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Cricket news - The incognito Shivam Dube
There are two kinds of Shivam Dube that exist in our collective imagination. The first one is a like-for-like replacement for Hardik Pandya -- he hits it a mile, bowls at over 140 kph and catches like a toad on the chase. The second one isn't quite the bowler that Hardik is, but gives India the mad batting flourish they haven't known in a while
Both Dubes are sexy, even indispensable in the buildup to the T20 WC, but the Dube that showed up in Nagpur was neither of the two.
This Dube was trending on Twitter soon after the toss. He hadn't just been picked again -- going on to feature in all the three T20Is when Sanju Samson played none -- but was also the designated fifth bowler on the night. Krunal Pandya was left out in favour of Manish Pandey, relieving Dube of some batting but increasing the bowling burden manifold. He could no longer be the understudy. An average bowling day would dispute his allrounder status; a bad one could potentially lose India a series at home.
But cut to the end of the game. India won by 30 runs and Dube finished with figures of 3 for 30. It was only for the sixth time in 20 T20 games that he finished his quota of four overs.
When you talk to players, you often get a sense of how they see themselves. Dube idolizes Hardik -- "he always makes runs and picks wickets when the team needs" -- but he doesn't consider himself operating on the same plane. Not quite yet.
Dube instead identifies as a batting allrounder who swears by his power game. You should listen to him talk about his exclusive power-hitting net sessions, the natural strength he possesses and how he would like to win games for India as consistently as Ben Stokes, another favourite of his, does it for England.
"I don't worry about lack of wickets. I think more in terms of how many overs I need to bowl. An allrounder doesn't have to think about wickets. It's more about not giving away runs. And if you get a wicket or two then fine," Dube told Cricbuzz. "But I can work more on my bowling," he adds quickly.
Dube, above, was responding to a question around his "average" bowling returns in the home one-dayers against South Africa A, the series which formed the immediate basis for his India call-up. He played four out of the five matches in the series, racking up scores of 79* off 60, 45* off 28, 31 off 17 and 0* off 2, but the corresponding bowling figures read: 0 for 20 (2 overs), 0 for 21 (2 overs), 0 for 25 (4 overs) and 1 for 25 (3 overs).
There's surely a gap there but Vinayak Samant, Dube's coach at Mumbai, sees it differently.
"If he can bowl with an economy of six or seven and score 40 runs at a strike-rate of 140, that's good enough for me," Samant argues. "We don't have to expect more from him. India have 140kph+ bowlers who can pick wickets. For Shivam, one or two wickets will be a bonus."
When Samant talks about Dube, he mostly talks about his batting; about his six-hitting abilities, and how his reach and bat speed contribute to it; about how he hits sixes over cow corner instead of deep midwicket. He also praises his temperament, mentioning a couple of times how Dube worked on his game outside off-stump, being able to line up fast bowler's round-the-wicket angle better now.
But what about his bowling?
"He is not a quick bowler, he is a decent pace bowler," Samant explains. "His role is to bowl containing line and length. That's when he's doing his job. If he tries too much, he will get hit and won't even be able to pick wickets.
"He can be someone like Ben Stokes for India but he has to improve his fitness further."
When announcing Dube's name in the squad for the Bangladesh series, India's chief selector MSK Prasad was pretty clear about why he's been picked. Yes, it's the batting.
"In our earlier T20 squad, we had Hardik. We also tried Vijay Shankar. We all felt that the role Shivam has to deliver in, he fits it much better. He bats aggressively, his performances in the India A series in the West Indies and also against South Africa in the one-dayers was phenomenal," Prasad had said.
India see a potential finisher in Dube -- and the couple of overs he delivers as a bonus. That is what puts Dube's performance in Nagpur into perspective. He delivered in an unexpected role that he's not even used to fulfilling at the domestic level.
For all of Rohit Sharma's continued faith in him on Sunday, Dube wasn't off to the best of starts.
His batting earlier in the day was all about unsuccessful legside hoicks, which slowly became about giving the strike back to hard-hitting Manish Pandey. So in front of a 45,000 strong crowd, which had been disappointed by him twice already this week, Dube now had to deliver with the ball. He had bowled only 3 deliveries in Delhi, just the two overs in Rajkot, and was staring at a full quota of four overs in Nagpur.
Bangladesh were 33 for 2 after six overs when he came on to bowl. His first two deliveries were wide outside offstump, and hit for boundaries by Mohammad Naim. 12 runs given away in his first over. Rohit Sharma changes his end. 11 runs given away this time, inflating the bowling figures to 0 for 23 after two overs.
In Dube's defence, Yuzvendra Chahal had identical figures bowling with the wet ball at this point of time. But, quite clearly, Dube had to be bowled at a more vulnerable time for Bangladesh. And it arrived right after Deepak Chahar's strike of Mohammad Mithun in the 13th over. Mushfiqur Rahim was bowled first ball by a cutter in the 14th over by Dube. A beautiful yorker got rid of Naim -- he of 81 from 48 -- in his next over. Afif Hossain was caught-and-bowled next ball. Three wickets. And he wasn't done with his four overs.
The inflexion point in Dube's bowling arrived when he started bowling cross-seam deliveries. They served as a change-up, leaving the batsmen second-guessing the bounce too. His cutters, already effective due to his high-arm action, and which had served him well in Rajkot, were now doubly so.
If Chahar was the front and the rear engines in Nagpur, Dube constituted the quiet middle coaches. There's no train without them. And by the end of the night you could see why Shivam Dube was trending on Twitter again. This third, incognito kind of Dube wasn't imagined after all.
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