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In Rishabh Pant's absence, Dhruv Jurel's solid performance settles India’s Test keeper-batter debate

India vs England, 2023-24: In Rishabh Pant's absence, Dhruv Jurel's solid performance settles India’s Test keeper-batter debate. Dhruv Jurel helped India win Ranchi Test.

India vs England_  Dhruv Jurel story to India's Test team _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©X_Twitter)
Dhruv Jurel played back-to-back solid innings in Ranchi (Images: ©X/Twitter)

Just over a year ago, if someone had told Dhruv Jurel, India’s hero in the Ranchi Test win against England, that he would make his Test debut in February 2024, let alone win a Test, he would have laughed it off. But then Rishabh Pant, India’s regular keeper-batter, suffered an accident that saw him being sidelined from competitive cricket. His back-ups such as KL Rahul kept in South African conditions, while India opted for specialist keeper KS Bharat in Indian conditions. Other choices like Ishan Kishan didn’t suffice due to a mental health break. And then selectors chose to hand 23-year-old Jurel with just 17 First-Class matches in his kitty, his maiden national call-up. 

Bharat was still the first-choice keeper in the England series. However, he continued to fare poorly with the bat, and the manner of dismissals prompted the team management to punt on young Jurel. The Agra player played for Rajasthan Royals in the last IPL season and made an instant impact with his big hitting, boasting an impressive strike rate of 172.73, aggregating 152 runs in 13 matches. But translating IPL success in Test cricket is not easy as the two formats are as different as chalk and cheese. Although Jurel may have played a handful of First-Class matches, his highest score was 249. Selectors might have seen more promise rather than experience to punt on the young player.

Jurel reposed the faith put in him, impressing on his Test debut with a patient knock of 46. But his real test came in the Ranchi Test where he batted with the tailenders to rescue India and narrow down England’s lead to just 46 runs. Jurel stood out with his brilliant knock of 90 in the company of tailenders. 

India vs England, 4th Test, Day 3_ Dhruv Jurel scored fighting 90 against England  _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Dhruv Jurel scored fighting 90 against England (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Maturity remained a constant in Jurel’s match-winning effort

What stood out was Jurel’s maturity as a batter. He could have easily gone for some big shots and perished to live up to his IPL reputation, and no one would have raised a finger at the newcomer. But Jurel put his head down to play according to the situation. With India in a difficult situation at 177/7, he cut down risky shots and concentrated on singles and doubles to build a useful stand of 76 runs with Kuldeep Yadav. The pitch was difficult to bat on as it had unpredictable bounce that made the ball turn and jump when it landed on cracks. 

Dhruv Jurel later said he subconsciously made a mental adjustment that the ball would keep low and he should be ready for it and also looked to play straight rather than horizontal to cut down modes of dismissal. The move paid dividends as the 76-run stand took India close to England’s total with the match still hanging in the balance. Jurel then shifted a gear when he batted with debutant Akash Deep as he looked for more boundaries to pile up some useful runs and cut down England's lead. The 40-run stand with Deep helped India reduce the lead to 46 runs. However, he fell 10 runs short of a ton, but by then he had done Team India a huge favour by closing on England’s lead. 

Jurel said he has no regret of missing out on the ton as his only “desperation is to lift the trophy with his hands, because playing Test cricket has been a huge dream since his childhood.” 

Later, in the second innings, he again played a mature knock of 39* to take India home in the company of Shubman Gill. And all this after he had kept wickets to the best spin combo of R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav. It speaks volumes of his mental toughness, fitness and concentration.

India vs England, 4th Test, Day 4_ Shubman Gill, Dhruv Jurel take India home against England _ Walking Wicket (Images_ ©X_Twitter)
Gill, Jurel take India home against England (Images: ©X/Twitter)
Practice makes Perfect; Jurel’s only motto? 

And it is his preparation that has helped him perform in the two Tests he has played so far. Jurel said he has put in a lot of hard yards to achieve success. He said he adopted the method of visualisation and manifestation to prepare for the series. He watched videos of opposition bowlers, studied them and figured out ways “where his areas are, where they bowl, where he can take them on."

If rumours are to be believed, Jurel has put in a lot of hard work before his debut Test series. He is said to have batted 140 overs in a day, played spin four hours daily, and tackled 14 different types of bowlers all in just one net session, not counting the hundreds of throw-downs. Even his Rajasthan Royals coach Kumar Sangakkara vouches for Jurel’s work ethic, calling him “a brilliant young man, a very good player who has worked really hard to get where he has.”  

Jurel, who is the son of a Kargil War veteran, has settled the keeper-batter debate for a while and is likely to get a longer rope in the longest version of the game with Rishabh Pant yet to resume competitive cricket. He has also moved miles away from his compatriots with some brilliant work both in front and behind the stumps.


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