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Cricket news - Dube's power play no longer a hard sell

Dube hit his maiden T20I fifty in Thiruvananthapuram.

Dube hit his maiden T20I fifty in Thiruvananthapuram.

Shivam Dube is power. And it doesn't come disguised in a frail frame like that of a Hardik Pandya. He is 6 feet four inch tall and broad shouldered. He looks power. And it is on the basis of this strength of his - metaphorically and otherwise - that he finds himself in a position where he finds himself in.

Pinch hitting, even if for rare successes, is an outdated concept in modern day cricket. And Dube is far too skillful a batsman to be used as a pinch hitter. But the Indian team management decided to unsettle a pattern at the top three, demote their previous game's match-winner and send Dube at the fall of the first wicket on Sunday.

What it did for the side was that it opened a lot of options. Firstly, allowing him to go and play the attacking game would have given Rohit Sharma time to settle in, a style the latter prefers, especially with his opening partner departing early. Secondly, it would have allowed the four right-handers clubbed at the top followed by four lefties in the line up to be spaced out. Thirdly, given his strong game against spin - with an orthodox left-arm spinner and a leggie in the opposition - it would have prompted the West Indian skipper to hold back his tweakers. And lastly, it would have given him some game time with the bat, an experiment that was unlikely to do any harm.

For Dube though, it was an opportunity. A chance to impress and showcase his skills. And so he went at it. "It was a big deal for me (to bat at No 3). Some pressure was there but Rohit bhai helped me. He asked me to stay calm," he said.

But as Vinayak Samant, his Mumbai coach since the Under-23 days, noted, "He made a change to his stance, that's not how he usually bats. His backlift was higher than usual, which meant that he was looking to play the big shots right from the start. Maybe, he was given the license by the team management to go after the bowlers."

And in doing so, he struggled. While the last three motives were complete for the team, his stay didn't allow Rohit to find the right gear. First the extra bounce of Jason Holder and then the cutters of Kieron Pollard had Dube foxed completely when he looked to attack the bowlers. With the pitch holding up a bit, the West Indian skipper used the conditions to good advantage and varied his pace from 139 to 106. One shot up, many stayed low, and despite Dube's attempts to swat everything away, he could collect only two from five balls of Pollard's first over. Through all this, not only was Rohit staying away from strike for most of their partnership but also with the southpaw unable to find the boundaries early on in his innings, the pressure jumped right back on to the senior partner.

Going too hard after the bowlers has been a recurring feature of his game, be it in his young stint for India or the RCB, where opportunities have been limited and often not the most ideal. It's far from the assured self that he presents as a batsman for Mumbai, irrespective of the situation, where he doesn't have to validate his importance. However, he doesn't see that as much of a concern. His power game is his selling point, and he sells it unabashedly. "That's my strength and I always go like that only," he said, explaining his approach.

At the end of that Pollard over, his score read 14-ball 12. Rohit, who was seeing the frustration of the youngster build up from the other end, walked up to him and had a chat. "I was under a bit of pressure," Dube admitted. "Rohit bhai said, 'don't worry, back your self and back your strength.' That's what you need from your senior, it helps to get that motivation and he did that."

The next ball, a back of the length delivery on the stumps, was pulled over the mid wicket region for a six. It was right in his arc, and also his most comforting muscle shot. However, it was also the longest boundary on the ground, with three fielders protecting the leg side. It wasn't just a one-off attempt there. He targeted the region several times over, and succeeded every time from thereon. In the next over, he clubbed two bigger sixes through the deep square leg region. In the 10 balls since the chat, he collected 35 runs. On a pitch where the rest of the Indian batsmen struggled to find the right timing before and after, Dube was running on fifth gear. He talked more power as he explained the confidence to attempt the big hits on the leg side. "This ground is quite big but I have the capability of clearing any ground. Hope you have seen it today, and also what capability I have."

But there's more to his game than just slam-bang-wham hits. As Samant explained, "He is a rounded batsman. He may have the power, which allows him to play the big shots but timing is another of his biggest gifts. He rotates strike well and has shown the temperament and technique to bat for long durations in Ranji."

What Dube is trying to hardsell is for everyone to see as the standout aspect of his game. It is what has made his ride to the national side so much more smoother than it is for the rest. But the question is, is it enough to power his way into the XI once Hardik Pandya returns?

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