On Wednesday night, in the heart of Guwahati, the world stood up and took notice of a certain 22-year-old when he brought his team to the cusp of victory against Punjab Kings. When Dhruv Jurel came in as the Royals’ Impact Player of the match, many wondered whether the young man would be able to deliver the goods in what was looking like a high-pressure chase. But the coaches in the dugout looked calm as ever. They knew what he was capable of, and it was now for the cricketing world to see, and fall in love with.
𝘔𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘵 ft. Dhruv Jurel’s Pink debut 💗 pic.twitter.com/Fn46mOTXqV— Rajasthan Royals (@rajasthanroyals) April 6, 2023
Chasing a massive 198, Jurel walked out to bat in the 16th over, with the Royals’ innings in disarray at 124/6. What followed was a refreshing, uplifting display of class and courage, in a 15-ball 32 that included 3 fours, and 2 sixes. The result didn’t go our way, but the Royals took away something more meaningful - the promise of a bright future. Jurel must be thanking his stars, but he’d also be thanking his childhood coaches, who told him to give up his ‘medium pace’ obsession and instead, focus on what he was naturally good at - batting.
The world is looking to hear from the Agra-born lad today, and luckily for us - we caught up with Jurel in a candid chat before the season. In a freewheeling conversation, we spoke to him about how his love for cricket began, his childhood, his journey with the Royals and what fans can expect from him this season. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
Q. How did cricket happen to you? When did you first pick up the bat?
A. My father served in the Indian Army for about 20 years, so he always wanted me to study hard and get a government job. Cricket was never in the picture. Whenever I brought up the topic, he would always ignore it. When I was 12 years old, a few of my friends decided to join swimming classes. Under the pretext of learning swimming, I religiously started playing cricket and that’s where it all began. One day, my father was reading the newspaper and he saw a clipping with my name in it. He eventually somehow found out that it was me. From thereon, he started supporting me, seeing how serious I was about my game.
Q. Tell us a bit about your family. How did they support your cricket dream?
Coming from a middle-class family, I used to borrow a cricket bat to play as my family couldn’t afford an English willow bat. Back then even a 2000-rupee bat was too much for us. I had seen a financial crisis at home, my father suffered severe losses so he wasn’t happy about me playing cricket. He still bought me a cricket bat, but then I wanted the whole kit which was even more expensive. One day, I was having a bath and I kept insisting that I want a kitbag, but my father refused to budge. I then tried to convince my mother, I even threatened to leave the house if I didn’t get the kitbag. My mother got worried and immediately told my father to buy one for me, she even took off her gold chain and gave it to him to sell it. I was so happy about getting a kitbag that I had no idea about the sacrifice my parents made for me at that point. It was only after I started playing cricket more often that I realised what they had done.
Q. Who has been your inspiration growing up?
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A. I’ve been following just two cricketers since my childhood. One is Virender Sehwag because my sister was a huge fan, and the other is MS Dhoni because of the fantastic captain that he was, the way he won matches for his team and kept his cool on the field.
Q. Did you always want to become a batter? Or was there something else on your mind?
A. If it wasn’t for my coach telling me to give up bowling, I’d never have picked up the cricket bat. I started off as a medium pacer, but my coaches told me that I was better at batting. That’s how I became a batter, though I was always inclined towards becoming a bowler.
Q. Any particular aspect of your batting/wicket-keeping that you have worked on in the past year?
A. I just want to be better every day, and I want to work with great people. I observe players around me who are better than me, like Jos Buttler, Sanju bhai. When we play at our local academy, we think we’re the best. So, there’s no source of motivation, but coming here, I always marvel at how the big guys do it and motivate myself to become better than all of them.
Q. How was it working with the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Sanju Samson last season? Any learnings or advice from them that helped you improve your game in recent times?
A. They always told me to just believe in myself. That I’m putting in all the hard work, and hours of practice by playing the same shot a thousand times. I just have to do it one more time so I should just back myself to do it. Now, I don’t have any self-doubt, which wasn’t the case earlier. The environment here is positive so my mindset has changed a lot after coming here.
Q. How does it feel to be back with the Royals, that too in Jaipur? Does it feel like home?
A. First off, when I found out that this was going to be a non-bubble, regular IPL, I got very excited. The fact that we would have the freedom to plan our days brought me a lot of relief. I am also happy that we will now get a chance to play in front of our home crowd. The vibe in Jaipur is obviously very good, and I can’t wait to play here.
Q. Who is your best friend in the Royals camp and how did that relationship develop?
A. It has to be Navdeep Saini. I think it’s probably because we come from a similar background. He’s from Haryana, I’m from UP. Our thoughts match, so does our mindset so we end up sharing our life stories and that’s how the friendship has strengthened.
Q. Given a chance, which bowler would you love to take on in the IPL?
A. Jofra Archer
Q. Which new RR signing are you looking forward to sharing the dressing room with?
A. Akash Vashisht - he’s a good player. Among the internationals, it’s Joe Root. He’s a legendary red-ball cricketer, so I’d love to talk about red-ball cricket with him.
Q. Best piece of advice you've received from anyone in your life?
A. It was from my father. He said to me, “This too shall pass, nothing stays.”