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India unearth an absolute gem in Dhruv Jurel

His 46 in Rajkot wasn’t a thing of beauty but his 149-ball 90 was pure class and composure, the kind you would expect from someone with far more experience.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 20:16 IST

Ranchi: Rishabh Pants meets with a life-threatening accident, ruling him out for a significant period. Ishan Kishan manages to find himself out of favour with the Board of Control for Cricket in India. 

Even if KL Rahul was considered for ’keeping duties for the series against England, he had an injury which made him unavailable for the remainder of the last three Tests. 

KS Bharat was given the keeping responsibilities for the first two Tests, and he wasn’t bad behind the stumps, but hardly promising in front of it. 

India had no choice but to insert Dhruv Jurel in for the third Test. The 23-year-old from Agra looked at ease. But, after how he handled himself in the fourth Test in Ranchi, it would be hard to say he didn’t belong there in the first place. 

Besides being an easy-on-the-eye as a 'keeper', Jurel has shown why the management considered his services this early in his career. His 46 in Rajkot wasn’t a thing of beauty but his 149-ball 90 was pure class and composure, the kind you would expect from someone with far more experience. 

And then came the unbeaten 39 from 77 balls when India were down and out in pursuit of a dangerous 192 on a cracking fourth-day pitch.   

See, Jurel has played only a handful of first-class games, and while his numbers are good, they aren’t the kind that you would normally associate with a fast-tracking process into the Indian Test team. 

But, India were desperate, and Railways’ Upendra Yadav’s numbers had begun to dovetail after a good first-class career. Jurel came from obscurity and became the backup option should all the others ahead of him in the hierarchy come up short. 

They all did. Jurel snatched the opportunity.

The likes of Sunil Gavaskar and others compared him to MS Dhoni in the wake of a knock of style, substance and significance.

Lest we get carried away, the narrative does play well with the location of this Test, and the fact that Jurel has looked up to the former Indian skipper since he ran away from home all those years ago. Yes, that happened. 

It was 2014 and a young boy stood in front of coach Pool Chand’s office in Noida, asking to be included in the academy. 

He had travelled alone from Agra with the money his mother gained by pawning off her wedding jewellery, and he claimed that he had a friend who had set up accommodation for him but wasn’t picking up his calls. He needed a place to stay.

Pool Chand knew the drill, but he wanted to be sure so called up Jurel’s father Kargil war veteran Nem Chand, asking if the kid had run away from home. The father confirmed but didn’t insist on bringing Jurel back home. The family was informed by the 13-year-old that he was on the train to Noida and he wanted to play cricket. 

Jurel was housed in the hotel for trainees. There began a tiny cricketing dream. Actually, it wasn’t even a dream, it was just something he had to do while carrying the cricket kit his mother’s jewellery helped him buy. 

Jurel was never really a star. He was that player who did all the right things at the right time but he was no prodigy. 

He did well with the India Under-19 team as the vice-captain. He was none too bad for Uttar Pradesh on the domestic circuit. He was quite mediocre in his first Indian Premier League with the Rajasthan Royals, and his India A showing was nothing exceptional. 

Now, looking at him standing in front of the stumps batting with a gorgeous defiance or watching him look eerily comfortable ’keeping to the Indian spinners on a track with variable bounce, you wonder how many such special cricketers India miss out on. 

As Jurel put up a 'salute' after his maiden half-century in honour of his father, Indian cricket followers should be glad that the system didn't let him slip through the cracks. Monday afternoon only reiterated that belief.

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(Published 26 February 2024, 20:16 IST)

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