IPL 2020: Meet Yashasvi Jaiswal who left home aged 10 to pursue cricketing dream

By Marc HigginsonBBC Sport
Yashasvi Jaiswal celebrates a century for India
Yashasvi Jaiswal scored a century against Pakistan on his way to leading India to the final of the Under-19s World Cup in February

Freshers' week is a little different for everyone this year, but few will experience one quite like India batsman Yashasvi Jaiswal.

When the 18-year-old is not playing in the Indian Premier League or shuffling around one of the world's most luxurious hotels in Dubai alongside the likes of Steve Smith, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler, he is meeting his heroes on an almost daily basis - just last week he made Twitter smile with his humble greeting of MS Dhoni.external-link

Yet playing for Rajasthan Royals in his debut IPL season is a world away from the challenges he encountered when he left home in rural Uttar Pradesh aged just 10 to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cricketer.

And all without the toastie maker, clothes horse and highlighter pens which other first-time home-leavers arm themselves with.

"I just really wanted to play cricket but in India, in a village, it's not easy to get an opportunity," Jaiswal told the Test Match Special at the IPL podcast.

"My seniors, they were telling me if you want to play cricket just go to Mumbai. That one thing stuck in my head - whenever I went to sleep or when talking to my mum I told her I wanted to go to Mumbai."

Not only did a 10-year-old Jaiswal promise to fund his own dream in one of the world's most populous cities, but he also pledged he wouldn't return home to see his parents until he had "achieved something" - which he says took four years.

The cricket was good - he'd spend all day honing his forward defence and practising ramp shots on the world famous Azad Maidan, a 25-acre area of land which is home to dozens of cricket fields and has spawned the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and current India opener Prithvi Shaw.

Surviving, however, was tough. In return for money and a roof over his head, he would work at a dairy shop until he was thrown out because he was too tired to earn his keep after a long day of cricket.

"I was like 'please let me stay here at least the night'," recalls Jaiswal. "I was alone at the time, it was a hard moment for me.

"The next day I called my cricket coach and he said to go to his home so I lived there for two or three months.

"In Mumbai it's hard to find space so I eventually needed to find another home. I moved into a tent with the groundsmen at my cricket club.

"They told me if I wanted to live in their tent, I had to score runs.

"I thought it would be good for me to live in a tent near the ground because I could wake up and go to practice, or I could do scoring or umpiring and with that I could help myself with money."

To top up his earnings - and all the while hoping his more affluent team-mates would not notice him - Jaiswal would sell street food during religious festivals.

But there was often not enough left over to feed himself. His diet consisted of lentils, rice, flour and potatoes, with chicken reserved for Sundays.

"I'd be waiting for Sundays," recalls Jaiswal, who often went to sleep without eating rather than fight for scraps with the groundsmen he shared living quarters with.

Then there were the times when all he wanted was to hug his mother who lived more than 1,300km away. Jaiswal, though, felt emotion would be perceived as weakness.

"When I missed my mum I did cry," he said. "I didn't tell people what was going on because I knew they would have told me to come home if I'm not comfortable. I just told them I was fine."

Fast forward to the present day and Jaiswal now lives with his coach and long-time mentor Jwala Singh, who spotted the youngster's potential after seeing him play older, more experienced bowlers with ease and has since guided Jaiswal's career in every respect.

On the back of being the leading run-scorer in this year's Under-19 World Cup and boasting an eye-watering domestic one-day average of 71, Jaiswal was given an IPL contract worth £256,000 by Rajasthan.

He is expected to soon break into the India national team, with his name a constant on the lips of commentators and pundits ever since he became the youngest player to score a one-day double century.

His sparkling 203 off 154 balls for Mumbai came at the tender age of 17 and beat the previous record by almost three years. Now he is opening the batting in the world's richest cricket competition alongside the world's number one ranked Test batsman, Australia's Smith.

"He [Smith] said just go out and enjoy it - he's a really nice guy," said Jaiswal. "When he came I wanted to ask so many questions, how to best prepare, improve my mindset. He said whatever you want to ask, just ask, don't hesitate.

"For a senior to do that, it's amazing for a youngster to bat under his captaincy."

Freshers' week couldn't get much better for Jaiswal. Well, not unless he bumped into Kate Winslet in the corridors of the exclusive resort Rajasthan currently reside in.

"My favourite film is Titanic and my favourite actress is Kate Winslet," said Jaiswal. "I love her so much and I just want to meet her one day.

"My favourite song is 'My Heart Will Go On' by Celine Dion. I am a romantic guy."