Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Dhruv Jurel: India's new jewel in making

The wicket-keeper-batter from Agra was named player of the match as India defeated England in the fourth Test match, to bag a series-clinching 3-1 victory

Published: Feb 26, 2024 06:34:53 PM IST
Updated: Feb 26, 2024 06:41:42 PM IST

Dhruv Jurel of India bats during day three of the 4th Test Match between India and England at JSCA International Stadium Complex on February 25, 2024, in Ranchi, India. Image: Gareth Copley/Getty ImagesDhruv Jurel of India bats during day three of the 4th Test Match between India and England at JSCA International Stadium Complex on February 25, 2024, in Ranchi, India. Image: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

India was seven down on 177 runs in response to England’s 353-run total in the first innings on February 24. It seemed they would bundle out under 200 and concede a huge lead to give England an upper hand in the match. Although India was already 2-1 ahead in the series, a loss here would have levelled the series and given visitors an edge going into the final match.

A large number of fans in Ranchi, who had come to support the home team, were completely silent. The Indian dressing room also looked very tense. The only man seeming unbothered with all of this was young Dhruv Jurel. He had come to the crease after the loss of five wickets but before he could settle in, India lost two more quick wickets. He was now batting with tail-enders, which is not an easy job. You don’t just need to score runs at a quick rate but also have to make sure to give as less strike as possible to them.

The 23-year-old was playing his second international game. Having played just 17 first-class matches, he had made it to the Indian Test team rather quickly than many of his peers, courtesy of injuries to other available wicket-keepers. Even if Jurel had got out without scoring much, there would not have been many questions asked of him since the situation was tough and he was new to Test cricket.

But those who aspire to make it big always come up with out-of-the-box things. Instead of succumbing to the pressure, Jurel thought of making it count. He saw it as an opportunity to show the world that he was here to stay and not just another backup option.

He fought hard and played every ball on merit without taking much risk. English bowlers were in top rhythm and Dhruv knew it very well. His primary aim was to somehow end the day’s play without losing his wicket. He also kept Kuldeep Yadav, who was batting from the other end, in the loop. The duo returned unbeaten as India ended day two at 219-7.

The job was only half done. The deficit was still 134 runs and India had only three wickets in hand. On day three, Jurel came out with the same energy. He wasn’t looking much at the scoreboard but rather sticking to playing his cricket. However, after Kuldeep was dismissed on 28, Jurel shifted the gears. He was now trying to gather as many runs, considering the rest of the two batters were not very dependable.

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The right-handed batter reached his fifty but didn’t celebrate too aggressively. Instead raised his hand and gave a salute to his father Nem Singh, a retired Indian Army Havaldar.

"The celebration after scoring fifty was for my father. He is a veteran of the Kargil War. Yesterday evening, I was speaking to my father over the phone and he told me indirectly 'Beta, show your salute once at least', I have been doing that since childhood, so that celebration was for him," Jurel said after the day’s play.

The youngster soon tore apart the English attack, hitting a total of four sixes and six fours in his 90-run knock before getting out to Tom Hartley. Although he would have wanted to score a century, his knock had already got India into a better position. Thanks to his heroics, England could only manage to get a small lead of 46 runs.

Jurel’s inning was widely lauded by people across the cricket fraternity but not many knew his struggles in reaching this stage. Born in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra, Jurel fell in love with cricket at an early age. Like many kids in India, he started dreaming of making it big in cricket. When he was 14, he decided to join a cricket academy. But since his father wasn’t around, he had to leave the house all alone in pursuit of his dreams.

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He joined an academy in Noida, where coach Phool Chand was highly impressed with Jurel’s work ethic and composure. Jurel had the talent but since he came from a humble background, things weren’t easy for him. At one time, his mother had to sell her jewellery to buy him a cricket kit.

“He wanted a kit bag but it was very expensive– some 6000 rupees. I said ‘mat khelo, itna paisa nahi hai (leave the game, I don’t have so much money).’ But he locked himself in the bathroom and his mother decided to pawn her only gold chain, which was how we managed to buy his first kit bag,” Jurel’s father Nem Singh told Indian Express.

Jurel was doing well in cricket but his father was still a bit hesitant. He wanted him to prepare for the National Defence Academy (NDA) exam to be on the safer side since there is always uncertainty in cricket. However, Jurel had made up his mind. He just had one goal: keep working hard and make it big in cricket.

The wicket-keeper-batter played for Uttar Pradesh across the age groups and was consistently doing well. In 2020, he was named India’s vice-captain for the ICC U-19 World Cup. He played a few handy innings in the tournament, showing glimpses of what he is capable of. He consequently made his debut for the Uttar Pradesh senior team in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy– a premier Indian T20 domestic tournament.

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He soon played all three formats for Uttar Pradesh and his performances in domestic cricket got him an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract from Rajasthan Royals. The franchise bought him at 20 lakhs in the 2022 IPL Auction. He, however, had to wait for a long time to finally get a go in the playing XI.

When he finally got a chance, he ensured to make it count as he had a breakthrough debut season in IPL 2023, scoring 152 runs at a brilliant strike rate of 172. His range of shots and ability to play blinders under pressure got him the much-deserved reckoning. He later continued to do well for India ‘A’ as well.

The youngster got a surprise call to the Indian Test team for the ongoing five-match series against England. Injury to Kl Rahul and KS Bharat’s constant failures prompted the team management to give the youngster a chance in the XI. Jurel straightaway cashed in with an impressive 46-run cameo in his first innings at Rajkot.

He went a step ahead in the next match, scoring a game-changing in the first innings and returning with unbeaten 39 runs off 77 balls in the second innings. When he came to bat, India was in trouble in the second innings as well but he looked calm as ever, taking India across the line alongside Shubman Gill. The youngster was named player of the match as India clinched the series 3-1.

"Hard work is a big thing. I am a big fan of visualisation and manifestation,” Jurel said on Sunday and his performance in this match was enough evidence of what the youngster can achieve in the upcoming years.