Dhruv Jurel Shutting Mouths One Patient Knock at a Time

“My parents came for our second match in Jaipur and I went to meet them. They were very emotional and my father was saying, ‘aaj tune mera jeevan safal kar diya’. I told my father that it’s just the start but he said I know you will do it but today is very important for me. ‘Logo ne bahut taunt maare hai mereko. Kya bacche ki life barbaad kar raha hai, usko padha, likha. Tune sabka muh band karwa diya aaj’ (People taunted me a lot by saying that I’m spoiling your life by not making you study but you shut everyone up), my father said to me.”

Less than a year ago, Dhruv Jurel had a very emotional moment with his father who had come to watch one of his IPL games for Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. Jurel’s father Nem Chand, a Kargil war veteran, saw his son score a 15-ball 34 vs the Chennai Super Kings and turned teary-eyed while recalling the early days of struggle, and taunts. Jurel, all of 22 then, had a very mature response to his father and comforted him by saying “it’s just the start”.

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Start for sure it was but even he wouldn’t have thought that months later he would go on to make his Test debut for India, and then play a sensational hand in only his second innings for the country.

India were in tatters at 161/5 when Jurel walked out to bat on Day 2 of the fourth Test against England. The hosts were still 192 behind England’s total and the variable bounce was making life difficult for the batters. In less than 10 overs, the youngster saw the departures of Sarfaraz Khan and R Ashwin from the other end but stuck to his drill.

At 177/7 in the 56th over, Jurel’s first target would have been to bat till stumps but with close to 20 overs still left, even that seemed farfetched. The stumper had Kuldeep Yadav for company and the pair combined well to frustrate England for remainder of the day’s play. Both UP boys, Kuldeep in particular, were solid in defence and looked very assured with their footwork. Kuldeep played a massive role in allowing Jurel to settle down as the left-hander faced most of the deliveries in the final session and absorbed the pressure created by spinners Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley.

Even when Kuldeep was farming the strike, Jurel continued with his positive approach from the other end and attacked the loose deliveries. 58-ball 30, with two boundaries and a six, was a job well done during a period where limiting the damage was of utmost priority. Job, however, was only half done as the morning session on Day 3 – the moving day in most Tests – was going to be key.

England were 134 ahead, India had three wickets in hand and both Jurel and Kuldeep made a solid start. The left-right combination frustrated the bowlers and it was turning out to be a dominant hour before Kuldeep played on a James Anderson delivery to end the 76-run stand. With only the two wickets left, Jurel started to look for runs.

He first got to his maiden fifty and paid a tribute to his father with the salute celebration, and then wiped off most of the deficit, one big hit at a time. In his debut innings and most of the second innings, Jurel curbed his big-hitting instinct and preferred a watchful approach – something which was the need of the hour in both occasions he came out to bat. But when he sensed the requirement of runs on Day 3, he showcased his range and remained focussed on playing the situation and did what it demanded.

“In IPL, you see the situation I get 15 balls. I cannot defend there right? Here the situation needed me batting long and I cannot do that by just hitting, there is risk. So I focussed on spending time on wicket and that is what I did,” said Jurel.

There were some slogs, couple of gorgeous hits straight down the ground off Shoaib Bashir and then two more big hits on the leg-side as he moved closer to his maiden Test century. The youngster didn’t have any specific plan while batting the quicks but showed a lot of faith in their batting abilities.

“There was no specific plan, but it is important to show confidence and faith. I have to tell them that you can bat. That is what we planned and it worked out. Both (Akash Deep and Siraj) are decent batters, they bat in IPL as well. I told them the same and it was necessary. They did well,” said Jurel.

Most of the Indian dressing room was out in the balcony and the crowd cheered every dot Mohammed Siraj played from the other end. Jurel was batting on 90 and was just a couple of hits away from removing the helmet and bringing the salute out. Stokes had nine men on the boundary ropes and the message was clear to Jurel – take a single or go big for the hundred. He did successfully clear the ropes off Hartley but was clearly caught in two minds in the left-armer’s next over.

The field was still spread and Jurel was cleaned up by Hartley with an absolute peach in the 104th over. The ball came in with the angle and spun enough to go past the right-hander’s defence. Silence gripped the stadium as the youngster took the slow long walk back to the changing room and was congratulated by opposition players. India’s squad was up on their feet applauding the firefighting act as had it not been Jurel’s 90, England would have certainly taken a lead bigger than just 46 runs. Disappointed on missing the hundred?

“I am not worried too much about century, this is my debut series. I am desperate to lift the trophy in my hands, to play Test cricket was one big dream for me,” came Jurel’s candid response.

The applause and pat on the back continued as the 23-year-old crossed his teammates in the balcony. He fell short on what could have been one of the finest hundreds of the series but “it’s just the start” and destined for bigger and better things in future. Father Nem Singh will be very proud as his son has shut taunting mouths, again.

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