Stopped cricket at 14, returned when 19, picked for India at 26 - The Shivam Dube story
Two seasoned Mumbai batsmen were slogging it out against a dogged Railways bowling attack in a winter morning in New Delhi last year but the talk was about a towering presence in Mumbai’s dressing room. ‘Ye lambu kaun hai?’ ‘Fast bowler hai kya? One could hear the murmurs from almost every part of the ground. 4 days later everyone at New Delhi’s Karnail Singh Stadium and ardent followers of Indian cricket knew the answers. Shivam ‘lambu’ Dube had put all speculations to rest with an attacking 110 in the first innings and an equally attractive 69 in the second.
12 months later when India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad mentioned Shivam Dube’s name while announcing India’s squad for the three-match T20I series against Bangladesh, no one asked ‘who Shivam Dube?’ but a few definitely had ‘why Shivam Dube?’ in their minds.
366 runs in 17 List A games at an average of 73.2 scored at a strike rate of 137.07 is the answer to that. In the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy, from which Mumbai were unfortunately knocked out from the quarterfinals because of a washed out game, Shivam Dube sits on top of the six hitters’ list with 15 maximums in just 5 innings. 10 of those came in a group stage game against Karnataka, where Dube smashed 118 off 67 balls. Mumbai fell short of the 313-run target by 9 runs but Dube left a lasting impression on India’s chairman of selectors MSK Prasad. Present at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Prasad and Gagan Khoda – a member of India’s selection committee – clapped and cheered every time the ball sailed over the ropes from Dube’s bat.
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“MSK sir and Gagan sir were there. They said that they really liked my batting, it was something different from what they had seen so far. It felt really good and boosted my confidence a lot,” said Shivam Dube in an exclusive chat with the Hindustan Times.
Broad shoulders, pumped chests mounted on a 6 feet frame, first-look at Shivam Dube is bound to draw queries about his physique. Of course it does help him hit those big sixes effortlessly but it was not long ago when his physique used to make him uncomfortable. During his teenage days, Dube was considered to be overweight. While his height did save the blushes on most occasions but it even he knew his weight easily surpassed the standards of a sportsperson. But then again, Shivam Dube wasn’t a sportsperson at all, let alone a cricketer at that point of time. “I stopped playing cricket when I was 14 because of some financial constraints, couldn’t really work on my fitness at that point of time. I returned to cricket only when I was 19 and gradually started to work on my fitness levels,” said Dube, refusing to go into details of the exact cause behind his absence from the game.
“My father was the biggest motivator during that tough time. He used to say, ‘so what you have lost 5 years? You can still become a good cricketer.’ Even today he continues to be my biggest strength,” said Dube.
A five-year gap not only hampered his fitness but also pushed him behind in the race to top. As a result, Dube could never manage to play junior cricket for Mumbai. “The first time I played for Mumbai was for its U-23 team. I never played junior cricket,” said Dube.
Club cricket is where Dube made his name as a cricketer. Representing the Karnataka Sporting Club, Dube created ripples with his power hitting. It was the Mitsui Shoji T20 League – Mumbai’s most famous T20 tournament before the MPL came up – that gave Dube a launching pad. He had terrific seasons for Ghatkopar Jets and Thane Marathas and was immediately picked for Mumbai’s U-23 side.
During all these days of club cricket, one thing remained common with Shivam Dube – his six-hitting prowess. It did not take him long to replicate the same for Mumbai senior team. He became a household name by hitting five sixes in an over in a Ranji Trophy encounter in December 2018. That it came on the eve of the IPL auctions helped him bag a whopping INR 5 crore contract with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. The purse, unfortunately, did not match the performance of young Dube. He ended with just 40 runs in 4 innings in IPL 2019. “You cannot perform to the best of your abilities all the time. IPL did not go as per my expectations but I learned a lot in RCB. I realized how difficult the level is. I came to know how international cricketers go about their business. Virat bhaiya, AB, Ashish (Nehra) sir supported me a lot. Ashish sir used to tell me that I have the potential to play for India,” Dube stated with a sense of satisfaction despite modest numbers in IPL.
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“Virat Bhaiya told me that as an all-rounder I need to finish games only then I will become a match-winner. I started working on that and the results followed.”
Dube buried the IPL disappointments with fantastic returns for India A. He shone with the bat against South Africa A, scoring at a strike rate of 155.7 in 5 List A games.
Dube’s impressive show fast-tracked the 26-year-old to the Indian side as a replacement of injured Hardik Pandya. While there are few concerns with his batting, it will be his medium pace bowling that will be closely observed if and when he gets his India cap in the shortest format.
“I have the capabilities of an all-rounder. I can win matches for the team both as a batsman as well as a bowler. If I’m selected in the team, I believe I am definitely good enough. I will give more than 100 % and I believe I’m ready both mentally and physically,” said Dube, stressing on the last word, perhaps to answer those who had once labeled him unfit.