Mumbai: Dedication is the stepstool prodigies have climbed to rise in sports -- ask the greatest all-rounder of cricket, Ian Botham. In his early days, no task was too humble for him. He did odd jobs such as cleaning the windows of the pavilion, pushing the roller on match days, selling scorecards, pushing electronic buttons on scoreboards and rushing bowling analyses to the dressing-room. Today, he is a legend, widely regarded as one of the all-time greats of the game.
Yashasvi Jaiswal may not have heard of Botham's hard-scrabble beginnings but seems to be following the same path. Because of hardship during the younger days just because of cricket, today he becomes the youngest-ever cricketer to score a double hundred in A-Class cricket match after his knock of 203 against Jharkhand in the Vijay Hazare Trophy on Wednesday.
A son of a shopkeeper in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, Yashasvi left home at the age of nine because all he wanted to do was play cricket. Of course, his father knew. Without a roof over his head and no money in his pocket, he landed in Mumbai. His father had spoken to him about his uncle (Santosh), who lived in Mumbai. Yashasvi managed to reach Santosh's place, but could not stay there for long -- it was just a one-room tin shed.
But the urge to play the game drew him to Azad Maidan. He stayed at the Muslim United Club's tent while playing cricket. He was just nine years old. Yashasvi does remember those days but cannot put a date to those times. But he remembers the sequence of events that brought him there.
"Yes, it was after I was thrown out of a dairy at Kalbadevi, where I was working after my uncle asked me to fend for myself. But, I don't remember the day of the year," he tells The Free Press Journal from Bengaluru on Thursday.
He would play for an entire day and come to the tent only to sleep. For three years, the tent was his abode. He would sell fruits and paani-puri in Azad Maidan during Ram Leela to earn money for his two meals. There were other hardships too during those lean days, but his unabiding passion for the gentleman's game sustained him in these times.
Like the times he would accompany his teammates for lunch despite the fact he did not have any money and request them to pay for him, There were times when those who didn't know better humiliated him. Then there were times when he would sit alone and quietly weep on seeing his teammates getting lunch boxes, parents, especially mothers accompanying other kids.
However, this youngster never called it quits. In his quest to strengthen his game, he played matches with bigger boys and would be paid for his contribution.
The fire inside Yashasvi had been lit but it needed to be tended with care. As it happened, fate stepped in and one day, he caught the eye of a local coach, Jwala Singh, also an immigrant from Uttar Pradesh. Singh took him under his wing.
Cut to the present: Jaiswal is now 17, and 291 days, a middle-order batsman with a remarkable temperament and one of the top scorers for Mumbai. Long may he continue to live up to his name.