A simple Google search reveals some of the struggles Sanjay Yadav has been through. When asked about them, he's gracious and politely dismissive. Everyone has struggles in life, he says. He refuses to victimize himself, and now that he's on the brink of becoming an IPL regular, it's easy to see how his elite mindset has carried him this far.
Since 2017, when Sanjay Yadav made his Tamil Nadu debut and burst onto the stage with an IPL contract with the Kolkata Knight Riders, he has been on the rise. He broke record after record while playing for Meghalaya, switching to the Plate Group state after intense competition threatened to cut short his career with TN.
The 27-year-old was then picked up by the SunRisers Hyderabad but didn't get a game. Now a Mumbai Indians man who plays under the Indian captain, he has gone from strength to strength in franchise leagues like the Tamil Nadu Premier League. TNPL 2022 saw him plunder 452 runs and take eight wickets as the Nellai Royal Kings ended up joint-winners.
Cricketers who've had the honor of playing under Rohit Sharma have only nice things to say about him. After all, someone who has won 80 percent of the T20Is he has led the country in must be doing something right. Needless to say, the 35-year-old made it a point to make Sanjay Yadav feel at home at MI.
"Rohit bhai came up to me on the very first day of camp and talked to me. He asked me to play fearlessly and with happiness. He said I could come to him with anything I wanted to talk about. He's very understanding; he knows how to convey his experience to youngsters. It's very helpful to talk to him because I can ask any doubt I want," Sanjay Yadav said in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
"As a captain, of course he gives his inputs. It's just him and me on the ground, and he asks me to tell him my bowling plans so that it'll be easier on the field. He understands how to get the best out of players and I'm very happy to play under such a captain. He's the Indian captain, obviously, and he explains everything very well."
Rohit isn't the only astute mind at MI. The five-time champions have been as diligent with assembling their army of coaches as they've been with their players. Sanjay Yadav is quick to acknowledge everything he has learnt from the legends of the game who are part of the MI coaching staff.
"Mahela [Jayawardene] sir asks me to focus on the mental aspect of the game, and I've learnt a lot about that from him. How to practice well, how to execute plans - he shares his experiences along with Shane Bond. He also constantly gives ideas about how to approach match situations."
"They asked me not to worry; said they won't judge me based on that one game" - Sanjay Yadav on MI backing
Sanjay Yadav could probably name every shade of paint on the benches of KKR and SRH. The southpaw bided his time for a combined three seasons at the two franchises, collecting wisdom from a plethora of stalwarts but not getting any caps to show for it.
The curtains of the IPL stage finally opened on May 17, when MI played his former franchise SRH. How did Sanjay Yadav feel ahead of his long-awaited debut? What did the MI support staff say to him?
"It was my first IPL game, so I was obviously nervous. I was also very excited. The team management didn't say much; they kept things simple. They asked me to continue doing whatever I had been doing in the practice games and the net sessions."
Unfortunately for the young all-rounder, things went pear-shaped. The two overs he bowled went for 23 runs as Rahul Tripathi and Priyam Garg gave him a rude welcome to IPL cricket.
Yadav couldn't make an impact with the bat either, dismissed for a two-ball duck at a critical stage of the innings. Known to be an electric fielder, he even dropped a catch after a miscommunication with Jasprit Bumrah.
"It was my first game, and everyone will be nervous during their first game. The next time I get an opportunity, I'll be better equipped to handle whatever comes my way. Everything is an experience. I've gotten only one match so far, and with a better mindset and better preparation, I'll be more confident. I have the belief that I'll do well."
The encounter turned out to be Sanjay Yadav's only appearance in IPL 2022 as MI rested and rotated while desperately trying to get some points under their belt. It wouldn't have been easy to sit out after such a short outing in the middle, but the MI team management were unwavering in their backing of the 27-year-old.
"After that match, I got injured while taking a catch. I was resting for a month because of a fracture. They had planned to give me more matches but I got injured. They asked me not to worry because they knew about my ability. They said they won't judge me based on that one game because we had played many practice matches and they had gotten a good look at me."
On the back of a stellar TNPL season, Sanjay Yadav seems set to become a regular member of MI's playing XI. When asked if he believes he's ready to play an entire season for the most successful franchise in IPL history, the all-rounder expressed his confidence while keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
"Definitely. I'm very confident following the TNPL. I need to do well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy, too. My mindset is all about preparation, and however well prepared I am the more confident I'll be. I'm not really intent on having goals right now; I'm just taking one tournament at a time. If I do well, it'll be easier to go to higher levels. I have that hope."
Like many other cricketers who have turned out for the franchise, Sanjay Yadav had a word of praise for the environment at MI. He looks forward to the start of IPL 2023, saying that playing for the side is heaps of fun.
"I'm good friends with Rahul Buddhi. The team bonding is great, and we get along well with everyone. Everyone talks freely and I can talk to anyone at any time. The entire team comes together and plays games during time off, so we never feel like we're isolated. We have a truckload of fun."
Poll : Should Sanjay Yadav be part of MI's playing XI in IPL 2023?