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Shivam Dube finally stands tall to the short ball

Shivam Dube was always prolific against spin, but now the left-hander is upping his game against pacers as well in IPL 2024.

Shivam Dube backs himself to go all the way against spin. So when he belted Sai Kishore for consecutive sixes off the first two balls of his innings, it wowed but didn’t exactly surprise.

Chennai Super Kings’ batter Shivam Dube plays a shot during IPL 2024 match vs Gujarat Titans, at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai(PTI)

To pick the length so early and target two different areas of the field—long-on and deep midwicket—not only reiterated Dube’s reputation as a spin hitter but also displayed the precision with which a disciplined bowler like Kishore can be taken apart without risking going across the line. But Kishore wasn’t alone.

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Pitting spinners against Dube is a punt alright, given his impressive strike rate of 162.56 against slow bowling. But if Gill had to take a chance, he had to take it with Rashid Khan.

First ball to Dube, going round the wicket, Khan couldn’t resist the temptation to tease him with a looped delivery. Dube was up to it though, leaning in, head still, coming down with a huge backlift and clearing long-on with a massive six.

That was the last time in his 23-ball innings that Dube had faced spin. And for good reason too. Data matchups dictated testing Dube with fast bowlers, especially with the short ball, the reason Chennai Super Kings have tried to slip him in the middle overs—when spinners tend to bowl more—in the past. With the two-bouncer-per-over rule introduced this season, there was growing concern of Dube getting further stuck.

This is where Gujarat Titans were in for a shocking reversal. Swiping Spencer Johnson for a four to fine-leg before pulling him over long-leg for a six could be misattributed to the Chepauk pitch playing fair or the Australian’s relative inexperience in IPL.

But it was really Dube’s conviction that manufactured those hits. More proof of that came against Mohit Sharma, when Dube picked a banged-in slower delivery to guide it fine of short fine-leg for four. Another short and back-of-the hand slower delivery—this time at 101.6kph—was dispatched over long-off for a six. Titans’ plans were in disarray.

It’s a significant departure from the time Dube was weaving his way out of bouncers and short balls in the IPL. This time, he looked much more at ease against that length, scoring 31 off 17 from the fast bowlers on Tuesday, 23 of those coming off 13 short length balls.

“Definitely, I’ve worked in that way and it’s helping me,” said Dube after winning the Player-of-the-match award on Tuesday. “I know they will bowl short balls at me, (but) I’m ready for that. They (CSK) want me to go at a higher strike rate against the bowlers, so I’m trying that.”

Dube had entered the IPL with the reputation of a six-hitter, specifically against spinners. To work on that presented a unique challenge to him as well as the CSK coaching staff.

“Well, you rewind to maybe one or two years ago, teams would come in and bowl a lot of short balls and he would either duck out of the way or defend,” said Mike Hussey, CSK’s batting coach at the post-match press conference on Tuesday. “And that’s all he had until he got in and set and then he could maybe play some shots against it. Now the bowlers are still coming in with the same plan, but he’s been able to score off it as well and he’s been able to find boundaries, if he gets into the right position as well. So that’s a testament to the work that he’s put in behind the scenes and being ready for their plans.

“And now it’s, you know, back on the bowlers. What are they going to do? Now, are they going to continue with this plan, or will they go away from that? And try something else? We’ll have to wait and see, but I think a lot of credit needs to go to Dube for the amount of work that he’s put in against that particular ball.”

If his boundary-hitting was impressive, more assuring was the way Dube worked the pacers—he conceded just three dots to them—around the ground when the lengths were varied.

Not only does it dispel fears that he might not be able to hold his own against pace bowling in the middle overs, it also boosts Dube’s visibility ahead of the T20 World Cup selection. “I think it will hold him in good stead for the IPL,” said Hussey. “But also if he gets opportunities for the country again in the future, I think it’ll hold him in great stead as well.”


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