Dhoni’s one-liner, Dube’s upsurge and World Cup hope

Shivam Dube for CSK (Image: IPL)

“Don’t attack the short ball.” That was MS Dhoni’s advice to Shivam Dube after he watched the left-hander at the Chennai Super Kings nets for the first time.

Sometimes, just a quiet word or a small piece of technical advice can work wonders. Back in 1989, when Mohammad Azharuddin was struggling for form and confidence, he turned to Pakistan batting maestro Zaheer Abbas for advice. “Change the grip” was Zaheer’s suggestion, a small piece of advice that resurrected Azharuddin’s career.

In Dube’s case, the problem was the short ball. It was taking him out of his comfort zone. It also created a heavy mental burden. Dube had to shed the burden and who else, but Dhoni, came up with simple, and yet, magic words.

Cut to the Chennai Super Kings versus Gujarat Titans game on Tuesday at the Chepauk.

Around the 18th over during CSK’s innings, the big screen at Chepauk captured Dhoni in the dressing room, stretching and getting prepared for his turn to bat. The roar that ensued was loud enough to blow off the stadium roof. The crowd instantly broke into ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’ chants. Out there in the middle, Shivam Dube was playing a gem and fans should have goaded him with ‘Dube, Dube’ slogans.

Dube scored 51 off 23 balls, hitting two fours and five sixes. More importantly, his rise as an enforcer in the middle-order has given the CSK batting an entirely different dynamic.

Before the 2022 season, CSK had to take a call. Robin Uthappa had run his race, Ambati Rayudu had to be persuaded out of retirement and T20 cricket had moved on. It was no longer aggression at the top followed by steady building in the middle overs and then throwing the kitchen sink at the death. The new template of this format called for constantly taking the game forward.


CSK bought Dube for Rs 4 crore at the mega auction to make him a middle-overs power-hitter. At Royal Challengers Bangalore, where the all-rounder played for two years in 2019 and 2020 (the franchise’s name wasn’t changed back then), he was wrongly used as a finisher. His strike-rate in those two seasons were 121.21 and 122.85 respectively. The CSK think-tank, Dhoni and Stephen Fleming, drew out a clear role for Dube and helped him get rid of the mental burden. A new player emerged, who scored 289 runs in 11 games at a strike-rate of 156.22.

Circa 2022 was a rare fallow season for CSK, when they failed to reach the knockouts. Dube still had a decent outing. Last year, as CSK went on to win their fifth title, the 30-year-old hammered 418 runs in 16 games at a strike-rate of 158.33. The performances saw him barge into the Indian T20I team. This year in the IPL, Dube has already scored 85 runs in two matches at a strike-rate of 166.67.

Very few players treat left-arm spin with such disdain. Against Titans, when Dube came to the crease in the 11th over, CSK were comfortably placed at 104-2. But there was a catch. Sai Kishore, who knows Chepauk inside out — he plays for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy — was bowling and from the home team’s point of view, it was important not to let the momentum slip. The pitch was a beauty and CSK were aiming for a total north of 200.

Dube hit the first two balls he faced into the stands, a couple of blows that neutralised the left-arm spinner. Kishore was immediately taken out of the attack.

A six off Rashid Khan was a joy to watch. Dube read the googly off the bowler’s hand, went down on one knee, got under the ball and dispatched it several rows back over long-on.

Spencer Johnson came and bowled a bouncer. Dube casually swayed away from the line of the delivery. The fast bowler bowled another bouncer in his next over. This time, Dube moved inside the line of the ball and hooked it over deep fine leg for a six. Several hours at the nets to iron out the flaw has made him confident enough to sometimes attack the short ball.

“I have worked in that way. I know they will bowl me short balls and I’m ready for that,” Dube said at the post-match presentation, after collecting the Player of the Match award.

Yet again, he expressed his gratitude towards his current franchise. “This franchise is something different from all others. They are giving me the freedom. They want me to score with a high strike-rate and that’s what I’m doing.”

Back in January, Dube played two match-winning knocks for India in the home T20I series against Afghanistan – 60 not out and 63 not out in Mohali and Indore respectively. Hardik Pandya was injured, but as his replacement, Dube more than made up for the premier all-rounder’s absence. He has just recovered from a bilateral side strain, a reason why he is not bowling at the moment. But going forward in the IPL, he will do that as well.

With the T20 World Cup team selection not far away, should he be on-board the flight to New York? Hardik Pandya has a tendency to break down mid-tournament. Dube can be a perfect cover.


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