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IPL 2024

Shivam Dube is becoming increasingly hard to ignore, but can he fit into the Indian XI for the T20 World Cup?

Shivam Dube in T20 WC
by Naman Agarwal 5 minute read

Shivam Dube has lit up the IPL ever since he’s donned the yellow jersey and is only improving in his hyper-specialised, spin-bashing role. Naman Agarwal examines if there can be a spot for him in India’s T20 World Cup XI right after IPL 2024.

The basic premise of cricket says that a wicket is a good result for the bowling side, right? Sai Kishore, however, found out otherwise at Chepauk on Tuesday (March 27) when he dismissed Ajinkya Rahane. Next in at No.4 was Shivam Dube. Against a left-arm spinner, with the score reading 104-2 in the eleventh over that had five balls remaining, Dube had the license to go for the kill.

Sai Kishore’s response suggested that he knew that. He darted one well outside off at a three-quarter length, the go-to defensive option for spinners in limited overs cricket. But Dube’s six-foot-four frame helped him get underneath it regardless, and the ball flew like a zooming missile over long-on.

It was the 37th six he had hit in the IPL since last year, the most by any batter, steering clear of Faf du Plessis, with whom he was tied on 36 before his first ball against GT. One ball later, that count would go up to 38 as realisation must have dawned on Sai Kishore that wickets might not always be a bowler’s best friend (with all due respect to Rahane, who has struck at 96.3 against left-arm orthodox since last year).

While the two sixes off the first two balls hooked viewers in, the manner in which Dube’s next few boundaries came gave glimpses of his evolution. He went on to score 51 off 23, hitting three more sixes and two more fours along the way. They included a massive six off a Rashid Khan googly, a hook over long leg off a Spencer Johnson bouncer, and two pulls along the ground against Johnson and Mohit Sharma to the fence.

Shivam Dube in T20 WC

Dube hooking Spencer Johnson for six. Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for IPL

Dube’s specialised spin-bashing, six-hitting role in the middle order at the Chennai Super Kings has been formulated to suit his strengths. He made his mark in domestic cricket with his long levers and clean striking ability, which got him an IPL deal with the RCB in 2019. However, he didn’t feel nearly as free during that stint, or for that matter at Rajasthan Royals, as he is doing here at CSK.

“This franchise is something different from all others,” Dube said while receiving the Player of the Match award against GT. “They are giving me the freedom. They want me to do better and I also want to win some matches.”

From 27 innings for CSK, Dube already has 792 runs at a strike rate of 158 with six half-centuries. For RCB and RR combined, he scored 399 runs from 22 outings at a strike rate of 121 with just one fifty-plus score. For CSK, he has hit a six (57 in total) every 8.7 deliveries, compared to the 15 for RR and RCB.

His transformation fetched him a second India call-up last year after the IPL, as they tried a whole bunch of players in order to zero in on the World Cup prospects. He played eight games, batted five times, and was dismissed only once, averaging a massive 171 and striking at 151.32, including two back-t0-back fifties against Afghanistan earlier this year.

So far, he has done everything in his control to make a case for himself for the T20 World Cup in the Americas. But India have a plethora of batting options to choose from, especially with seniors Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma also making themselves available.

Assuming Rohit opens with Yashasvi Jaiswal, the incumbent opener, Kohli bats three, and Suryakumar Yadav bats four, there is hardly wiggle room to accommodate someone like Dube.

Two of the three remaining batting slots will go a wicketkeeper – there are six of them competing for that role – and an all-rounder, presumably Hardik Pandya. That leaves just one slot, for which India would like someone who can offer something with the ball so that they are not handicapped with just five bowling options in a game.

Shivam Dube in T20 WC

Shivam Dube scored two half-centuries vs Afghanistan earlier this year. Photo by Saikat Das / Sportzpics for BCCI

Dube does bowl the occasional medium-pace, but teams in the past have made the mistake of considering him an all-rounder, which he is not. He is an out-and-out six-hitter who can roll his arm over if and when absolutely necessary, as CSK’s usage of him has shown.

So what more can Dube do to force his way in as a pure batter?

There’s not really much of an answer to that other than to keep doing what he has been since the last two seasons, which is to marry consistency with a volatile role, two aspects of the game that don’t really go together.

Along with the team environment and the leadership setup, it is also CSK’s squad construction that allows Dube the freedom to launch as soon as he feels comfortable at the crease. They bat extremely deep, which means if instead of the middle of the bat, Dube’s first-ball slog against Sai Kishore finds the top edge and lands in the hands of a fielder, he wouldn’t be ostracised for it in the change room. Instead, he’d be backed for playing to his strengths and the team requirements.

The Indian T20I squad is different. They have always struggled with batting depth and are going to do so again come the next World Cup given the lack of T20 batting ability of their main bowlers. In such a setup, the value of each wicket becomes greater, reducing the scope to provide roles with high variance and volatility to batters in the top seven.

That makes it all the more necessary for Dube to show not just the occasional high-ceiling performance that he is capable of, but to also rack up somewhere around 500 runs in the ongoing IPL season to instill confidence in the Indian management that he can be at the crease for a good time and a long time.

Of course, there’s still a lot of time left before the team is selected for the T20 World Cup. By then, pecking orders may change, injuries may happen, and Dube’s road to the tournament may clear up. But those are things he doesn’t need to worry about. All he needs to do is to keep following the most basic premise of all in cricket: see the ball, hit the ball, and results will follow, like they have for him lately.

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