Warren Buffet calls it the ovarian lottery. For most of us, the conditions of our birth – financial, geographical and social, determine much of how the rest of our lives pan out. Few people defy this lottery and rise up against all odds. The Mint carries a heart-warming story of a boy who came up from modest beginnings and toiled through teenage years to now being considered the next big thing in Indian cricket. The story is about Yashasvi Jaiswal, the 17yr old Mumbai cricket team’s opening batsman, who as a 10yr old left his family back in a village in UP to come to Mumbai, the home of Indian cricket with nothing but a dream. In some ways he demonstrates that the fact that he came with nothing to lose helped him with the resolve to succeed and even better, learn to deal with success. “Cricket is a game where 40 out of 50 times you aren’t successful,” he says. “Ten times you succeed. The best thing is to enjoy. The day you get runs it’s important to be happy because other days it’s not so easy. You need to be normal whether it’s going well or not.”
“When Jaiswal, the fourth of six children, first arrived from Uttar Pradesh to play cricket at the age of 10, the immediate challenge wasn’t how to hit cover drives or score centuries, but more basic: where to sleep, how to eat, where to bathe. In the early months, he stayed with an uncle, then worked briefly at a dairy, from where he was turfed out two months later for working less and playing more.
Eventually, he started staying at the Muslim United Club’s tent at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, where the gardeners and ground staff lived—he spent about three years there. He had to use the public toilets at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and served pani puris in the evenings, at times even to his teammates to earn a spot of cash. “Who would like this?” he asks. “It didn’t feel good. But I thought it’s okay, let it go.”
His kit was borrowed or donated. Meals were a gamble. Literally. Every day he would wager against coaches and other players: “If you get me out, I will give you ₹100, if I get you out, you have to give me ₹100″. Plenty of people came to the maidan to play, so there were enough bets to place and win, usually enough to pay for food. “It used to work out for me,” he says.
….What set Jaiswal apart wasn’t his skill, the coach says, but something that was harder to teach: determination. “I don’t look at the cricket,” says Singh. “Technique we can teach, we are coaches. The main thing is attitude…. I knew this guy won’t give up.”
When Singh first started training Jaiswal in 2013, the boy was weak, and suffered constantly from knee injuries. Because instead of resting when he needed to, he would train harder in the mistaken belief that he wasn’t fit enough.
But at that physically formative age, Jaiswal needed proper nutrition rather than misguided determination. “Underprivileged kids, those without facilities, their muscles don’t develop correctly and when you put pressure, they give trouble,” says Singh. “This was a big challenge with him. But luckily we intervened in time.”
In a personal highlights reel that is awash in runs and wickets, Jaiswal believes his strength is his staying power, his ability to not just play big shots but persevere through an innings. It’s a fortitude built out of struggle, of living through uncertainty. “In any situation I can manage, nothing frightens me,” he says. “I keep fighting, that’s my goal. That mindset was built from there; there is nothing you get for free. You have to do everything for yourself.”
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