“Dubey ji, aap apne bete ko kya khilate ho (what do you feed your son), he hits such big sixes!” Chandrakant Pandit, former India player and a coach, remembers telling this to the father of a young Shivam Dubey, who is now a talented allrounder in Mumbai’s Ranji team. It was a startling turnaround: from an overweight boy to a tall, fit hitter. Nilesh Bhosale, Shivam’s school coach, recalls Shivam was an unfit boy at his ground. “He was a talented cricketer but a fat boy. His father, Rajesh, would come to our ground to ensure Shivam got his meat, fresh cow milk badaam and pista! Shivam’s bowling won our school won U-14 Giles Shield one season, but lack of fitness and a back problem meant his cricketing career was hit.”
It was more than (lack of) fitness, though that had threatened to derail his career. For five years, from 14 to 19, Shivam was forced to miss the game. He doesn’t want to delve too much into it now, rather terms it as “very personal reasons” in the family. “It was my father who bought me back in cricket as our family came back slowly on track. He didn’t have any idea of cricket, but he was the one who pushed me. Be it giving throw downs, my fitness, he had even made a small pitch near our home,” Shivam says about his father.
“I started playing again at the U-19 level. It felt like a fresh start,” the 25-year old Shivam tells this newspaper. He broke through the ranks in Mumbai’s U-23 games and did well to get an opportunity with the Ranji team. In his three Ranji innings this season, Shivam has 199 runs at an average of 99.50. In two matches, he already tops the bowling table for Mumbai with his medium pace, bagging 8 wickets, including a five-for. Cricket was an ever-present theme in his childhood. He cues up a memory when he was six — how a helper in his house stopped throwing down balls to him as he was always hitting them outside the building. “He told my father that I keep hitting it outside and that he has to keep running out to retrieve the balls.”
His father didn’t believe that a six-year old had such power and so, he volunteered to throw some balls down, and to his surprise, the kid was still doing the same. That incident made the father decide that he should support the boy through his cricket dreams. The journey took Shivam to Hansraj Morarji School, where Pandit was running the cricket academy. As the years rolled by, and Shivam returned to cricket after the personal setbacks, he began to earn a reputation as a big-hitting batsman. Fans began to hit YouTube to watch his big sixes in T20 Mumbai league. “Thodi fan following bhad gayi hai!” he says.
His father is expected to be in the stands, watching him play against Gujarat at Wankhede stadium. Shivam would hope that his coaches ask his father the old question again: “Dubeyji kya khilate ho?”