Shivam Dube, the 26-year-old Mumbai all-rounder famous for his hard-hitting prowess, calls Hardik Pandya an inspiration, someone whose work ethic and intensity on the field has left a lasting impression on him. It was fitting that on Thursday when Dube received his first call up to the Indian team, for the three-match T20I against Bangladesh, he was taking the spot of an injured Pandya.
For the all-rounder slot, Dube edged out Vijay Shankar, who has played 12 ODIs and nine T20s for India. Chief selector MSK Prasad was clear about the utility-value the burly Mumbai player brings to the table.
“If you see, in our earlier T20 team, we had Hardik Pandya. Then we tried Vijay Shankar. All of us, along with captain Rohit (Sharma), felt that for the role Shivam Dube fits in much better. He bats aggressively and his performances in the India ‘A’ series in West Indies and also against South Africa ‘A’ in the One-dayers was phenomenal. He has gone up by leaps and bounds with regards to his skill set and we are very much convinced about him,” Prasad said on Thursday.
Two of Dube’s recent innings stand out. A 79 off 60 balls against South Africa ‘A’ after India ‘A’ were 206 for 6 one stage. It was his partnership with Axar Patel which helped India post 327. During the Vijay Hazare Trophy, in a league game against Karnataka, he smashed 118 off 67 balls, an innings which comprised 10 sixes. Mumbai were 166 for 5 one stage, chasing a total 313. Though the team fell short by nine runs, Dube’s whirlwind knock was impressive.
The ability to clear the fence is one of Dube’s strengths and has earned him a reputation on the domestic circuit. Royal Challengers Bangalore were convinced of this talent and spent Rs 5 crore on him last season. A day before he made a windfall at the auction, Dube had hit five sixes in an over against Baroda at the Wankhede Stadium.
It was during the first edition of the T20 Mumbai League when Dube’s ability to hit the big shots caught the attention of the fans and selectors. He subsequently made it to the Ranji Trophy squad. Chandrakant Pandit was one of the first to witness Dube’s power-hitting when the youngster had enrolled at an academy run by the former wicket-keeper. “Dube ji, aap apne bete ko kya khilate ho (what do you feed your son), he hits such big sixes!” Pandit is said to have told the cricketer’s father, Rajesh.
Dube was at the gymnasium when the team was announced. “I was hopeful because everyone was saying that I would be picked. It feels so good that the call has come. It looks like all the hard work has paid off not only just mine but my father’s too. He had the dream of seeing me play for India,” Dube said.
The path to getting an India call-up has had its share of ups and downs. For five years, between the age of 14 to 19, Dube had given up the sport. He does not want to elaborate why but says it was because of “personal reasons”.
Finally, it was his father who convinced him to get back to cricket. To ensure his son remained focused, the father also made a cricket pitch near their house. When Dube wanted to train, his father was always by his side giving throw downs. “My father took care of my fitness regimen and my diet in addition to being involved in my training,” Dube says.
Dube hopes to make it count when he gets a chance to play. He recalls a line RCB captain Virat Kohli told him during the IPL. “Kohli told me ‘people remember only those who win matches for the team. So focus on becoming a match-winner’. Those words have stayed with me,” Dube says.