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From selling paanipuris to scoring World Cup tons: Yashasvi Jaiswal’s memorable journey

NEW DELHI: Yashasvi Jaiswal has taken the ICC U19 World Cup by storm. His unbeaten century in India’s 10-wicket win in the semifinal against Pakistan took his tally in the tournament to 312 runs, making him the top scorer.

Jaiswal was unbeaten on 105 off 113 balls in an innings laced with eight fours and four sixes. It was part of an unbeaten 176-run opening stand with Divyaansh Saxena (59*) in a woefully one-sided semifinal.

It was an innings that garnered praise from all quarters, with Pakistan fast bowling great Shoaib Akhtar saying that Jaiswal is destined for big things. “Remember my words that Jaiswal is going to go places. He has the power, passion and interest for the game. He will represent the senior team, this is a guarantee,” Shoaib said on his Youtube channel.

“Pakistan players need to learn from Jaiswal’s history. He is running behind excellence and money is running behind him now,” he said.

It has been a roller coaster ride for the UP-born player, who had to make ends meet by selling paanipuris on the streets of Mumbai in his initial days after his father moved to the big city.

“I love cricket and playing the sport gives me immense joy and pleasure. I used to watch Sachin sir bat and from that time onwards, I wanted to be in Mumbai and represent Mumbai,” Jaiswal had told the ICC in December last year.

“When I came here (Mumbai) with my father, I used to visit the Azad Maidan. I loved playing cricket there. I started practicing there but my father said ‘let’s go back home (Uttar Pradesh)’. But I said I will stay here and play for Mumbai.

“I took all my stuff and came to Azad Maidan. At that time, a match was happening and Pappu Sir told me that if I performed in that match, there would be a tent for me to stay in. I played that match and performed really well. As a result, I got to live in the tent. But it wasn’t easy for me as there was no light and no toilet,” he had said.

Limited monetary means meant that Jaiswal had to find ways to keep his passion alive.

“During those times, I didn’t get much support from my family on the monetary front. So I used to sell panipuris in the evening and earn some money. It was an embarrassing situation for me when the players with whom I used to play would come at the shop I worked in. I used to feel so bad because I would score a century in the morning and in the evening I used to sell panipuris. But it didn’t matter whether if it was a small job, as it was important for me. Yet my only focus was on cricket,” he said.

Just as his determination was beginning to falter, Jwala Singh, a coach in the maidan, spotted him and decided to take young Jaiswal under his wings.

“I didn’t have the money to buy food and didn’t have a place to stay either. However, sir told me to just focus on cricket and he would take care of everything else. I got selected to play for Mumbai in the Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2019. I went for the match and created the record of being the youngest to score a double hundred in List A cricket,” he said.

Jaiswal smashed 203 off 154 balls for Mumbai against Jharkhand in that Vijay Hazare Trophy clash.

The rise has been quick for Jaiswal since then and his inclusion in the U-19 World Cup squad hardly came as a surprise.

India face either New Zealand or Bangladesh in the final of the U19 World Cup on Sunday. They would be hoping that Jaiswal finishes the tournament with one last flourish before going for the bigger things that are destined for him. The youngster has already been picked by Rajasthan Royals for the upcoming Indian Premier League season for a whopping Rs 2.4 crore.