One cricketer who confidently strode through his debut Test as if to the manner born was 26-year-old Jayant Yadav. Two lovely cameos, one in each innings, one brilliant run out of a key opponent and a haul of four wickets in a terrific Test victory over England at Vizag not only made his a most memorable Test but brought to the fore his wonderful temperament.
Temperament is almost everything at the highest level of the game. A keen cricketer could transcend technique on occasions but almost always would need the right temperament to come good.
Jayant, with his batting, bowling and fielding not only drew attention to this aspect, but also revealed how much he enjoyed pressure.
While these are early days for sure, Jayant, through his rock-steady performance has given Indian fans plenty to look forward to. Of course, it is highly unlikely that India will ever go into an overseas Test with two off-spinners, but in Indian conditions he is an excellent foil for the more dynamic Ravichandran Ashwin. However, if Ashwin should be sidelined by injury or for any other reason, there is comfort in the belief that the team has a proven replacement handy.
Jayant’s father Jai Singh was a decent club cricketer in Delhi. He was a left-arm spinner and played for Air India before becoming the team’s manager. Jai Singh was in close contact with almost all the top cricketers, either for the game or for getting their air travel organised and this conditioned Jayant to be comfortable in the presence of big stars.
Jai Singh played Under-19 and Under-21 cricket for Haryana as he was a resident of Gurgaon in the NCR. Later, as an Air India employee, he was housed at the quarters in south Delhi’s Vasant Vihar. He put his son Jayant in DPS in Vasant Kunj and later Hindu College for his BA degree. Simultaneously, he enrolled him in a small, nondescript local cricket club, the New Friends Club.
By the age of eight, Jayant came under coach RP Sharma in Delhi’s Harbaksh Stadium. Later on, New Friends Cricket Club played a lot of its cricket at the Jamia Hamdard Institute grounds.
Sharma, the club coach, groomed Jayant into a good off-spinner who gradually started to take his batting seriously too.
A well-known cricket observer of Delhi cricket, who had watched Jayant develop, called him a ‘big match player’.
“He is very good under pressure. He has amazing confidence without really being cocky. I’ve seen him develop his batting, bowling and fielding.
“Delhi’s hot weather cricket tournament is very competitive. Cricketers come from all over north India and most of them love to belt the ball. I’ve seen (Jayant) Yadav bowl many tight spells. He bowls wicket-to-wicket and this ensures that he makes the batsmen play all the time,” he recalled.
Unfortunately, there is a feeling that Delhi cricket is rampant with favouritism and other issues. Jayant’s father, well aware of the problems, decided that his son would opt to play for Haryana under domicile rights.
This ensured that he played all the age group tournaments, Under-15, 17, 19, 22 and Ranji Tropy for Haryana where another coach, Ashwini Kumar, fine-tuned his game. Interestingly, his Under-15 captain was leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal. Further, the Haryana Ranji team too had a surplus of spinners; Test bowler Amit Mishra, who was the obvious first choice spinner and Chahal.
But in 2011, when Haryana were in danger of relegation, Jayant was chosen ahead of Chahal for his debut match. He bagged six Gujarat wickets and the team averted relegation. His performance vindicated the faith Haryana CA supremo and BCCI treasurer Aniruddh Chaudhary had in him.
Subsequently, his career was fast forwarded. A double ton against Karnataka boosted his all-round credentials. A couple of years later, he bagged 13 wickets in a match against Saurashtra and gained selection into India A teams.
There were the home series against South Africa A and Bangladesh A besides a tour of Australia. These brought him under the wings of coach Rahul Dravid. Obviously, the master saw something that he liked in the youngster and that was to work well for Jayant.
Jayant, who holds Ashwin and Graeme Swann as his favourite off-spinners; the former for his mastery over variations and latter for the drift in his deliveries, chose to switch to playing league cricket for Chemplast in Chennai.
Additionally, a haul of eight wickets against Mumbai in the Irani Cup, where he remained unbeaten on 19 in a historic chase of 480 runs did his cause a world of good.
With the well-organised Dravid in Delhi Daredevils’ corner, Jayant, who had bagged an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract with the Delhi outfit, was briefed of his role in each of his IPL 2016 matches: bowl in the power plays.
Interestingly, Jayant started off as a leg-spinner but since two of his first cousins also bowled likewise and told him that there could not be three leg-spinners in one family, he was forced to opt for bowling off spin!
Jayant, who has two younger sisters, Gargi, a PR professional and Riya, a swimmer, lost his mother to an airplane crash 17 years ago. In his ODI debut at Vizag against New Zealand when the Indian team players chose to sport their mother’s name at the back of their shirts, Jayant had his mother Lakshmi’s name on his back. In an interview after the match he told his stepmother Jyoti via television that but for a mix up he would have had her name on the back of his shirt, and told her not to worry and that she “was always there”.