An evening of two halves for Shivam Dube

“I want to see how he bowls tonight,” said Salil Ankola, the chief selector of Mumbai cricket, at halftime of the match between Chennai Super Kings and Lucknow Super Giants at the Brabourne on Thursday (March 31).

A sense of anxiety was tangible in the former India pacer’s tone. “It is always good for the team when a senior player of the side bats so well, strikes the ball so well,” Ankola said of Shivam Dube. Little did he know at that stage that it would be an execrable night for the all-rounder, who ended up as a zero from the position of being a potential hero, in a span of a few minutes.

Promoted up the order by Chennai Super Kings, Dube batted with extraordinary poise, control and aggression, justifying his elevation ahead of the more accomplished Ambati Rayudu, with a stroke-filled 49. If he missed his well-deserved half century, it was because he was in an acceleration mode, which propelled his side’s total to a highly competitive 210 for seven.

“He looked sharp, fit and exhibited good hand-eye coordination,” Ankola told of the India all-rounder, who has played one ODI and 13 T20Is in two months between November 2019 and February 2020. The night was well set for Dube. Being the sixth/seventh bowling option for the side, a couple of good overs, and he would be the star of the night for the defending champions. An alluring prospect awaited him.

Friends in Mumbai say Dube came to the IPL with a mission. He wanted to prove a point to his detractors and regain his place in the team – well not the Indian side but in the Mumbai team. Ankola had selected him in the Mumbai squad but Prithvi Shaw and Amol Muzumdar – the captain-coach duo – did not pick him in the XI in any of the three Ranji games of the season. They preferred two debutants, Mohit Awasthi and Siddharth Raut, to an international.

“He worked hard on his fitness before the IPL and was very keen to prove to the Mumbai team management that he belongs there,” said a former manager of the Mumbai team. “He wants to make a statement.”

In Twenty20 cricket, it’s a quick turnaround from being a champ to chump, and Dube may have realised that the hard way. Summoned to bowl the crucial 19th over, when the team had the cushion of 34 runs to defend, Dube could have turned things around with a couple of good deliveries. He bowled six bad balls, including a couple of wides, with most of his deliveries pitching in the rampaging Evin Lewis’s hitting zone. Lucknow Super Giants plundered him for 25 runs. Game over.

Strategically, it appeared an egregiously horrible error by the team management, more so when Dwayne Bravo, who has proved himself to be one of the best in the death overs, in the side. Dube could have bowled earlier but Bravo’s quota had finished by the 18th over itself.

Stephen Fleming, the CSK head coach, explained the decision to call up Dube late and defended the bowler too. “Well, if you had looked earlier on, spinning options were taken out of play – because it was Niagara falls in terms of wetness, and they played well. So it was very hard to grip the ball for the spinner and to be effective. So early on we were one over short (of a spinner) and they played well. So we always knew we had to pick up an over somewhere and we were hoping to be able to create enough of a run-rate towards the end so that we could squeeze someone in. The decision was made in the middle to use Dube and they countered it well. We always knew that one over was going to be pivotal and I think they did as well, but they played it very well.

“No, we thought it was about par and that’s just the nature of the conditions at the moment,” replied Fleming when asked if 210 was enough. “They very much favour the teams batting second. We did well to get to 210 but we were always realistic that it was going to get harder as the night went on. So we worked very hard to stay in the game, to be honest. Defensively I thought we were great, after about 10 overs we just knuckled down and I thought we were fantastic to stay in the game. But it’s pretty hard fielding second at the moment.”

MSK Prasad, the former India chief selector who had first selected him for the Indian team, said, “It is this quality for which he had lost his place in the Indian team. His bowling was not very effective and he could not have retained his place in the Indian squad only with batting skills. He is a good quality all-rounder. If he works on his bowling, he can regain his place in the Indian team.”

Dube has 12 more games to prove his effectiveness with the ball and regain his place in the Indian team and, to begin with, in the Mumbai team.

Updated: April 2, 2022 — 3:56 pm

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