MI vs CSK: A Shivam Dube homecoming and a Hardik Pandya subplot | Crickit
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MI vs CSK: A Shivam Dube homecoming and a Hardik Pandya subplot

Apr 14, 2024 06:14 AM IST

The left-hander, a Yuvraj Singh-like imposer with the bat, has come into his own since CSK handed him the middle-order enforcer's role

The social media is abuzz over the IPL broadcaster’s claim that noise levels hit the roof when MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings are on song. If so, their serial six-hitter Shivam Dube is making sure the decibel level stays consistently high.

Chennai Super Kings' Shivam Dube plays a shot(AFP)
Chennai Super Kings' Shivam Dube plays a shot(AFP)

When Mumbai player Dube walks out on to his home turf at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, in CSK’s yellow for IPL’s classic contest against fellow five-time winners Mumbai Indians, fan loyalties could be tested considering their still testy relationship with MI skipper Hardik Pandya.

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Dube versus Hardik could still be only an insignificant subplot a fortnight before the national selectors meet to finalise India’s squad of 15 for the T20 World Cup.

The left-handed batting all-rounder first announced himself as an understudy to Hardik for India with power-packed fifty against West Indies in a T20I at Thiruvananthapuram in 2019. But it’s only in the past twelve months that Dube’s USP of decimating spin has been uncovered by CSK. He was also impressive in the Afghanistan T20Is before IPL.

Dube, 30, generates power from his strong core and an attractive bat swing mirroring that of Yuvraj Singh. CSK identified his main strength and tried to use it to their advantage within the Impact Player framework. No player hit more sixes (22) against spin in IPL 2023 than Dube. His strike rate versus spin (176.5) was only next to Heinrich Klaasen of Sunrisers.

Even this season, other than opening batters, only Klaasen and Tristan Stubbs (Delhi Capitals) have a higher strike rate against spin than Dube (193.94). He has left an impact against pace and spin alike, foiling the opposition’s best laid plans.

In CSK’s opening match against Royal Challengers Bengaluru, Dube was peppered with short balls, once his Achilles heel. He came through without any discomfort and won the match – he scored 34* off 28 balls in an unbroken 66-run stand with Ravindra Jadeja. “No problems if they didn’t bowl spin. I settled the account against pace. I am taking the bouncers bowled to me in a good way. It’s good practice,” he later told Jio Cinema.

Dube has made things easier for himself by spending more time at the crease through the middle overs. Made to face a lot more pace than spin – 77 balls to 64 – he found ways to score at a healthy SR of 145.45; also smashing six sixes to his seven against spin. Once Dube found a way to meet fire with fire, the two-bouncers-in-an-over rule notwithstanding, teams could not sustain their pace-only strategy against him.

“He has gone to another level. He has worked hard in all aspects. I know there is a short ball aspect which is much publicised but there is a lot more to him than that,” CSK head coach Stephen Fleming told reporters on Saturday. “If anything, it deflects from other areas (of his game). He uses that predictability to his advantage now. I haven’t seen a guy who hits consistently that hard. The power he generates against both seam and spin is quite unique.”

There’s also the technical work Dube did in the red-ball season before IPL, scoring 405 runs in the Ranji Trophy at an average of 67.83.

Can Dube play the spin-hitting ally to right-handed Virat Kohli in the World Cup? Or, can the selectors create room for him to join hands with Hardik in the middle overs, like how he links up with Daryll Mitchell for CSK? Or will Dube’s Cup hopes remain unfulfilled in India’s middle-order logjam?

“I am biased, but I love his power. When you have power like that, I would have him in the (Indian) side,” said Fleming.

Hardik’s bowling workload remains under scrutiny, while Dube is yet to bowl for CSK.

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