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In Dhoni land, India unearth a Jurel

Scoring a stirring 90 shepherding India’s lower order, Dhruv Jurel shows calm and poise MS Dhoni would have been proud of

It was fleeting, but Dhruv Jurel saluting quietly in the backdrop of the MS Dhoni Pavilion could never have gone unnoticed. That salute was not only an homage to a father — a Kargil War veteran — and his sacrifices but also an acknowledgment of what he had just established. At Dhoni’s backyard Jurel produced a knock that Dhoni would have been proud of, an innings that exuded Dhoni-like calm, with Dhoni-like assertiveness and poise that had salvaged many unsalvageable innings in the past. He wanted to meet Dhoni during this Test, but now he has a fonder memory to carry back home.

Ranchi: India’s Dhruv Jurel plays a shot during the third day of the fourth Test cricket match between India and England(PTI)

Ten runs may have denied Jurel his first Test hundred this time but it will come soon no doubt. Until then, allow yourself to be excited by the range of his six-hitting in this innings as he cut Shoaib Bashir to size. Allow yourself to believe that India may finally have found a wicketkeeper with the game awareness of a battle-hardened strategist, someone who brings to the cause the earnestness to calmly go about business. Here is a compact and lionhearted batter with a grasp of the game that can be explored and honed in ways India have been meaning to for some time now.

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Since Dhoni, India haven’t been able to put a finger on what exactly they need from their wicketkeepers in Tests, largely because of the bar Dhoni had set in the first place. Wriddhiman Saha kept in the classical mould but probably batted too traditionally. Rishabh Pant fits the requirement perfectly but it has to be seen if he can keep in Tests after the road accident that has kept him away from the game for more than a year now. KL Rahul could do without this responsibility if India need a solid long-term batting anchor. And KS Bharat, despite his clean keeping, may not be cut out for the rigours that come with the duality of this job. Jurel brings with him a fresh take though.

The keeping had to be good to be selected at this level, but eye-catching was that presence of mind that made Jurel dash to the stumps and collect a sub-par throw to run out Ben Duckett in Rajkot. The next level of assurance came in Ranchi, when Jurel shepherded India’s innings with Ravichandran Ashwin and the bowlers. More than skill, this job requires nerves of steel and a fair bit of foresightedness. Singles are judged on the basis of remaining balls of an over, bowlers are stepped out to keeping in mind the wickets column. Jurel did both with aplomb.

“I’m a firm believer of visualisation and manifestation,” he said at the press conference. “I always prepare one-two weeks in advance, see their bowling lineup, and analyse how I can play them. I prepare the complete scenarios and it helps big time. I would watch their bowling videos and the areas where they bowl and from where I can take them on.”

Of great assistance was Kuldeep Yadav, who gave the pair a much-needed left-right combination. But there was probably more to what met the eye with Yadav taking bulk of the strike to Bashir’s off-breaks. Till Ollie Robinson dropped Jurel off Bashir at short midwicket in the 95th over. That flipped a switch. Next time they met, Jurel lofted Bashir straight over his head for a six, followed by another boundary. The ploy of coming around the wicket in the 99th over was met with an even longer six over long-on, prompting Bashir to go back to over the wicket. In most of his hits, Jurel displayed not only clarity of thought but also the surefootedness in being either completely on the front foot or hang back deep into the crease.

“No one is naturally aggressive,” he said. “You bat as per the situation. In IPL when you go out in the middle you need like 35-40 runs in 15 balls. There, you cannot play defensively. Here I had to bat long, so you can’t swing your bat around, it would be risky. I tried to spend as much time as possible on this wicket.”

Jurel’s dismissal was probably expedited by the haste to get as close to England’s 353 as possible, but in a little over three hours he had helped India stitch a stirring retort that could eventually win them this series. And also throw his hat in the mix of who comes closest to Dhoni in India’s impossible quest to find the next Dhoni.


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