Man on the run: Rudraneil Sengupta on batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal - Hindustan Times
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Man on the run: Rudraneil Sengupta on batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal

ByRudraneil Sengupta
Feb 10, 2024 12:10 PM IST

After three years spent in a tent at Azad Maidan, the 22-year-old is living his dream. And it shows in his hunger for high scores.

When we interviewed Yashasvi Jaiswal for a Wknd profile last May, he looked slightly nervous. He was 21, and in the midst of his breakthrough season in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Jaiswal was the hero of the Test series against England last week. His 209 in Visakhapatnam makes him the third-youngest Indian to score a Test double (after Vinod Kambli and Sunil Gavaskar). (AP) PREMIUM
Jaiswal was the hero of the Test series against England last week. His 209 in Visakhapatnam makes him the third-youngest Indian to score a Test double (after Vinod Kambli and Sunil Gavaskar). (AP)

I asked if he would prefer Hindi or English. “English, please… I am still learning and I want to practise,” he said.

To break the ice, I started to discuss his training routine. He must be on a great exercise programme, because he had put on some serious lean muscle in about a year, I said. (In 2022, the 6-ft-tall batter was scrawny).

Jaiswal’s eyes lit up. “The effects are showing!” he said, laughing.

As the interview progressed, it became clear that the young man had something special about him. Even as a rank newcomer to the elite level, he had the air of someone with deep self-belief, patience and a quiet inner drive that did not crave external validation.

“I was 10 when I started thinking seriously that I wanted to play cricket and get into the national team,” he said. “When I look back, I think I was too young to really know what I wanted to do, or how to go about doing it, but it was a belief and a desire that never left me.”

He was on the brink of realising that dream, I pointed out. A call-up to the national squad seemed imminent. “Wow,” he said, looking down at his feet. He looked like he might cry. “Wow... What a strange feeling to hear that. I will keep doing what I am doing,” he added. “All I want to do is keep scoring runs.”

Two months later, Jaiswal was making his Test debut for India, playing against the West Indies in the tiny Dominican city of Roseau. He piled on 171 runs, emerging as the highest scorer for India in an innings victory. Last week, he was the hero of India’s Test series against England at home, scoring 209 in the second Test in Visakhapatnam, the third-youngest Indian to score a Test double (after Vinod Kambli and Sunil Gavaskar).

He has scored two centuries and two half-centuries across six Tests; 11 centuries and four half-centuries in 21 first-class outings. He was the highest scorer for the Rajasthan Royals in that breakthrough IPL season.

A boy who honed his skill at Azad Maidan, he is the newest flagbearer of the Mumbai school of batting, all technique and accumulation, but with a dash of the north Indian school of daredevilry about him.

It’s a dream no one could have seen coming true. As a child, he played in gear loaned to him by seniors; ran errands in exchange for food at the local khao gully. Famously lived in the tents of the Muslim United Sports Club at the maidan for three years, too tired to keep up his end of the bargain at the cattle shed and dairy nearby, where he had secured lodgings in exchange for work.

At night, he would look out at the lights of the Wankhede stadium from his tent, he said in the interview. But that was in the past. “I believe in focusing on the present,” he added.

In the present, all he has to do is keep scoring runs.

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