From the time he developed the maturity to understand the struggles of life, Dhruv Jurel had two objectives: He wanted to make it big in cricket but more importantly, he needed to make sure his mother's sacrifice did not go to waste.
His father, Nem Singh Jurel, a Kargil war veteran, never wanted him to take up any sport, let alone cricket, as a career. He wanted his son to follow his footsteps and join the defence forces or at worst, settle for a government job. Things came to a boil when Dhruv, then 14, threatened to run away from the house after being denied a cricket kit by his father due to financial constraints. It was Dhruv's mother, who came to the rescue. She sold off her gold chain to arrange money for her son's dreams.
"Us waqt toh realise nahi hua (I did not realise it then) but when I understood how big a sacrifice it was, I became more determined," Dhruv, now a 22-year-old and one of the brightest prospects of IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals, told Hindustan Times.
Since making his IPL debut against the Punjab Kings where the right-hander nearly won RR an impossible chase - they required 74 off 30 balls when he walked in to bat at No.8 as an Impact Player - by smashing an unbeaten 32 off 15 balls, Jurel has earned plaudits from the who's of who world cricket. The fact that he has made a name for himself as a finisher in a side that has players Shimron Hetmyer and Jason Holder is the biggest giveaway of the talent that he possesses. But the biggest prize for Dhurv was his father's words.
"They came to watch an IPL match in Jaipur. Papa turned towards mummy and said 'tere sone ki chain wasool ho gayi aaj' (Your gold chain has been repaid)," Dhruv recalled.
Nothing has ever come easy for the talented wicketkeeper-batter. But things slowly started to change. Brimming with confidence with the support from his mother, Dhurv regularly topped the run-scoring charts in junior cricket in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. In search of better opportunities, he came to Noida, a part of Delhi NCR but the regular travel from Agra to Noida was taking a toll on his mental and physical health. His mother again stepped in. She decided to shift to Noida with her son.
Dhruv's bat continued to repay the faith and he was soon picked for India's U19 team. He was also the vice-captain of the Indian side in the U19 World Cup in 2020 where they ended up as the runners-up.
Change of fortune and father's support
Dhruv's mother was not the only one making sacrifices for him. Seeing the grit, determination and passion of Dhruv, his father's resistance gave way to indirect support. His sacrifice was of a different kind. "He heard regular taunts from my neighbours that he was ruining my life by allowing me to play cricket and all," Dhurv said.
It was Nem Singh who backed him when it took three attempts for Dhruv to get an IPL franchise since the U19 World Cup when most of his peers - Yashavi Jaiswal, Ravi Bishnoi, and Priyam Garg had already made their debuts in the big league. "There was never any negativity. My father told me that I need to do something different in order to stand out. I should always wait for my time."
Impact Player rule a blessing in disguise
The time finally came when RR picked him up at his base price of ₹20 lakh in IPL 2022. But he did not get a game in the entire season as RR backed Riyan Parag. But right after their defeat to Gujarat Titans in last year's final, he was told by the management that he will bat at No.6 or 7 next year. "With Jaiswal, Sanju bhaiya (Samson) and Jos (Buttler), there was no space in the top-order. So Kumar Sangakkara sir and the management were pretty clear that are looking at me at 6 or 7 and the same was conveyed to me after last year's final" Dhruv said.
The Impact Player rule introduced this season was a big shot in the arm for players like Dhruv. He knew he will come into the scheme of things as an Impact Player whenever they are chasing. The opportunity came in the second match of the season and such was Dhruv's performance with the bat that he also made it to the starting XI displacing an out-of-form Riyan Parag.
Dhruv backed up his impressive debut with a couple of more impactful knocks lower the down the order - an unbeaten 34 off 16 balls vs RCB and 34 off 15 against CSK. Dhruv credits the training in the off-season at the RR academy in Nagpur for the transition. "The RR coaches helped a lot. I trained for 5-6 hours a day in the RR academy. I got a lot of confidence and that helped me when I finally got an opportunity to bat in the middle," Dhruv added.
Words of encouragement from Sanju Samson and Jos Buttler
"Sanju bhaiya says not to think a lot. He told me to enjoy as it was my first season. It gave a sense of security. He always says 'tujhe jo karna hai kar, baki main dekh lunga'. (Do whatever you need to do, I'll take care of the rest) He and the management have a lot of trust in my abilities.
"I also keep talking to Jos (Buttler) bhaiya. I ask him about his preparations. How he targets certain bowlers and builds his innings. I keep taking notes," he said.
Dhruv has already started to train for the next season but the next time he picks up the bat in a tournament as big as the IPL, he won't have the burden of proving to his parents. For he knows he has already repaid a lot more than just his mother's gold chain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aritra Mukherjee, who happens to be a journalist, is in an eternal relationship with food and sleep. He can, however, sacrifice both or at least the latter for his love-affair with cricket. 'He said,' 'he added,' 'he signed off' are some of his favourite phrases. When not juggling between food, sleep and cricket, he wastes time by surfing OTT platforms.