Rags to Riches

Once a homeless street vendor, 18-year-old cricketer Yashasvi Jaiswal has now been signed in a $327,000 deal to the richest club-based league in the world.

The teenager has experienced more of life's ups and downs than many young men his age. His is certainly a rags to riches story fit for the silver screen. Having left home aged eight to fulfill his dreams of becoming a professional cricket player in Mumbai, Jaiswal slept in a tent on a cricket ground while sustaining himself as a street vendor before his talent was finally spotted. Now, the teenager has secured a deal worth more than $300,000 with Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket team Rajasthan Royals.


"Believe in yourself - that's key," he told CNN on the brink of his IPL debut. "Work hard. When you leave the cricket ground and go home and sit on your bed, you should feel you've learned something."


After delays and venue changes due to Covid-19, the forthcoming IPL season - normally played in India and the richest club-based league in the world - has just commenced in the United Arab Emirates, with eight teams, each named after cities in India, competing.


Zubin Bharucha, director of cricket for the Royals, first spotted Jaiswal at the team trials about three years ago. "He walked across the stumps and flicked it over fine leg for four, and all of us just stopped, stared and wondered. There was something really special here," Bharucha tells CNN.

At the time, the inexperienced Jaiswal was not signed, but years later the franchise would come back for the left-handed batsman.


Jasiwal was three years old when he was first handed a cricket bat by his father, Bhupendra Jaiswal, an amateur cricketer who was keen to encourage his son's passion for one of the country's most popular sports. Growing up, his hero was Sachin Tendulkar and, like the great batsman, Jaiswal wanted to play for Mumbai and, of course, his country.


Aged eight, he left the family home with his father for Mumbai, commonly referred to as the city of dreams, and initially the pair stayed in a relative's house. He then left his uncle's home and moved into a dairy shop, working long hours there while also practicing cricket at a famous ground in South Mumbai - a hub for aspiring cricketers. But, just as he was becoming accustomed to his new routine, he was told to leave the shop. "I asked for time till the next morning. I had nowhere to go," says Jaiswal.


Unwilling to tell his family about his daily struggles in case they would ask him to return to the village, sleeping hungry became the new reality. "I slowly realized it was really hard to live there. There was no electricity, no water, no food. You had to make your own food. At that time, my parents couldn't afford much," he explains.


To make ends meet, Jaiswal started selling food as a street vendor and did so for three years until the tide turned. In December 2013, a then 12-year-old Jaiswal was practicing in the nets when he was spotted by cricket coach, Jwala Singh.


"He was batting well against senior fast bowlers. His story was unique," Singh, who had also moved to Mumbai at a young age to pursue his cricketing dream, told CNN. A week later, Singh tested the boy's skills at his own cricket academy and the rest is history.


Not only did Singh take the boy under his wing, but he also provided him with accommodation. Jaiswal still lives with Singh's family.


This village boy's ultimate dream is to wear India's senior team cricket jersey someday.