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High on confidence and swagger, Dhruv Jurel impresses on debut

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Last updated on 16 Feb 2024 | 08:36 AM
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High on confidence and swagger, Dhruv Jurel impresses on debut

If Sarfaraz’s knock on Thursday was all about audacious stroke-making, Jurel’s innings today was about substance and application

One of the many beauties of sport is that no two players tend to have the same journey to the top.

On Thursday (February 15), India’s cap #311 Sarfaraz Khan made his long-awaited Test debut, and Sarfaraz was someone who came through the ranks the conventional way: scoring mountains of runs in age-group cricket, then Ranji and then India ‘A’ before finally getting an opportunity to represent India. 

ALSO READ: Sarfaraz Khan lives his (and his Abbu's) dream to briefly conquer the world

The journey of cap #312 Dhruv Jurel couldn’t be more different from Sarfaraz’s. 

Someone who’s played only 15 first-class matches in his career, having made his red-ball debut in 2022, Jurel has been identified as a special talent by the board and fast-tracked across levels. 

Case in point, when Jurel was handed his India ‘A’ cap against South Africa ‘A’ in December, he’d remarkably only played 12 first-class matches. And when he was handed his maiden India call-up last month, he only had a solitary century to his name in domestic cricket (any level), which was a double-century (249) that came against Nagaland, who are playing in the plate division this year. 

Jurel entered this Rajkot Test on the back of impressive FC numbers — an average of 46.47, having also scored a 69 for India ‘A’ away in South Africa. Still, the inevitable questions came up: are his numbers deceptive, considering he has scored over 30% of his FC runs in one innings? Can he hang at the highest level? Has he been fast-tracked unfairly ahead of more deserving candidates? 

On the back of Jurel’s 104-ball stay at the middle today in Rajkot, you can see why the management jumped at the chance to fast track the 22-year-old. For in his first knock at the international level, the right-hander looked the part, displaying maturity beyond his age and experience.

If Sarfaraz’s knock on Thursday was all about audacious stroke-making, Jurel’s innings today was about substance and application. Which is interesting because the 23-year-old has been a dasher at the T20 level, a facet of his batting he’s shown in the Indian Premier League (IPL) playing for Rajasthan Royals (RR). 

Walking in at a tricky 331/6 (which soon became 331/7), Jurel had a decision to make instantly: to go for it or to hang around and grind it out. It was not an easy choice because, mind you, there were no recognized batters left after him, and batting at the other end was Ashwin, who himself was not in great form with the bat. 

The 23-year-old made the harder of the two choices and decided to grind it out. Taking this path meant that he had to show utmost discipline, and Jurel did just that as he compiled an ultra-patient 104-ball 46 to help India score over 400 in the first innings.

Jurel’s very first assignment in his Test career was to see off James Anderson, who had his tail up, and the 23-year-old passed this particular test with flying colours. He was ultra-cautious (scoring just 2 off 11 balls versus the veteran) but he saw off the 41-year-old’s threat. 

Anderson might be the bigger threat on paper, but the bowler who posed the tougher test to Jurel was Mark Wood, who tested the youngster’s patience with a relentless bouncer barrage. 

In that particular passage of play, Jurel could so easily have lost his head and given in to the temptation of taking on Wood — like Rohit Sharma did on Day 1 — but he consciously played within himself and saw off the threat of the tearaway. 

He only hit two boundaries off Wood in the 26 balls he faced and one of them was a delicious uppercut that went all the way. He eventually finished with a control percentage of 96.2% vs the speedster, which was the second-best among all Indian batters in this Test. 

Nothing, however, highlighted Jurel’s clarity over his approach today more than the way he played the left-arm spin of Tom Hartley

A naturally aggressive batter against spin who can both sweep and use his feet, Jurel was hell-bent on taking no risks against Hartley. He faced 53 balls of the left-arm spinner and scored just 11 runs, defending 66.0% of the balls while hitting no boundaries. 

On another day, Jurel would have loved to have made the most out of the two lives he got on 32 but one reckons he’ll be pretty content with the 46 he compiled in his very first Test outing, considering he succeeded by staying true to the choice he made very early into his innings.

Having replaced KS Bharat who struggled to make an impact with the bat in the seven Tests he played, Jurel has already sort of half-vindicated his selection. The 46 he made today, after all, is higher than any of Bharat’s 12 Test scores. But being a wicket-keeper in Tests (especially in the subcontinent) is as much about keeping as it is about batting. 

The bigger test lies ahead for Jurel. By making a positive start with the gloves as well, he will go a long way in earning an extended run in the Test side. 

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