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India v England 2024

Dhruv Jurel debut: How the 23-year-old rose through the ranks to earn an India Test cap

Dhruv Jurel makes Test debut
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel made his debut for India in the third Test of the five-match series against England at Rajkot. Here is a look at his career so far.

Only 25 years past his 23rd birthday, Dhruv Jurel is the eighth-youngest to make his Test debut for India as a specialist wicketkeeper.

Of the seven younger than him, Ajay Ratra, Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik were picked when India tried myriad options between Nayan Mongia’s last Test and MS Dhoni’s first. Sadanand Viswanath broke through after the 1984/85 ODIs in Australia before India decided on Kiran More; Budhi Kunderan and Rishabh Pant’s batting gifts were too obvious at an early age, as was the glovework of Probir Sen, the first long-term wicketkeeper for india.

With only 15 first-class matches, 790 runs (at 46.47), and 36 dismissals, Jurel is also among the least experienced first-class cricketers to play Test cricket for India in recent past.

Jurel was spotted early in his career. He was not even fifteen when he broke into the Uttar Pradesh Under-16s in the Vijay Merchant Trophy, that too as a specialist batter. By 17, he was already donning the gloves for the Under-19s state side. By 18, he was keeping wicket for India Under-19, something he went on to do at the 2020 U19 World Cup.

At this point, Upendra Yadav was the Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper, but Jurel’s obvious batting credentials could have earned him his first-class debut. Yet, he had to wait, for the pandemic forced the Ranji Trophy to be scrapped for the first time in history.

By the time domestic first-class cricket returned to India, Yadav had switched to Railways, opening up a spot for Jurel. He made a fifty in each of his first two matches before striking gold the next season. He slammed 249 in 329 balls against Nagaland and, after a nine-over break, kept wicket as Uttar Pradesh enforced the follow-on and won by an innings.

Jurel was not in Test contention when Australia toured India in 2022/23. In the talismanic Pant’s absence, KS Bharat’s experience behind the stumps in domestic cricket as well as for India A earned him a Test cap ahead of Ishan Kishan, who had proven batting credentials in the shorter formats.

Over the course of the year, Kishan replaced Bharat in the Test XI. When Kishan opted out of the South Africa series, India preferred KL Rahul, who would have made the tour as a batter anyway, over Bharat. However, the plans changed for the home series against England.

Amidst all this, Jurel had an exceptional season for the Rajasthan Royals in 2023 – his strike rate of 173 was the second-best among Indians with 150 or more runs – which established his batting credentials against bowling of the highest order.

India drafted Jurel into the squad, and announced that Rahul would not keep wicket in the England series. That made sense, for keeping wicket to Indian spinners on Indian pitches is a niche role better left to specialists, and Rahul has never started a first-class match in Asia as the designated gloveman.

However India still backed the keeping experience of Bharat at the start of the series, who boosted his credentials with an unbeaten fourth-innings hundred against England Lions.

Barring the odd blemish, Bharat’s glovework was sound in the first two Tests. In the first, he made 41 and 28 down the order, showing some promise, but two failures in the second forced the team management to think otherwise.

The two careers made an interesting study. While Jurel’s first-class average of 46.47 makes excellent reading, it drops to 33.81 outside the 249 against Nagaland, one of the weaker sides in Indian domestic cricket. Bharat, on the other hand, averages 34.95, which goes up to 36.40 outside Test cricket.

However, Indian coach Rahul Dravid dropped a hint when he said that Bharat “had the opportunity to make better contributions” the post-match conference after the second Test. Jurel’s ability to take on the bowling is perhaps the closest India can seek in a replacement for Pant.

Ahead of the Test match, it became obvious that Jurel was the wicketkeeper of choice in the nets in Rajkot. Predictably, he debuted along with Sarfaraz Khan.

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