Breaking records with the ball – The story of Yashasvi Jaiswal, the all-rounder who could be just what India need
@Aadya_Wisden 6 minute read
Aadya Sharma digs into the lesser-known track record of Yashasvi Jaiswal the leg-spinner, speaking to his coach and mentor to understand what his bowling skills could mean for his future.
Yashasvi Jaiswal is clearly unstoppable. Those who have been tracking him for years might not be too surprised by the volume of runs he is currently churning out, but his development into a belligerent Twenty20 player has been undoubtedly staggering.
Just a couple of weeks ago – before he destroyed the IPL’s all-time fastest-fifty record – Jaiswal produced a sublime 124 at the Wankhede Stadium, his first T20 century. It was a coming-of-age moment for him at a ground where he has spent years honing his skills.
A stone’s throw away from Wankhede Stadium is the Bombay Gymkhana, where, six and a half years ago, Jaiswal’s all-round brilliance took Rizvi Springfield to the final of the Mumbai Schools Association hosted Harris Shield tournament. Against Balmohan Vidyamandir, Jaiswal scored 132 on the opening day. On the final day, he took a five-for in seven overs to secure a win.
It was not a one-off bowling performance. In fact, for the longest time, Jaiswal was identified as a batting all-rounder. His leg-spin was an integral component of his game until his batting edged ahead and became the driving force of his career. Yet, there is still a promising leg-spinner within, itching to be unleashed to the world.
At first glance, there is nothing striking in his bowling numbers from top-flight cricket. He has bowled only 13 wicketless balls in 55 T20 matches. In List A cricket, he has seven wickets at 53.96, and no scalps from his eight first-class overs.
Until a few years ago, though, there was much more bowling and a lot more wickets.
“When I found Yashasvi in 2013 December, I started working on his bowling,” says Jwala Singh, Jaiswal’s mentor, father figure and legal guardian for several years now, to Wisden. “He was doing well both as a batsman and bowler.”
In the first match Jaiswal played after joining forces with Jwala, he scored 47 and took a five-for in a school game for Anjuman Islam Urdu High School. However, it was a Giles Shield match that made him an overnight sensation: he hit 319 and finished with figures of 13-99.
Jwala rushed to check everywhere to see if his pupil had created a record. It indeed was: the Limca Book of Records, a compilation of world records by Indians, acknowledged it as the only instance of a triple ton and a ten-wicket haul in the same game.
As he progressed further at a remarkable rate with this batting, the bowling continued to be a strong secondary element of his game. One did not come at the expense of another. In a four-team Andhra Cricket Association Under-16 tournament in 2015/16, he was Mumbai’s second-highest wicket-taker, scalping seven wickets at 16.85 apiece. He comfortably topped the run charts.
Consistency did not seem to be a problem either. Playing for Mumbai in the 2016/17 Vijay Merchant Trophy, an all-India U16 tournament, Jaiswal was the season’s highest wicket-taker for his side, and the ninth overall. He had 30 wickets at 17.33, including three five-fors and a ten-for.
Jwala’s directive for Jaiswal was scarily simple – to become the best all-rounder in the world: “I always pressured him to work on his bowling because there’s a lot of competition as a batsman, and if you can take wickets, there is no competition for you.
“On Saturdays and Sundays, when there were no nets, I used to take him on morning walks. I used to tell him to keep a ball with him, saying ‘I want you to bowl some balls when you’re going to the ground or fitness training’. He used to bowl some in the nets and used to get some turn.”
With a smooth action, Jaiswal gets a good jump in, and does the classic leggie’s roll-up-and-unfurl.
By the time he had reached U19 level, his batting made constant headlines, and the bowling took a backseat. As a part-timer, he still chipped in with leg-breaks as much as he could. For the North India Panthers in the 2018 Mumbai T20 Cup, he claimed five wickets at 20.20 while going for 7.76 an over. He picked up more wickets than what Tushar Deshpande, IPL’s current Purple Cap holder, had managed in as many games.
Leading up to the 2020 U19 World Cup, Jaiswal was used on and off by India in U19 ODIs. In December 2019, a month ahead of the global tournament, Jaiswal ripped through the South African middle and lower orders, snaring 4-13, before pumping 89 in a 120-run chase. He finished the bilateral series with most wickets from either side. In fact, ICC’s pre-tournament feature video on Jaiswal probably had more shots of him bowling than batting.
A breakthrough World Cup made Jaiswal a truly global sensation. His bowling wasn’t really required, as India’s frontline spinners – Ravi Bishnoi, Atharva Ankolekar and Shubhang Hegde – did an excellent work. Jaiswal bowled just nine overs, still snaring three wickets.
His overall Youth ODI numbers – 12 wickets at 15.83 and a strike rate of 21.5 – make impressive reading.
Neither Rajasthan Royals nor the Mumbai state side has required Jaiswal’s bowling yet, but he’s keen to develop that side of his.
“Whenever I feel to pinch him or motivate him, I tell him: ‘You’re not just a batsman, you’re a bowler,'” says Jwala. “He always comes back and says: ‘Sir mujhe koi bowling hi nahi deta hai koi. Main kya karoon – main to nets mein bowling daale rehta hu, daalte rehta hu (Sir, they do not ask me to bowl. What do I do? I keep bowling and bowling in the nets!).’
“I tell him not to worry, whatever opportunity he has and keep bowling skills with him. A day would come when as a bowler he’ll have to bowl.”
Last year, he echoed his guru’s sentiment, still boldly claiming that he wants to be the best all-rounder in the world. He has been spending time with Rajasthan Royals teammate Yuzvendra Chahal in his quest to reach that tag.
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Given Jaiswal’s incredible run in IPL 2023, whispers of a future India selection have already begun. It is natural for a player of his calibre and records to get attention and appreciation of that magnitude. At the same time, India have a teeming pool of young batters, and opportunities won’t come as easily. To stand out, Jaiswal’s bowling can be a decider, especially when India do not have as many part-time bowlers as they used to.
To give a broad idea, India haven’t really had a serious bowling option outside of their five front-liners. Since the start of 2020, they have tried 14 bowlers at fourth-change or lower, and none has picked up more than seven wickets. In ODIs, they have tried nine, with none taking more than eight wickets. And these names barely contain anyone from the batting top five.
Of course, it is a step-by-step journey that will chart its course as destiny chooses to. He definitely needs to bowl a lot more, but the template is already there. If he gets enough time and guidance to develop that aspect, it can really go a long way in determining his spot in the pecking order of India hopefuls, and even beyond.
Jwala is confident that an opportunity will come at the right time. “Recently, I wrote him a message: ‘Your batting is going good, but I feel the bowling part is lacking’. He said the same thing: ‘I am bowling in the nets but not getting bowling in matches.’
“Some day, when he will become more established, he will definitely get the bowling and he will show that he is not born just to become a batsman but he can become a very good all-rounder as well.”
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