Jurel in the Crown: Journey of Kargil war veteran's son Dhruv

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Dhruv Jurel after receiving his debut Test cap during the third cricket Test match between India and England, at Niranjan Shah Stadium, in Rajkot, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

Dhruv Jurel after receiving his debut Test cap during the third cricket Test match between India and England, at Niranjan Shah Stadium, in Rajkot, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

New Delhi: The year was 2014. A small boy in his teens stood in front of Noida's most famous cricket coach Phool Chand's office room, and there was no parent accompanying him.

"Before I could ask anything, the boy said, 'Sir my name is Dhruv Jurel and please take me in your academy', he requested," the coach, who saw a quiet confidence in the teenager, recalled.

On Thursday, as Jurel became an Indian Test cricketer, Phool Chand vividly remembered every moment of that day. Memories came flooding back and he became emotional.

"For a teacher, can there be a bigger day than seeing his student excel. He is the first among my students who will play Test cricket and second after pacer Shivam Mavi to play international cricket," Phool Chand, who runs his academy in Sector 71, Noida, told PTI.

Back to that day, and he recollected some more things that struck him then.

"I didn't see any parent accompanying him. I thought may be he is a local boy from Noida but then he said, 'Sir, I have come all alone from Agra and the friend who had promised to arrange my accommodation at his house isn't picking up the call'." The first instinct for Phool Chand was to call his father, ex-Armyman Nem Chand, who was a retired Havaldar with the armed forces and fought the Kargil war in 1999. Later, he took voluntary retirement from service.

"I wanted to know if the kid had run away from home to play cricket and I asked him to give his father's number. When his father picked up, he confirmed that he wanted to come but it was his grandfather's tervi (shraddh) and the kid told his dad, don't worry I will take a train from Agra to Delhi.

"Seeing a 13-year-old travel alone, I knew this boy is special," said Phool Chand.

With no place to live initially, Phool Chand arranged for his stay in a hostel where residential trainees stayed and thus began Jurel's cricket journey.

"In my academy, if you have merit it won't matter if you are a rickshaw puller's son or a minister's son, you will be given every opportunity to make the grade. Dhruv was very hardworking from an early age and also had talent.

"So it was not difficult for him to clear each level with his performances," the coach added.

It is never easy for boys coming from lower middle class families and for Jurel, it was his mother who pawned her gold jewellery to get him the first cricket kit. That was before he came to Noida.

In Phool Chand's academy, any talented kid with meagre resources have never had to worry about a good bat, or quality bowling spikes.

"If I know that a boy can make the grade, I provide him with best equipments from my pocket. God has been kind that I have been able to produce multiple India, India U19 and first class cricketers." In the case of Jurel, what helped him develop a sound temperament, which everyone noticed in two seasons of IPL for Rajasthan Royals, is the number of matches and tournaments that he played around Delhi NCR.

"From 14 only, I made Dhruv play hundreds of matches in local tournaments around Delhi and NCR and more he played, better he got. I remember there was a tournament called Vaibhav Sharma Memorial and I had got a club for Dhruv but since he was young, they were playing him lower down the order.

"I went to the owner of the team and requested to give him one chance to bat up the order and he kept my word. Jurel made 86 off 38 balls to win the final for his club." He has performed at all levels from U19 state to national team, followed by Ranji Trophy, IPL, India A, and now the senior team.

The transition has been gradual and the coach is confident of his success at the highest level.

"I had messaged him early in the morning that, 'Is din ko yaadgar banana' (make this day memorable), and he said, 'Main apna best dunga, sir' (I will give my best, sir)." After Taj Mahal and petha, Agra has got another Jewel in Jurel.