CSK are trusting impulse over records in backing Shivam Dube against spin, and it’s paying off
Shivam Dube has been hot and cold since making his IPL debut in 2019. Playing for CSK, though, seems to have brought out the best in him, writes Shashwat Kumar.
Prior to the IPL auction in 2019, there was plenty of buzz around Dube, who had smashed five consecutive sixes off Swapnil Singh in a Ranji Trophy game between Mumbai and Baroda. Royal Challengers Bangalore subsequently acquired his services, shelling out INR 5 crore.
It did not quite go to plan. Dube played only four matches and scoring just 40 runs, striking at 121.21. A year later, he mustered 129 runs in 11 games at a strike rate of 122.85. This also coincided with him falling down the India pecking order, and losing his place in the national side.
During this phase, word also spread quickly that Dube does not quite fancy fast bowling, especially when aimed at his body. In 2023, not much has changed on that count. Whenever Dube is at the crease, teams try to bring on pacers to tie him down.
CSK, however, seem to have created a workaround – a plan that seems to go against the numbers he has produced historically but has already shown signs of clicking.
Throughout his career, Dube has actually scored quicker against pace. In all T20 cricket, he strikes at 142.73 against quick bowlers, while going at only 123.23 against spin. Even in the IPL, his strike rate of 138.25 against pace is considerably better than his corresponding numbers against spin (128.45).
Post the game against RCB, though, MS Dhoni said that one of his primary reasons for batting Dube so high – he has batted at No.4 or higher in four games already – is that he wants the all-rounder to use his reach and attack the spinners in the middle overs.
Dube may have gotten out thrice to spin this season, but he has hit four sixes off the 38 balls he has faced. What seems to have piqued CSK’s interest further is how different he is from the rest of their batters, acknowledging that his utility can never be quantified by raw statistics.
Dube is a tall batter, who has an enormous reach. That, apart from giving him leverage to play lofted shots, also forces the spinners to change their lengths – something Dhoni alluded to in the post-match presentation.
A normal good length delivery might become a slot ball for Dube, and a back of a length delivery, which might hurry most batters, gives him the luxury of swinging his arms through the line. Spinners might also have a tough time adjusting their lengths because none of the other CSK batters possess that reach. The margin for error, thus, is minimal.
Dube’s entry points also throw light on how CSK think they can best utilise his ability.
Of the five times he has batted, he has come out in the 10th over on four occasions. The only instance where he did not come out to bat in the 10th over was against Gujarat Titans, where he arrived in the 13th over. This illustrates that CSK are willing to give him time at the crease, affording him the opportunity to size up the spinners and potentially go after them.
Interestingly, when CSK were coasting to victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad and their second wicket fell in 15th over, it was Ambati Rayudu who came out to bat. That might have been because CSK wanted to give him, and later Moeen Ali, some time out in the middle. But it was also, perhaps, because CSK did not want to send in Dube at that stage, for he has a tendency to chew up deliveries before teeing off.
When you put all of this into perspective, it explains why and how CSK are going against the numbers and backing their instinct vis-à-vis Dube dominating against spin. They have created an environment where he has the time to set himself up and then possibly go on a six-hitting rampage later on. More importantly, they are refraining from throwing him into situations where his weaknesses might be exposed.
CSK, in Dhoni’s words, have given him the belief that he can perform this sort of role. By the looks of it, Dube has bought into that idea too, producing belligerent knocks against Lucknow Super Giants and RCB.
That is happening only because CSK know when and who to trust their instinct for, even if the numbers indicate otherwise. This is not the first time they have done it, and it might not be the last either.