim Jaffer, the former India opener who has put in over 20 years in domestic cricket.
“Ek zidd dekhi hai usmein, yeh zidd bahot kum logon mein dekhne milti hai aaj kal. Yeh zidd unhi logon mein hoti hai jinka maqsad sirf ek hota hai (I have seen a stubbornness in him, the sort that is rare to see these days. Such stubbornness is only seen in those who have a single aim in mind),” Jaffer said.
Before Jaffer elaborates, one has to go back to 2013, when the 11-year-old took pains to ensure that stories of his struggle never reached home in UP’s Bhadohi. He knew it would have ended his dream. For his parents, their son was staying with relatives and trying to earn a living in the city of dreams. Occasionally, the father would send money but that was never enough. Jaiswal would sell pani-puri during Ram Leela at Azad Maidan to earn extra cash. But there were days when he would go to sleep on an empty stomach.
“If cricket is your only option, you will be ready to make any sacrifice,” said Jaffer, who has been following the youngster’s career for the last year. Jaiswal played with Jaffer in Vizzy Trophy for Indian Oil team where he was awarded Man of the Series. And the teenager’s coach Jwala Singh, who ensured that the youngster finally found a roof, has been Jaffer’s long-time friend.
For ages now, passing batting wisdom to the next generation has been a Mumbai cricket tradition and it is the reason why city’s assembly line of well-pickled willowmen has never dried.
Jaiswal acknowledged the lessons he learnt. “I used to get restless earlier. Wasim bhai came and told me that I should try and hit straight. I hit a six, the field was open after that and we managed to rotate the strike. I learnt to find solutions in a cricket situation from him. I also learnt patience from him,” Jaiswal told The Indian Express.
On Wednesday, Jaiswal took his time to settle down, but then didn’t look back, smashing 12 sixes and 17 fours. At 186, his team-mate sent him a message to hold on as he was reaching a milestone. Jaiswal slowed down a bit but Mumbai skipper Shreyas Iyer advised him to go with the flow.
“It was a day when everything was going right for me. After the hundred. I played some shots and quickly managed to score 150. It helped me that my batting partner (Iyer) said that I should continue my natural game and not think about the double hundred. I hit a six and I was close. Finally, it was a great feeling to be first cricketer to achieve this,” said Jaiswal.
By evening, Jaffer got that call. “I had messaged him: ‘well done’. I don’t remember any cricketer who has played under 16, under 19, under 23 and played Ranji Trophy in one season. It shows how much potential he has. He has performed everywhere. At 17, he is scoring a double hundred against India pacer Varun Aaron and India A spinner Shahbaz Nadeem. It’s a start, it’s not a small thing that such a small boy is scoring double hundreds in a one-day game,” said Jaffer.