Fifteen years ago, Nem Singh Jurel, a Havaldar with the Indian Army lost his job after he was deemed medically unfit and had to return to his village Penth Khera, which is near Agra and off the Khandoli Toll on the Yamuna Expressway.
Being the only earning member in a joint family, survival was already tough for him even while being in the job but it got tougher once he lost it. He then worked as a gunner with the chief engineer of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited for the next 10 years.
“We always faced ups and downs in life. My wife had to even sell her jewellery. But one thing I wanted was a bright future for my children. I never had any idea of sports or cricket, but I wanted my son to study well and join National Defence Academy (NDA) and prepare for Combined Defence Services (CDS) exams. He was good in studies, so I had hope that he would do better than me in the Army,” says Jurel, who had no idea that his son, Dhruv, would take to cricket as fish does to water.
Dhruv Jurel, 22, was on Friday selected in the India team for the first two of the five Tests against England. The series begins towards the end of this month.
After losing his army job, Nem Singh immediately shifted to Agra in a rented house where his daughter was pursuing bachelors’ degree. Dhruv was enrolled in a school.
“When he was around 7-8 years and studying in a school in Agra, he asked me if he can participate in a summer camp. He first joined swimming and then started playing cricket. No one in our family had played cricket, they didn’t know anything about the game. So, he began learning it gradually. Some of our acquaintances who had some knowledge of cricket told us that the boy is good and plays well. They told me, ‘Make him play cricket’,” recalls the 53-year-old Jurel senior who now does farming.
Young Dhruv was admitted to Springdale Cricket Academy near his home.
“He was an extremely good fielder. People, including his coach in Agra, suggested, why not make him a wicket-keeper.”
While in Agra, Dhruv went on to play for the Uttar Pradesh under-14s.
But one day he decided to shift base to Noida.
Coach Phool Chand Sharma, who runs an academy in Billabong High International School in sector-34, got a surprise when Dhruv landed at his academy.
“He came to me about eight years ago for coaching. He must have been 15 then and had come after attending his grandfather’s terahvin (Ceremony on 13th day after death). I asked him if he has run away from his family and come here. He said, ‘No sir, a friend promised to host me at his home here. But he seems to have backed out and is not taking my calls’. I talked to his father for confirmation and he told me that his friend has indeed let him down. I then decided to take him under my wings,” says Sharma.
The move to Noida-NCR helped him get exposure to the Capital and NCR’s cricket circuit.
He played DDCA league and performed well in Hargopal cricket tournament and helped his club win Sandeep Suri Memorial Cricket Tournament twice.
An 86 off 36 balls as an opener in Master Vaibhav T20 tournament final in Meerut helped him catch the eye of an Uttar Pradesh selector there. For the Uttar Pradesh under-19 team, he scored 1,036 runs in a season and there was no looking back after that.
Dhruv captained India in 2019 ACC Under-19 Asia Cup. He was then made vice-captain for the 2020 Under-19 Cricket World Cup, where India finished as runners-up.
He was picked by Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2024, where he aggregated 152 runs at a strike rate of 172.73.
He is currently playing for India A against England Lions in an unofficial Test in Ahmedabad, where he scored 50 off 38 balls on Saturday afternoon after keeping wickets on Friday.
While coach Sharma is effusive in praise of his wicket-keeping skills, Kumar Sangakkara, the former Sri Lanka captain and current director of cricket at Rajasthan Royals, praised his “demeanour” while batting and added “he came in difficult positions and scored runs for us” in an interview to a certain section of the media.
“This will be a test of his technique.”
Jurela has so far played 15 first-class matches and scored 790 runs at an average of 46.47 besides taking 34 catches and effecting two stumpings. He also has a double century.