Who can forget the Yashasvi Jaiswal’s fantastic hundred runs in the semi-final clash against Pakistan in the U-19 World Cup last Tuesday?
The man behind the star, however, is Jwala Singh (Chief Coach and Director, Mumbai Cricket Club), who has been a father figure to Yashasvi.
Yashasvi came under Singh’s wings when he was a little boy of 11 years in Mumbai. “When I saw him for the first time practising at the Azad Maidan in 2013, I could see myself in Yashasvi,” says Singh about what motivated him to groom the child. “His passion, determination and zeal to excel reminded me of myself when I had arrived in Mumbai as a budding cricketer.”
Singh watched the kid play at the grounds for couple of days. Then, after a week, he approached the child to find out more about him. Yashasvi told Singh that his poor runs in his game didn’t let him qualify for his school league games. But even as Singh was hoping to turn it around for the boy by coaching him, he learned that Yashasvi was on returning to his village in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh.
“I realised then that his intense practise sessions lacked direction and guidance — exactly what I experienced growing up — so I decided to groom him. Knowing what I had in mind for him, his parnets were happy. We’ve almost become a family since.”
Importantly, Yashasvi’s parents never interfered with Jwala’s plans to train him. And Jwala began working on the boy’s batting.
His work cut out
However, not everyone was happy about, and Singh faced much criticism for his decision to groom Yashasvi. “But I knew that he had something in him, and I strongly believed then as I do now that it is his past struggles that will make him big in the future,” Singh adds.
Back then, recounts Singh, that Yashasvi was so low on confidence, he refused to play a match in his school too. “There was a fear in him, one that I understood as stemming from his past struggles. Added to it, he had other challenges, including selling panipuris and working in a dairy shop to survive, and sleeping with groundsmen at Azad Maidan,” Singh explains.
Singh’s priority he realised was to drive out the boy’s fears and build his confidence levels. Yashasvi’s training started with physical fitness, followed by ensuring the boy had a healthy diet. Slowly but steadily, Yashasvi’s confidence began growing. “He had to be technically correct to play long innings, so I also started to work on batting and technique simultaneously,” the coach says.
Grooming a rising star
Soon, Yashasvi began playing school games, putting up an impressive show every time. The rest, as they say, is history. Soon, he made it to the Mumbai U-16 and U-19, U-22 teams. Then last year, he made it to Mumbai’s prestigious Ranji Trophy team. Then in October last year, he became the world’s youngest cricket to score a List-A double century. “Extensive practise sessions and hard work, immense concentration and dogged determination to succeed lead you to success. And that is how I would describe Yashasvi’s journey,” says Singh, adding. “Over the last few years, I have watched Yashasvi evolving into a matured batsman, showing a lot of temperament.”
However, Singh believes Yashasvi’s process of turning into a complete cricketer is still on. “We have not even started,” says the coach, adding, “We have a long way to go and I only keep telling him to put his head down and focus on the game.”
Making a habit of mentoring
Singh can also be credited as the one who resurrected Prithvi Shaw, the former India national U-19 cricket team captain. “It must have been 2014 when I first saw Prithvi playing in the Air India ground,” he tells us. “One day, his father told me that he was worried that Prithvi, despite his bright start, was not scoring runs.” Singh soon dialogised Prithvi’s problem — the latter seemed to be in a hurry to play all the shots early in his innings. “Besides adjusting his batting technique, I advised him to play every ball on its merits and not the way he wanted to play it. Since then, there’s been no stopping the youngster. He eventually made it to Team India,” says a proud Singh.