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Dhruv Jurel, Shubman Gill come of age as India’s young turks take charge

Dhruv Jurel and Shubman Gill batted with the kind of maturity one would associate with a 50-Test veteran.

There was a certain poetic justice to Dhruv Jurel applying the finishing touches to a stirring fightback that he was instrumental in orchestrating. If it was his fighting 90 in the first innings that had took India to within touching distance of England’s first-innings 353, an unbelievably composed unbeaten 39 in the second, under immense pressure in the company of the equally unflappable Shubman Gill, steered the side to a five-wicket win in the fourth Test.

Shubman Gill, Dhruv Jurel and a partnership both will cherish. (AFP)

Monday’s hard-fought, well-earned success gave India a 17th successive home series victory – take a moment and savour that, no other team has more than 10 straight wins – while extending Bazballing England’s quest for a series win to 18 months. For all the hype and hoopla about the brand of cricket Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have espoused, it’s the results one is judged by. On that count, England are currently lying flat on their backs, looking up. But that’s really England’s problem, isn’t it?

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India have reason to look to the future with optimism and conviction, given that this 3-1 scoreline has been fashioned as much by the young turks as the established heroes – skipper Rohit Sharma, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah.

There has been so much talk about England’s inexperienced spin attack that India’s batting inexperience has become almost an afterthought. In this series alone, Sarfaraz Khan, Rajat Patidar and Jurel have made their debuts, along with paceman Akash Deep. Minus Virat Kohli and KL Rahul (after the first Test), they seemed ripe for the picking. After all, Yashasvi Jaiswal had only played four Tests previously and Gill had yet to settle in at No. 3. And look where we are now.

Jaiswal heads the run-scoring charts by a distance – his tally of 655 is 313 more than nearest competitor Gill, the second highest run-maker across the two sides. Sarfaraz marked his debut with knocks of 62 and 68 not out in Rajkot, and Jurel’s first three knocks in Test cricket read 46, 90 and now 39 not out. Only Patidar, with 63 runs in six innings, has been a bitter disappointment. And to think that at some stage, Kohli, Rahul and Rishabh Pant too will be back in contention!

Also Read: Virat Kohli’s long-awaited reaction on India’s series win an ode to Jurel, Sarfaraz, Jaiswal, Gill

Monday in Ranchi was all about a sixth-wicket pair comprising a 24-year-old (Gill) and a 23-year-old, the former in his 24th Test, the latter in his second. When they were united in the second over after lunch, India had found ways to collapse from 84 without loss to 120 for five, the target of 192 looking a million miles away. Shoaib Bashir, the impressive 20-year-old off-spinner, was on a hat-trick, having packed off Jadeja and Sarfaraz in a trice. If Jurel wasn’t nervous, he should have been.

Well, maybe he was, but it didn’t show. In the hour before he joined Gill, India had embarked on a go-slow approach, always fraught with danger. They paid the price for being too cautious; Jurel brought with him that much-maligned word ‘intent’. That didn’t manifest itself in expansive strokeplay but through excellent placement and intelligent running between the wickets. Gill, calm and unflustered, finally found an ally he could trust to hold up his end of the bargain. Perceptibly, one could sense the shift in the balance of power within a quarter-hour of their association.

Admirable as the undefeated 72-run stand was, what made it even more commendable was the premise around which it was built. The grubber was always going to be the most dangerous delivery on a surface that played much better than it looked and much better than the paranoid English believed it would. Therefore, both right-handers used their feet to the off-spinner, often getting outside the line of the off-stump to take leg before out of the equation. They didn’t just wait for the loose ball to come along, they made their own play by targeting the gaps without taking an iota of risk. That revealed game and situational awareness, tremendous cricketing intelligence that comes from the hard grind of domestic cricket, and an inherent understanding of their own strengths as well as that of the opposition.

At some stage going forward, Gill will perhaps become India’s leader. Jurel has already ensured that Pant’s return won’t be straightforward, that the pedigreed wicketkeeper-batter will have to earn his place back. Who knows, Jurel might even be considered as a specialist batter. Around these two, Jaiswal, Sarfaraz and Pant does India’s future revolve in the post-Rohit and Kohli phase, whenever that is. For now, it’s safe to say that that future is in safe, dependable, sure hands.


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