Shivam Dube could be India's missing link but must avoid the Vijay Shankar route | Crickit

Shivam Dube could be India's missing link but Dravid, Rohit must prevent him from going down the Vijay Shankar road

Jan 15, 2024 03:25 PM IST

Shivam Dube, who has impressed with back-to-back half-centuries, could be the solution to India's middle order in T20Is.

"Reminds you of Yuvi, doesn’t it, his clean striking?" Ravi Shastri, then India’s head coach, muttered in an aside, minutes after Shivam Dube had deposited Tim Southee over the long-on fence to formalise India’s victory over New Zealand in a Twenty20 International in Auckland.

Shivam Dube celebrates after completing a second consecutive half-century(AP)
Shivam Dube celebrates after completing a second consecutive half-century(AP)

That was on 26 January 2020. The powerful left-hander’s contribution was an unbeaten eight, off four deliveries. Even given Shastri’s exuberance and excitability, it wasn’t hard to agree with the former Indian captain. There was something about Dube.

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Within a week, though, the Mumbaikar’s international career hit a roadblock. Following further scores of 3, 12 and 5 in a series India swept 5-0, he was put out to pasture, a forgotten talent, seemingly one in a long line of players jettisoned as dramatically as he was drafted in.

It needed a fantastic season with Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings in IPL 2023 for Dube to wend his way back into the consciousness of the decision-makers. With the ‘regulars’ sitting out the Ireland tour in August and the Asian Games in October, Dube earned a recall. In his four innings since then, he has made 22 (16 balls), 25 (19b), 60 (40b) and 63 (44b), all unbeaten, the last two coming in the last four nights against Afghanistan as part of a full-strength (from the resources available) national side. In those four knocks, he has smacked 12 fours and nine sixes. At the risk of tempting fate, it must be said that the 30-year-old is here to stay. Belatedly. Finally, some will insist.

Dube is the kind of cricketer India would have done well to invest in. He is no Hardik Pandya – his medium-pace doesn't compare with the India star's more incisive bowling – but he is more than an able understudy. Decision-makers attempted to make an ‘all-rounder’ out of first Vijay Shankar, then Venkatesh Iyer when, with slightly better man-management, they could have eked more out of Dube. But then again, that's not a story unfamiliar in Indian cricket, is it?

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That Dube has been entrusted with the No. 4 slot in the T20Is against Afghanistan in Suryakumar Yadav's absence is a huge show of confidence, though whether he will continue to find favour when the bigger boys – Suryakumar himself and Pandya – return is debatable. The reintegration with the T20I set-up of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli could throw a spanner in the works, leaving Dube back on the outer again, at least for the T20 World Cup later this year, which is a shame because for sheer impact, he is in the same league on current form as Suryakumar, Pandya and Rinku Singh.

Dube’s second wind comes at a time when Yashasvi Jaiswal is on a mission to make one of the two opening slots his own. Where Dube’s 20 T20I appearances have come over a period of four-and-a-quarter years, fellow left-handed Mumbaikar Jaiswal has raked up 16 caps in just five months, nudging Shubman Gill out with four fifties and a hundred in 15 innings. His strike-rate of 163.81 is remarkable, though perhaps also understandable because he has the opportunity to bat regularly in the first six overs, when the field restrictions are in place. The young man – he turned 22 just three weeks back – is a consummate boundary-hitter, evidenced by 55 fours and 28 sixes which have contributed 77.9 percent of his 498 T20I runs. Unless he is struck down by injury or afflicted by a terrible run of form at IPL 2024, Jaiswal isn't going anywhere except hard at the bowling, targeting the flying starts that the meaty middle-order can cash in on.

Jaiswal and Dube are eight years apart on the age spectrum, but they both wear the fearlessness that is such a vital ingredient of the T20 ecosystem with practiced ease. Their effectiveness need not always be measured by the quantum of runs though in Jaiswal's case, because he has 20 overs at his disposal – theoretically – the expectation of bigger scores will linger. Especially if they are to bat alongside or around Rohit and Kohli, the requirements of them will be more in terms of how quickly they score rather than how many. On the evidence of what we have seen, they can do both, and do so with panache, without necessarily seeking recourse to the cute and the unorthodox that sometimes is considered a must-have in the 20-over game.

India haven't always translated their verbal commitment to aggression into commensurate deeds in global events, but that need not be so. The 50-over World Cup was a refreshing anomaly. Why should the T20 World Cup be any different then?

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