Shivam Dube: The answer to team India’s search for a back-up to Hardik Pandya?

Mumbai allrounder needs to keep up the good work in the upcoming IPL to press his claim

Shivam Dube in action during his innings of 60 off 40 balls in the first T20I (photo: BCCI)
Shivam Dube in action during his innings of 60 off 40 balls in the first T20I (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Shivam Dube, the Hulk in team India for the ongoing T20I series against Afghanistan, must be enjoying the sudden buzz around him. The back-to-back blistering half-centuries in Mohali and Indore, not so speak of his seam-up pace bowling which provided the odd breakthrough, has prompted talk if he can be the plan B for a seaming allrounder’s spot, in light of Hardik Pandya’s fickle fitness. 

A presumptuous idea, one may say, but the fact remains that the only name with similar skill sets which comes up in Pandya’s absence is that of Shardul Thakur, who is no longer the force he was a few seasons ago. A Mumbai player like Thakur, Dube was fast-tracked into white-ball cricket five years ago in 2019, with the cricket media jumping to the conclusion that there were shades of Yuvraj Singh in him because of the enormous power and lovely bat swing he wielded in hitting those long sixes. 

However, he couldn’t exactly set the house on fire in the limited opportunities he received, and was an off-and-on success for Royal Challengers Bangalore, only to move out of national reckoning soon. After spending a year with Rajasthan Royals, where he was not sure about his batting position, Dube was drafted in by M.S. Dhoni & co. in 2022, and the past two seasons with Chennai Super Kings have brought him back to the limelight. The thala decided to experiment with Dube higher up the order at no. 4, a move which yielded rich dividends.

It’s a position where captain Rohit Sharma tried him as well, trusting Dube’s abilities to take down the Afghanistan spinners — with the likes of Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, Noor Ahmed, and senior pro Mohammed Nabi carrying enough guile despite Rashid Khan’s absence. Hardly a spring chicken at 30, Dube fitted in his role with aplomb, complementing his younger partner Yashasvi Jaiswal blow for blow in a 92-run stand for the third wicket.  

“The skipper (Rohit) is really happy, he told me well played. We both (he and Jaiswal) are stroke players, we know our game. My role was to take on the spinners but our plan was to both attack and finish the game early. There wasn’t any target in mind, but we should have finished the game earlier,” Dube said later. 

Given the breathlessly competitive world of Indian cricket, any comeback is tough — more so in the crowd of challengers for a reckoning in the white-ball set-up. In late 2021, when Rahul Dravid took charge, the team management had pinned its faith on Venkatesh Iyer, then fresh out of an impressive campaign with Kolkata Knight Riders in the second leg of the IPL, to fill in for an injured Pandya. However, a crippling back injury forced him out of the reckoning, and Pandya’s second coming in 2022 sealed any talk of a replacement.

Dube, meanwhile, worked hard at his game, especially his weakness against short-pitched bowling. Speaking to the media during last year’s IPL campaign, CSK head coach Stephen Fleming attributed a new self-belief to Dube when it came to tackling pace bowlers. 

‘’Often when players have an area of weakness, they are concentrating too much on it. So we just tend to concentrate on the good things he (Dube) does. When he continued to play, he got better and better. He has been a player who has been in and out. At the start of the tournament, we were trying to find some evidence that he was going to be the guy for us. And that innings in Bangalore (52 off 27 deliveries) did that. He has responded to being a constant in the side,’’ said the former New Zealand captain, one of the finest thinkers of the game. 

After remaining on the fringes for a long time, the genial Dube has forced himself into the reckoning. It could be a flash in the pan, but if he can follow this up with an impressive IPL in March-April, anything may happen! 

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