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Dhruv Jurel: If I can inspire even two or three youngsters, I will consider that a huge achievement


On a scorching Sunday afternoon at a cafe in Jaipur, Dhruv Jurel, the young wicketkeeper-batter, is gracefully balancing his mealtime with fan interactions — signing autographs and posing for selfies.

Debuting in the 4-1 Test series win against England at home, Jurel’s composure under pressure underscored his readiness for the big stage. Yet he remains grounded, attributing his success to the unwavering backing of his IPL team, Rajasthan Royals.

Spotted and nurtured by the franchise three seasons ago, Jurel honed his skills under the guidance of Zubin Bharucha, the High-Performance Director.

As the son of a Kargil war veteran, Jurel’s focus on continuous improvement defines his approach. The 23-year-old from Agra wants to repay Rajasthan Royals’ faith in him.

‘I keep asking myself whether I am moving forward and taking my game to the next level, as I believe that we compete with ourselves and not with anyone else’  - Dhruv Jurel

‘I keep asking myself whether I am moving forward and taking my game to the next level, as I believe that we compete with ourselves and not with anyone else’ – Dhruv Jurel
| Photo Credit:
AFP

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‘I keep asking myself whether I am moving forward and taking my game to the next level, as I believe that we compete with ourselves and not with anyone else’ – Dhruv Jurel
| Photo Credit:
AFP

Can you summarise your journey from being a rookie to earning a Test cap for India in the past year?

It was an unexpected journey. After being on the bench for a season, I made my debut for Rajasthan Royals in 2023, and to be honest, I was not thinking too far ahead. My only target was to play as many matches as possible in the IPL and make my team win. So, I would prepare for about eight to nine hours a day, even during the off-season. I knew that I couldn’t be thinking about what can happen in the future, but I focused on keeping myself ready for any opportunity.

Since my father was in the Indian Army, I always wanted to join the Armed Forces or the Indian Navy, but that did not happen. Since then, I wanted to serve the nation by playing cricket.

So yes, the last year has made me realise  kahan se kahan leke jaati hai zindagi (you never know where life takes you), and all I have is gratitude. The journey has not only boosted my confidence but has also made me understand that one should never shy away from working hard. The rest will follow.

It’s a great feeling to have played Test cricket for India. For me, it’s the ultimate format of the game, and there’s a sweetness to it: as you play over five days, you can never take things easy, and when the hard work that the team puts in over the five days gets rewarded with a win, you feel the happiest.

In the England Test series, your strong wicketkeeping and batting earned praise, while banter with teammate Sarfaraz Khan unsettled the visiting team…

( Laughs) Those are normal things. As a wicketkeeper, it’s my job to gauge the batter’s movement and accordingly alert the bowlers. But in Dharamsala, it was Sarfaraz who predicted that Ollie Pope would step out, and that assessment helped both me and Kuldeep (Yadav).

As a batter, I have realised that while at the crease, if someone constantly talks behind your back, you sort of lose your concentration. So, we adopted a similar approach. The aim was to irritate the English batters by constantly talking.  Thoda kaan khana (Being in someone’s ears) is good at times because it not only breaks the batter’s concentration but also allows the bowling team to find breakthroughs. So, when we are on the pitch, we make it a point to constantly talk from the back and bother the batters. That trick seemed to have worked against England.

The giant leap: Earlier this year, Dhruv Jurel, Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper-batter, earned his maiden call-up to the India side.

The giant leap: Earlier this year, Dhruv Jurel, Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper-batter, earned his maiden call-up to the India side.
| Photo Credit:
AFP

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The giant leap: Earlier this year, Dhruv Jurel, Rajasthan Royals wicketkeeper-batter, earned his maiden call-up to the India side.
| Photo Credit:
AFP

Wicketkeeping is not an easy job, especially catching edges and making quick stumpings. Did you focus on specific areas to prepare for this challenge in Test cricket?

It’s all about practice. Things get a bit difficult in red-ball cricket because you need to judge a swinging delivery. In Tests, after 80 overs, you take a new ball, so it’s another challenge to adapt to it.

While batting during the Test series, I even faced new balls, so you need to be ready for those situations.

Since I am a middle-order batter, I hardly get to face the new ball in the white-ball format, so I can still train with old balls. But you can’t afford to do that in red-ball cricket. In Tests, you need to face new balls or be ready to face reverse swing. So, one needs to practise hard. Adaptability is the key. You need to have a clear-cut vision and approach things differently for red-ball and white-ball cricket.

How do you handle the pressure?

A year ago, I would feel the pressure or be nervous ahead of a big game. But ever since I have played for Rajasthan Royals and the Indian team, I don’t feel any pressure. If you do a reality check, you will find that no cricketer could maintain an upward graph forever in his career. Just like success, failures are also part of the game, and they come suddenly.

I also know that if I don’t lead a disciplined life, take things easy, or become a bit lackadaisical in my training regime, there is a possibility of downfall. Hence, it is important to keep working hard because that’s in your control and not crib about the uncontrollables.

You said that those few weeks with the Indian team were a learning experience. What did you learn?

I got a chance to rub shoulders with some of the legends of the game and pick their brains. It was also a reality check for me. Ultimately, it’s about sustainability. A lot of players have featured for India, but not everyone could hang in there, so I need to ensure that I don’t get carried away. I genuinely believe that  jo bhi milestones banaya hai, woh toh insaan hi banaya hai (milestones are set by human beings after all), so if they can do it, why can’t I? And, who knows, I can do even better than them. Everyone has their own story; it’s about how you write it.

With Rishabh Pant and K. L. Rahul back in the mix, the competition has gone up for the wicketkeeper-batter’s slot. Do you enjoy this healthy competition?

I am a big fan of Kobe Bryant and the Mamba mentality, so whenever I am a bit low, I listen to his old podcasts and draw inspiration. I don’t see it as a competition because, at the end of the day, everyone is playing for India and winning matches. That’s what matters.

I keep asking myself whether I am moving forward and taking my game to the next level, as I believe that we compete with ourselves and not with anyone else.

With the game evolving, has the role of a wicketkeeper-batter become more difficult, especially in white-ball cricket?

Every wicketkeeper-batter has his designated batting position, and people often criticise players without understanding their job. Batting at No. 7 or No. 8 is always difficult. I had a conversation with (MS) Dhoni  bhaiya regarding this, and he told me that “if you bat at No. 7 or No. 8, failures are certain. You need to cut out the noise and not think about what people say. If you manage to win two out of 10 games for your team, that’s enough…”

Those words inspired me a lot. When you bat down the order in a high-pressure situation, you don’t know what the bowlers are thinking, and you can’t afford to waste time. People often consider wicketkeepers as additional batters, but it’s not always easy to bat in tricky situations.

( Smiles) The competition will be there, but you just need to focus on your game and move on.

Rewarding outing: Dhruv Jurel was nimble on his feet and acrobatic in his movements behind the stumps.

Rewarding outing: Dhruv Jurel was nimble on his feet and acrobatic in his movements behind the stumps.
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

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Rewarding outing: Dhruv Jurel was nimble on his feet and acrobatic in his movements behind the stumps.
| Photo Credit:
Getty Images

Soon after the Test series against England got over, Rohit Sharma took to social media to post a picture with Sarfaraz, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill. What has been the impact of Rohit on your career so far?

Off the ground, Rohit  bhai treats us like his younger brothers, but on the field, he is pretty strict, and those videos that have gone viral indicate how strictly he manages the youngsters ( laughs). It’s fun to be around Rohit  bhai, as you get to learn so much from him.

You have worked with two tough taskmasters: Rahul Dravid and Kumar Sangakkara. What have you learned from the two?

When I was part of the India U-19 team, Rahul sir was my coach. So, when I entered the senior team’s dressing room, I felt comfortable since he was around.

I have worked with Sanga sir for three years. He never talks negatively, and even in tricky times, he backs me. As a young player, you need security, and Sanga sir has ensured that.

Initially, your father was not in favour of you pursuing the game, but now that you’ve made it to India’s Test team, what’s the reaction back home?

Now people have started recognising me, and of course, there’s a bit of financial security. Since my father is an Army man, he always believes in staying grounded, and I try to follow in his footsteps. It’s a simple thing:  aap ki cricket kitna chalegi, maximum 10 years, but when you move on from the game, people will judge you as a person.

So, I try to be humble and kind and stay connected to my roots.

I know what I had to go through to come so far. There were times when people told me that I was wasting my time.

But now, if I can inspire even two or three youngsters from Agra, I will consider that a huge achievement.  Paise toh aate jaatein rahenge (Money will come and go), and in life, all you need is some food and peace, but nothing can be more satisfying than inspiring youngsters to chase their dreams. I will continue doing that.



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