Dhruv Jurel imbibes the 'VVS Laxman' spirit to steer India's comeback in Ranchi | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Dhruv Jurel imbibes the 'VVS Laxman' spirit, teams up with tailenders to steer India's comeback in 4th Test

Feb 25, 2024 06:12 PM IST

Dhruv Jurel produced a fine 90-run knock in India's first innings, narrowing India's deficit to just 46 runs.

“Test cricket? Easy-peasy, right?”

India's Dhruv Jurel plays a shot during Day 3 of the 4th Test match against England(BCCI-X)
India's Dhruv Jurel plays a shot during Day 3 of the 4th Test match against England(BCCI-X)

Were this to be Dhruv Jurel’s pithy assessment of the five-day game, one can’t really blame him. Not on the selection radar three months back, the 23-year-old from Agra has established himself as a household name after just seven days at the highest level.

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The decision to play KL Rahul as a specialist batter, Ishan Kishan’s withdrawal due to personal reasons and KS Bharat’s ordinary start to the Test series handed Jurel a debut in Rajkot last week. Impressing with a neat 46 followed by electric athleticism and astute situational awareness that resulted in Ben Duckett’s run out, Jurel vindicated the faith reposed in him by the team management, proving that despite being light on first-class experience, he belonged in the cauldron of Test cricket.

Jurel did his growing reputation no harm in the ongoing Ranchi Test, the rock around which India erected a magnificent fightback on day three of yet another fascinating game. Like on the moving day in Rajkot, India were again on the backfoot at the start of the middle day. Again, like in Rajkot, they bounced back superbly to edge ahead, thanks in the main to the spirit and spunk shown by a young man in only his second Test.

This has been a series of 20-somethings, with Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill and Sarfaraz Khan all holding a mirror to the future. Add Jurel to that mix, emphatically.

Belying his age and relative inexperience – he has only played 49 senior representative games – Jurel took it upon himself to return the hosts to a game that seemed to have slipped out of their grasp. On a pitch where the lack of bounce was the biggest threat, Jurel’s propensity to identify length and commit himself either fully to the front foot or go right back, offshoots of diving into his domestic cricket database, stood him in wonderful stead during a truly brilliant 90 that was worth more than its impressive numerical magnitude.

India were 161 for five, replying to England’s 353, when Jurel strode out nonchalantly, working tirelessly on the wad of gum in his mouth, on day two. He must have been nervous – who wouldn’t? – but like the swan whose feet paddle frantically underwater but which appears serenely calm above it, he showed no outward traces of anxiety. Within half an hour, he had lost Sarfaraz and R Ashwin; at 177 for seven, India looked set to concede a massive, decisive deficit.

Jurel didn’t seem to think so. In Kuldeep Yadav’s company, he began the rescue act, taking on chief tormentor Shoaib Bashir and tonking him downtown for two boundaries before settling down to grind it out. Confident enough to allow Kuldeep to hog much of the strike, Jurel did his part in whittling down England’s advantage. When Kuldeep’s excellent stonewalling ended in unfortunate fashion, Jurel assumed the lead role in the company of Akash Deep and Mohammed Siraj, accounting for a majority of the 54 runs stitched by the last two wickets.

To bat with the tail calls for understanding and empathy. It doesn’t come easily to even the most accomplished. VVS Laxman was a master at getting the most, and more, out of the tailenders. If Sunday is anything to go by, Jurel has imbibed the spirit of the wonderful Hyderabadi, which is saying quite a bit.

Farming the strike and pulling out the big stroke when the opportunity presented itself, Jurel took India to within 46 of England’s total when Tom Hartley dismissed him with a beauty. It meant no deserved maiden Test ton; Jurel must have been disappointed, but he would also have been delighted at having pulled his team out of a spot when more established batters had found the going tough.

In his moment of personal glory, Jurel didn’t forget his roots. Immediately after bringing up his first Test fifty, he offered a salute, most likely to honour his Kargil war-veteran father. This young lad, he is quite something, isn’t he?

Jurel’s day, however, was just starting. He still faced an arduous stint behind the sticks, with the bounce getting increasingly ankle-high and no more. Digging deep into his reservoirs of concentration and fortitude, he kept wickets superbly, replicating his batting heroics – soft hands, deft footwork. The coup de grace came through a fabulous right-handed catch to dismiss James Anderson, give Ashwin his fifth wicket and end the England innings. What made the catch special was that Anderson shaped to reverse the off-spinner, the ball ricocheted off his pad on to the back of his bat and from there towards slip. Jurel’s wondrous take was unhurried, effortless. Easy-peasy, right?

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